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Title: In the Palace of the King - A Love Story of Old Madrid
Author: Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion), 1854-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Palace of the King - A Love Story of Old Madrid" ***

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    To my old friend

        New York, October, 1906



       *       *       *       *       *


Two young girls sat in a high though very narrow room of the old Moorish
palace to which King Philip the Second had brought his court when he
finally made Madrid his capital. It was in the month of November, in the
afternoon, and the light was cold and grey, for the two tall windows
looked due north, and a fine rain had been falling all the morning. The
stones in the court were drying now, in patches, but the sky was like a
smooth vault of cast lead, closing over the city that lay to the
northward, dark, wet and still, as if its life had shrunk down under
ground, away from the bitter air and the penetrating damp.

The room was scantily furnished, but the few objects it contained, the
carved table, the high-backed chairs and the chiselled bronze brazier,
bore the stamp of the time when art had not long been born again. On the
walls there were broad tapestries of bold design, showing green forests
populated by all sorts of animals in stiff attitudes, staring at one
another in perpetual surprise. Below the tapestry a carved walnut
wainscoting went round the room, and the door was panelled and flanked
by fluted doorposts of the same dark wood, on which rested corbels
fashioned into curling acanthus leaves, to hold up the cornice, which
itself made a high shelf over the door. Three painted Italian vases,
filled with last summer's rose leaves and carefully sealed lest the
faint perfume should be lost, stood symmetrically on this projection,
their contents slowly ripening for future use. The heap of white ashes,
under which the wood coals were still alive in the big brazier, diffused
a little warmth through the chilly room.

The two girls were sitting at opposite ends of the table. The one held a
long goose-quill pen, and before her lay several large sheets of paper
covered with fine writing. Her eyes followed the lines slowly, and from
time to time she made a correction in the manuscript. As she read, her
lips moved to form words, but she made no sound. Now and then a faint
smile lent singular beauty to her face, and there was more light in her
eyes, too; then it disappeared again, and she read on, carefully and
intently, as if her soul were in the work.

She was very fair, as Spaniards sometimes are still, and were more often
in those days, with golden hair and deep grey eyes; she had the high
features, the smooth white throat, and the finely modelled ears that
were the outward signs of the lordly Gothic race. When she was not
smiling, her face was sad, and sometimes the delicate colour left her
clear cheek and she grew softly pale, till she seemed almost delicate.
Then the sensitive nostrils quivered almost imperceptibly, and the
curving lips met closely as if to keep a secret; but that look came
seldom, and for the most part her eyes were quiet and her mouth was
kind. It was a face that expressed devotion, womanly courage, and
sensitiveness rather than an active and dominating energy. The girl was
indeed a full-grown woman, more than twenty years of age, but the early
bloom of girlhood was on her still, and if there was a little sadness in
the eyes, a man could guess well enough that it rose from the heart, and
had but one simple source, which was neither a sudden grief nor a
long-hidden sorrow, but only youth's one secret--love. Maria Dolores de
Mendoza knew all of fear for the man she loved, that any woman could
know, and much of the hope that is love's early life; but she knew
neither the grief, nor the disappointment, nor the shame for another,
nor for herself, nor any of the bitterness that love may bring. She did
not believe that such things could be wrung from hearts that were true
and faithful; and in that she was right. The man to whom she had given
her heart and soul and hope had given her his, and if she feared for
him, it was not lest he should forget her or his own honour. He was a
man among men, good and true; but he was a soldier, and a leader, who
daily threw his life to the battle, as Douglas threw the casket that
held the Bruce's heart into the thick of the fight, to win it back, or
die. The man she loved was Don John of Austria, the son of the great
dead Emperor Charles the Fifth, the uncle of dead Don Carlos and the
half brother of King Philip of Spain--the man who won glory by land and
sea, who won back Granada a second time from the Moors, as bravely as
his great grandfather Ferdinand had won it, but less cruelly, who won
Lepanto, his brother's hatred and a death by poison, the foulest stain
in Spanish history.

It was November now, and it had been June of the preceding year when he
had ridden away from Madrid to put down the Moriscoes, who had risen
savagely against the hard Spanish rule. He had left Dolores de Mendoza
an hour before he mounted, in the freshness of the early summer morning,
where they had met many a time, on a lonely terrace above the King's
apartments. There were roses there, growing almost wild in great earthen
jars, where some Moorish woman had planted them in older days, and
Dolores could go there unseen with her blind sister, who helped her
faithfully, on pretence of taking the poor girl thither to breathe the
sweet quiet air. For Inez was painfully sensitive of her affliction, and
suffered, besides blindness, all that an over-sensitive and imaginative
being can feel.

She was quite blind, with no memory of light, though she had been born
seeing, as other children. A scarlet fever had destroyed her sight.
Motherless from her birth, her father often absent in long campaigns,
she had been at the mercy of a heartless nurse, who had loved the fair
little Dolores and had secretly tormented the younger child, as soon as
she was able to understand, bringing her up to believe that she was so
repulsively ugly as to be almost a monster. Later, when the nurse was
gone, and Dolores was a little older, the latter had done all she could
to heal the cruel wound and to make her sister know that she had soft
dark hair, a sad and gentle face, with eyes that were quite closed, and
a delicate mouth that had a little half painful, half pathetic way of
twitching when anything hurt her,--for she was easily hurt. Very pale
always, she turned her face more upwards than do people who have sight,
and being of good average woman's height and very slender and finely
made, this gave her carriage an air of dignity that seemed almost pride
when she was offended or wounded. But the first hurt had been deep and
lasting, and she could never quite believe that she was not offensive to
the eyes of those who saw her, still less that she was sometimes almost
beautiful in a shadowy, spiritual way. The blind, of all their
sufferings, often feel most keenly the impossibility of knowing whether
the truth is told them about their own looks; and he who will try and
realize what it is to have been always sightless will understand that
this is not vanity, but rather a sort of diffidence towards which all
people should be very kind. Of all necessities of this world, of all
blessings, of all guides to truth, God made light first. There are many
sharp pains, many terrible sufferings and sorrows in life that come and
wrench body and soul, and pass at last either into alleviation or
recovery, or into the rest of death; but of those that abide a lifetime
and do not take life itself, the worst is hopeless darkness. We call
ignorance 'blindness,' and rage 'blindness,' and we say a man is 'blind'
with grief.

Inez sat opposite her sister, at the other end of the table, listening.
She knew what Dolores was doing, how during long months her sister had
written a letter, from time to time, in little fragments, to give to the
man she loved, to slip into his hand at the first brief meeting or to
drop at his feet in her glove, or even, perhaps, to pass to him by the
blind girl's quick fingers. For Inez helped the lovers always, and Don
John was very gentle with her, talking with her when he could, and even
leading her sometimes when she was in a room she did not know. Dolores
knew that she could only hope to exchange a word with him when he came
back, and that the terrace was bleak and wet now, and the roses
withered, and that her father feared for her, and might do some
desperate thing if he found her lover talking with her where no one
could see or hear. For old Mendoza knew the world and the court, and he
foresaw that sooner or later some royal marriage would be made for Don
John of Austria, and that even if Dolores were married to him, some
tortuous means would be found to annul her marriage, whereby a great
shame would darken his house. Moreover, he was the King's man, devoted
to Philip body and soul, as his sovereign, ready to give his life ten
times for his sovereign's word, and thinking it treason to doubt a royal
thought or motive. He was a rigid old man, a Spaniard of Spain's great
days, fearless, proud, intolerant, making Spain's honour his idol,
capable of gentleness only to his children, and loving them dearly, but
with that sort of severity and hardness in all questions where his
authority was concerned which can make a father's true affection the
most intolerable burden to a girl of heart, and which, where a son is
its object, leads sooner or later to fierce quarrels and lifelong
estrangement. And so it had happened now. For the two girls had a
brother much older than they, Rodrigo; and he had borne to be treated
like a boy until he could bear no more, and then he had left his
father's house in anger to find out his own fortune in the world, as
many did in his day,--a poor gentleman seeking distinction in an army of
men as brave as himself, and as keen to win honour on every field. Then,
as if to oppose his father in everything, he had attached himself to Don
John, and was spoken of as the latter's friend, and Mendoza feared lest
his son should help Don John to a marriage with Dolores. But in this he
was mistaken, for Rodrigo was as keen, as much a Spaniard, and as much
devoted to the honour of his name as his father could be; and though he
looked upon Don John as the very ideal of what a soldier and a prince
should be, he would have cut off his own right hand rather than let it
give his leader the letter Dolores had been writing so long; and she
knew this and feared her brother, and tried to keep her secret from him.

Inez knew all, and she also was afraid of Rodrigo and of her father,
both for her sister's sake and her own. So, in that divided house, the
father was against the son, and the daughters were allied against them
both, not in hatred, but in terror and because of Dolores' great love
for Don John of Austria.

As they sat at the table it began to rain again, and the big drops beat
against the windows furiously for a few minutes. The panes were round
and heavy, and of a greenish yellow colour, made of blown glass, each
with a sort of knob in the middle, where the iron blowpipe had been
separated from the hot mass. It was impossible to see through them at
all distinctly, and when the sky was dark with rain they admitted only a
lurid glare into the room, which grew cold and colourless again when the
rain ceased. Inez had been sitting motionless a long time, her elbow on
the table, her chin resting upon her loosely clasped white hands, her
blind face turned upward, listening to the turning of the pages and to
the occasional scratching of her sister's pen. She sighed, moved, and
let her hands fall upon the table before her in a helpless, half
despairing way, as she leaned back in the big carved chair. Dolores
looked up at once, for she was used to helping her sister in her
slightest needs and to giving her a ready sympathy in every mood.

"What is it?" she asked quickly. "Do you want anything, dear?"

"Have you almost finished?"

The girl's voice would almost have told that she was blind. It was sweet
and low, but it lacked life; though not weak, it was uncertain in
strength and full of a longing that could never be satisfied, but that
often seemed to come within possible reach of satisfaction. There was in
the tones, too, the perpetual doubt of one from whom anything might be
hidden by silence, or by the least tarn of words. Every passing hope and
fear, and every pleasure and pain, were translated into sound by its
quick changes. It trusted but could not always quite promise to believe;
it swelled and sank as the sensitive heart beat faster or slower. It
came from a world without light, in which only sound had meaning, and
only touch was certainty.

"Yes," answered Dolores. "I have almost finished--there is only half a
page more to read over."

"And why do you read it over?" asked Inez. "Do you change what you have
written? Do you not think now exactly as you did when you wrote?"

"No; I feel a great deal more--I want better words! And then it all
seems so little, and so badly written, and I want to say things that no
one ever said before, many, many things. He will laugh--no, not that!
How could he? But my letter will seem childish to him. I know it will. I
wish I had never written it I Do you think I had better give it to him,
after all?"

"How can I tell?" asked Inez hopelessly. "You have never read it to me.
I do not know what you have said to him."

"I have said that I love him as no man was ever loved before," answered
Dolores, and the true words seemed to thrill with a life of their own as
she spoke them.

Then she was silent for a moment, and looked down at the written pages
without seeing them. Inez did not move, and seemed hardly to breathe.
Then Dolores spoke again, pressing both her hands upon the paper before
her unconsciously.

"I have told him that I love him, and shall love him for ever and ever,"
she said; "that I will live for him, die for him, suffer for him, serve
him! I have told him all that and much more."

"More? That is much already. But he loves you, too. There is nothing you
can promise which he will not promise, and keep, too, I think. But more!
What more can you have said than that?"

"There is nothing I would not say if I could find words!"

There was a fullness of life in her voice which, to the other's
uncertain tones, was as sunshine to moonlight.

"You will find words when you see him this evening," said Inez slowly.
"And they will be better than anything you can write. Am I to give him
your letter?"

Dolores looked at her sister quickly, for there was a little constraint
in the accent of the last phrase.

"I do not know," she answered. "How can I tell what may happen, or how I
shall see him first?"

"You will see him from the window presently. I can hear the guards
forming already to meet him--and you--you will be able to see him from
the window."

Inez had stopped and had finished her speech, as if something had choked
her. She turned sideways in her chair when she had spoken, as if to
listen better, for she was seated with her back to the light.

"I will tell you everything," said Maria Dolores softly. "It will be
almost as if you could see him, too."


Inez spoke the one word and broke off abruptly, and rose from her chair.
In the familiar room she moved almost as securely as if she could see.
She went to the window and listened. Dolores came and stood beside her.

"What is it, dear?" she asked. "What is the matter? What has hurt you?
Tell me!"

"Nothing," answered the blind girl, "nothing, dear. I was thinking--how
lonely I shall be when you and he are married, and they send me to a
convent, or to our dismal old house in Valladolid."

A faint colour came into her pale face, and feeling it she turned away
from Dolores; for she was not speaking the truth, or at least not half
of it all.

"I will not let you go!" answered Dolores, putting one arm round her
sister's waist. "They shall never take you from me. And if in many years
from now we are married, you shall always be with us, and I will always
take care of you as I do now."

Inez sighed and pressed her forehead and blind eyes to the cold window,
almost withdrawing herself from the pressure of Dolores' arm. Down below
there was tramping of heavy feet, as the companies of foot guards took
their places, marching across the broad space, in their wrought steel
caps and breastplates, carrying their tasselled halberds on their
shoulders. An officer's voice gave sharp commands. The gust that had
brought the rain had passed by, and a drizzling mist, caused by a sudden
chill, now completely obscured the window.

"Can you see anything?" asked Inez suddenly, in a low voice. "I think I
hear trumpets far away."

"I cannot see--there is mist on the glass, too. Do you hear the trumpets

"I think I do. Yes--I hear them clearly now." She stopped. "He is
coming," she added under her breath.

Dolores listened, but she had not the almost supernatural hearing of the
blind, and could distinguish nothing but the tramping of the soldiers
below, and her sister's irregular breathing beside her, as Inez held her
breath again and again in order to catch the very faint and distant

"Open the window," she said almost sharply, "I know I hear the

Her delicate fingers felt for the bolts with almost feverish anxiety.
Dolores helped her and opened the window wide. A strain of distant
clarions sounding a triumphant march came floating across the wet city.
Dolores started, and her face grew radiant, while her fresh lips opened
a little as if to drink in the sound with the wintry air. Beside her,
Inez grew slowly pale and held herself by the edge of the window frame,
gripping it hard, and neither of the two girls felt any sensation of
cold. Dolores' grey eyes grew wide and bright as she gazed fixedly
towards the city where the avenue that led to the palace began, but
Inez, bending a little, turned her ear in the same direction, as if she
could not bear to lose a single note of the music that told her how Don
John of Austria had come home in triumph, safe and whole, from his long
campaign in the south.

Slowly it came nearer, strain upon strain, each more clear and loud and
full of rejoicing. At first only the high-pitched clarions had sent
their call to the window, but now the less shrill trumpets made rich
harmonies to the melody, and the deep bass horns gave the marching time
to the rest, in short full blasts that set the whole air shaking as with
little peak of thunder. Below, the mounted officers gave orders,
exchanged short phrases, cantered to their places, and came back again a
moment later to make some final arrangement--their splendid gold-inlaid
corslets and the rich caparisons of their horses looking like great
pieces of jewelry that moved hither and thither in the thin grey mist,
while the dark red and yellow uniforms of the household guards
surrounded the square on three sides with broad bands of colour. Dolores
could see her father, who commanded them and to whom the officers came
for orders, sitting motionless and erect on his big black horse--a stern
figure, with close-cut grey beard, clad all in black saving his heavily
gilded breastplate and the silk sash he wore across it from shoulder to
sword knot. She shrank back a little, for she would not have let him see
her looking down from an upper window to welcome the returning visitor.

"What is it? Do you see him? Is he there?" Inez asked the questions in a
breath, as she heard her sister move.

"No--our father is below on his horse. He must not see us." And she
moved further into the embrasure.

"You will not be able to see," said Inez anxiously. "How can you tell
me--I mean, how can you see, where you are?"

Dolores laughed softly, but her laugh trembled with the happiness that
was coming so soon.

"Oh, I see very well," she answered. "The window is wide open, you

"Yes--I know."

Inez leaned back against the wall beside the window, letting her hand
drop in a hopeless gesture. The sample answer had hurt her, who could
never see, by its mere thoughtlessness and by the joy that made her
sister's voice quaver. The music grew louder and louder, and now there
came with it the sound of a great multitude, cheering, singing the march
with the trumpets, shouting for Don John; and all at once as the throng
burst from the street to the open avenue the voices drowned the clarions
for a moment, and a vast cry of triumph filled the whole air.

"He is there! He is there!" repeated Inez, leaning towards the window
and feeling for the stone sill.

But Dolores could not hear for the shouting. The clouds had lifted to
the westward and northward; and as the afternoon sun sank lower they
broke away, and the level rays drank up the gloom of the wintry day in
an instant. Dolores stood motionless before the window, undazzled, like
a statue of ivory and gold in a stone niche. With the light, as the
advancing procession sent the people before it, the trumpets rang high
and clear again, and the bright breastplates of the trumpeters gleamed
like dancing fire before the lofty standard that swayed with the slow
pace of its bearer's horse. Brighter and nearer came the colours, the
blazing armour, the standard, the gorgeous procession of victorious
men-at-arms; louder and louder blew the trumpets, higher and higher the
clouds were lifted from the lowering sun. Half the people of Madrid went
before, the rest flocked behind, all cheering or singing or shouting.
The stream of colour and light became a river, the river a flood, and in
the high tide of a young victor's glory Don John of Austria rode onward
to the palace gate. The mounted trumpeters parted to each side before
him, and the standard-bearer ranged his horse to the left, opposite the
banner of the King, which held the right, and Don John, on a grey Arab
mare, stood out alone at the head of his men, saluting his royal brother
with lowered sword and bent head. A final blast from the trumpets
sounded full and high, and again and again the shout of the great throng
went up like thunder and echoed from the palace walls, as King Philip,
in his balcony above the gate, returned the salute with his hand, and
bent a little forward over the stone railing.

Dolores de Mendoza forgot her father and all that he might say, and
stood at the open window, looking down. She had dreamed of this moment;
she had seen visions of it in the daytime; she had told herself again
and again what it would be, how it must be; but the reality was beyond
her dreams and her visions and her imaginings, for she had to the full
what few women have in any century, and what few have ever had in the
blush of maidenhood,--the sight of the man she loved, and who loved her
with all his heart, coming home in triumph from a hard-fought war,
himself the leader and the victor, himself in youth's first spring, the
young idol of a warlike nation, and the centre of military glory.

When he had saluted the King he sat still a moment on his horse and
looked upward, as if unconsciously drawn by the eyes that, of all
others, welcomed him at that moment; and his own met them instantly and
smiled, though his face betrayed nothing. But old Mendoza, motionless in
his saddle, followed the look, and saw; and although he would have
praised the young leader with the best of his friends, and would have
fought under him and for him as well as the bravest, yet at that moment
he would gladly have seen Don John of Austria fall dead from his horse
before his eyes.

Don John dismounted without haste, and advanced to the gate as the King
disappeared from the balcony above. He was of very graceful figure and
bearing, not short, but looking taller than he really was by the
perfection of his proportions. The short reddish brown hair grew close
and curling on his small head, but left the forehead high, while it set
off the clear skin and the mobile features. A very small moustache
shaded his lip without hiding the boyish mouth, and at that time he wore
no beard. The lips, indeed, smiled often, and the expression of the
mouth was rather careless and good-humoured than strong. The strength of
the face was in the clean-cut jaw, while its real expression was in the
deep-set, fiery blue eyes, that could turn angry and fierce at one
moment, and tender as a woman's the next.

He wore without exaggeration the military dress of his time,--a
beautifully chiselled corslet inlaid with gold, black velvet sleeves,
loose breeches of velvet and silk, so short that they did not descend
half way to the knees, while his legs were covered by tight hose and
leather boots, made like gaiters to clasp from the knee to the ankle and
heel. Over his shoulder hung a short embroidered cloak, and his head
covering was a broad velvet cap, in which were fastened the black and
yellow plumes of the House of Austria.

As he came near to the gate, many friends moved forward to greet him,
and he gave his hand to all, with a frank smile and words of greeting.
But old Mendoza did not dismount nor move his horse a step nearer. Don
John, looking round before he went in, saw the grim face, and waved his
hand to Dolores' father; but the old man pretended that he saw nothing,
and made no answering gesture. Some one in the crowd of courtiers
laughed lightly. Old Mendoza's face never changed; but his knees must
have pressed the saddle suddenly, for his black horse stirred uneasily,
and tried to rear a little. Don John stopped short, and his eyes
hardened and grew very light before the smile could fade from his lips,
while he tried to find the face of the man whose laugh he had heard. But
that was impossible, and his look was grave and stern as he went in
under the great gate, the multitude cheering after him.

From her high window Dolores had seen and heard also, for she had
followed every movement he made and every change of his expression, and
had faithfully told her sister what she saw, until the laugh came, short
and light, but cutting. And Inez heard that, too, for she was leaning
far forward upon the broad stone sill to listen for the sound of Don
John's voice. She drew back with a springing movement, and a sort of cry
of pain.

"Some one is laughing at me!" she cried. "Some one is laughing because I
am trying to see!"

Instantly Dolores drew her sister to her, kissing her tenderly, and
soothing her as one does a frightened child.

"No, dear, no! It was not that--I saw what it was. Nobody was looking at
you, my darling. Do you know why some one laughed? It hurt me, too. He
smiled and waved his hand to our father, who took no notice of him. The
laugh was for that--and for me, because the man knew well enough that
our father does not mean that we shall ever marry. Do you see, dear? It
was not meant for you."

"Did he really look up at us when you said so?" asked Inez, in a
smothered voice.

"Who? The man who laughed?"

"No. I mean--"

"Don John? Yes. He looked up to us and smiled--as he often does at
me--with his eyes only, while his face was quite grave. He is not
changed at all, except that he looks more determined, and handsomer, and
braver, and stronger than ever! He does each time I see him!"

But Inez was not listening.

"That was worth living for--worth being blind for," she said suddenly,
"to hear the people shout and cheer for him as he came along. You who
can see it all do not understand what the sound means to me. For a
moment--only for a moment--I saw light--I know I saw a bright light
before my eyes. I am not dreaming. It made my heart beat, and it made my
head dizzy. It must have been light. Do you think it could be, Dolores?"

"I do not know, dear," answered the other gently.

But as the day faded and they sat together in the early dusk, Dolores
looked long and thoughtfully at the blind face. Inez loved Don John,
though she did not know it, and without knowing it she had told her

       *       *       *       *       *


When Don John had disappeared within the palace the people lingered a
little while, hoping that something might happen which would be worth
seeing, and then, murmuring a little in perfectly unreasonable
disappointment, they slowly dispersed. After that old Mendoza gave his
orders to the officers of the guards, the men tramped away, one
detachment after another, in a regular order; the cavalry that had
ridden up with Don John wheeled at a signal from the trumpets, and began
to ride slowly back to the city, pressing hard upon the multitude, and
before it was quite dark the square before the palace was deserted
again. The sky had cleared, the pavement was dry again, and the full
moon was rising. Two tall sentinels with halberds paced silently up and
down in the shadow.

Dolores and her sister were still sitting in the dark when the door
opened, and a grey-haired servant in red and yellow entered the room,
bearing two lighted wax candles in heavy bronze candlesticks, which he
set upon the table. A moment later he was followed by old Mendoza, still
in his breastplate, as he had dismounted, his great spurs jingling on
his heavy boots, and his long basket-hilted sword trailing on the marble
pavement. He was bareheaded now, and his short hair, smooth and
grizzled, covered his energetic head like a close-fitting skull cap of
iron-grey velvet. He stood still before the table, his bony right hand
resting upon it and holding both his long gloves. The candlelight shone
upward into his dark face, and gleamed yellow in his angry eyes.

Both the girls rose instinctively as their father entered; but they
stood close together, their hands still linked as if to defend each
other from a common enemy, though the hard man would have given his life
for either of them at any moment since they had come into the world.
They knew it, and trembled.

"You have made me the laughing-stock of the court," he began slowly, and
his voice shook with anger. "What have you to say in your defence?"

He was speaking to Dolores, and she turned a little pale. There was
something so cruelly hard in his tone and bearing that she drew back a
little, not exactly in bodily fear, but as a brave man may draw back a
step when another suddenly draws a weapon upon him. Instantly Inez moved
forward, raising one white hand in protest, and turning her blind face
to her father's gleaming eyes.

"I am not speaking to you," he said roughly, "but you," he went on,
addressing Dolores, and the heavy table shook under his hand. "What
devil possessed you that you should shame me and yourself, standing at
your window to smile at Don John, as if he were the Espadero at a bull
fight and you the beauty of the ring--with all Madrid there to look on,
from his Majesty the King to the beggar in the road? Have you no
modesty, no shame, no blood that can blush? And if not, have you not
even so much woman's sense as should tell you that you are ruining your
name and mine before the whole world?"

"Father! For the sake of heaven do not say such words--you must not! You
shall not!"

Dolores' face was quite white now, as she gently pushed Inez aside and
faced the angry man. The table was between them.

"Have I said one word more than the very truth?" asked Mendoza. "Does
not the whole court know that you love Don John of Austria--"

"Let the whole world know it!" cried the girl bravely. "Am I ashamed to
love the best and bravest man that breathes?"

"Let the whole world know that you are willing to be his toy, his

"His wife, sir!" Dolores' voice was steady and clear as she interrupted
her father. "His wife," she repeated proudly; "And to-morrow, if you and
the King will not hinder us. God made you my father, but neither God nor
man has given you the right to insult me, and you shall not be
unanswered, so long as I have strength and breath to speak. But for you,
I should be Don John of Austria's wife to-day--and then, then his 'toy,'
his 'plaything'--yes, and his slave and his servant--what you will! I
love him, and I would work for him with my hands, as I would give my
blood and my life for his, if God would grant me that happiness and
grace, since you will not let me be his wife!"

"His wife!" exclaimed Mendoza, with a savage sneer. "His wife--to be
married to-day and cast off to-morrow by a turn of the pen and the
twisting of a word that would prove your marriage void, in order that
Don John may be made the husband of some royal widowed lady, like Queen
Mary of the Scots! His wife!" He laughed bitterly.

"You have an exalted opinion of your King, my father, since you suppose
that he would permit such deeds in Spain!"

Dolores had drawn herself up to her full height as she spoke, and she
remained motionless as she awaited the answer to what she had said. It
was long in coming, though Mendoza's dark eyes met hers unflinchingly,
and his lips moved more than once as if he were about to speak. She had
struck a blow that was hard to parry, and she knew it. Inez stood beside
her, silent and breathing hard as she listened.

"You think that I have nothing to say," he began at last, and his tone
had changed and was more calm. "You are right, perhaps. What should I
say to you, since you have lost all sense of shame and all thought of
respect or obedience? Do you expect that I shall argue with you, and try
to convince you that I am right, instead of forcing you to respect me
and yourself? Thank Heaven, I have never yet questioned my King's
thoughts, nor his motives, nor his supreme right to do whatsoever may be
for the honour and glory of Spain. My life is his, and all I have is
his, to do with it all as he pleases, by grace of his divine right. That
is my creed and my law--and if I have failed to bring you up in the same
belief, I have committed a great sin, and it will be counted against me
hereafter, though I have done what I could, to the best of my

Mendoza lifted his sheathed sword and laid his right hand upon the
cross-bar of the basket hilt.

"God--the King--Spain!" he said solemnly, as he pressed his lips to it
once for each article of his faith.

"I do not wish to shake your belief," said Dolores coldly. "I daresay
that is impossible!"

"As impossible as it is to make me change my determination," answered
Mendoza, letting his long sword rest on the pavement again.

"And what may your determination be?" asked the girl, still facing him.

Something in his face forewarned her of near evil and danger, as he
looked at her long without answering. She moved a little, so as to stand
directly in front of Inez. Taking an attitude that was almost defiant,
she began to speak rapidly, holding her hands behind her and pressing
herself back against her sister to attract the latter's attention; and
in her hand she held the letter she had written to Don John, folded into
the smallest possible space, for she had kept it ready in the wrist of
her tight sleeve, not knowing what might happen any moment to give her
an opportunity of sending it.

"What have you determined?" she asked again, and then went on without
waiting for a reply. "In what way are you going to exhibit your power
over me? Do you mean to take me away from the court to live in
Valladolid again? Are you going to put me in the charge of some sour old
woman who will never let me out of her sight from morning till morning?"
She had found her sister's hand behind hers and had thrust the letter
into the fingers that closed quickly upon it. Then she laughed a little,
almost gaily. "Do you think that a score of sour old duennas could teach
me to forget the man I love, or could prevent me from sending him a
message every day if I chose? Do you think you could hinder Don John of
Austria, who came back an hour ago from his victory the idol of all
Spain, the favourite of the people--brave, young, powerful, rich,
popular, beloved far more than the King himself, from seeing me every
day if he chose, so long as he were not away in war? And then--I will
ask you something more--do you think that father, or mother, or king, or
law, or country has power to will away the love of a woman who loves
with all her heart and soul and strength? Then answer me and tell me
what you have determined to do with me, and I will tell you my
determination, too, for I have one of my own, and shall abide by it,
come what may, and whatsoever you may do!"

She paused, for she had heard Inez softly close the door as she went
out. The letter at least was safe, and if it were humanly possible, Inez
would find a means of delivering it; for she had all that strange
ingenuity of the blind in escaping observation which it seems impossible
that they should possess, but of which every one who has been much with
them is fully aware. Mendoza had seen Inez go out, and was glad that she
was gone, for her blind face sometimes disturbed him when he wished to
assert his authority.

"Yes," he said, "I will tell you what I mean to do, and it is the only
thing left to me, for you have given me no choice. You are disobedient
and unruly, you have lost what little respect you ever had--or
showed--for me. But that is not all. Men have had unruly daughters
before, and yet have married them well, and to men who in the end have
ruled them. I do not speak of my affection for you both, since you have
none for me. But now, you are going beyond disobedience and lawlessness,
for you are ruining yourself and disgracing me, and I will neither
permit the one nor suffer the other." His voice rose harshly. "Do you
understand me? I intend to protect my name from you, and yours from the
world, in the only way possible. I intend to send you to Las Huelgas
to-morrow morning. I am in earnest, and unless you consent to give up
this folly and to marry as I wish, you shall stay there for the rest of
your natural life. Do you understand? And until to-morrow morning you
shall stay within these doors. We shall see whether Don John of Austria
will try to force my dwelling first and a convent of holy nuns
afterwards. You will be safe from him, I give you my word of
honour,--the word of a Spanish gentleman and of your father. You shall
be safe forever. And if Don John tries to enter here to-night, I will
kill him on the threshold. I swear that I will."

He ceased speaking, turned, and began to walk up and down the small
room, his spurs and sword clanking heavily at every step. He had folded
his arms, and his head was bent low.

A look of horror and fear had slowly risen in Dolores' face, for she
knew her father, and that he kept his word at every risk. She knew also
that the King held him in very high esteem, and was as firmly opposed to
her marriage as Mendoza himself, and therefore ready to help him to do
what he wished. It had never occurred to her that she could be suddenly
thrust out of sight in a religious institution, to be kept there at her
father's pleasure, even for her whole life. She was too young and too
full of life to have thought of such a possibility. She had indeed heard
that such things could be done, and had been done, but she had never
known such a case, and had never realized that she was so completely at
her father's mercy. For the first time in her life she felt real fear,
and as it fell upon her there came the sickening conviction that she
could not resist it, that her spirit was broken all at once, that in a
moment more she would throw herself at her father's feet and implore
mercy, making whatever promise he exacted, yet making it falsely, out of
sheer terror, in an utter degradation and abasement of all moral
strength, of which she had never even dreamed. She grew giddy as she
felt it coming upon her, and the lights of the two candles moved
strangely. Already she saw herself on her knees, sobbing with fear,
trying to take her father's hand, begging forgiveness, denying her love,
vowing submission and dutiful obedience in an agony of terror. For on
the other side she saw the dark corridors and gloomy cells of Las
Huelgas, the veiled and silent nuns, the abomination of despair that was
before her till she should die and escape at last,--the faint hope which
would always prevent her from taking the veil herself, yet a hope
fainter and fainter, crossed by the frightful uncertainty in which she
should be kept by those who guarded her. They would not even tell her
whether the man she loved were alive or dead, she could never know
whether he had given up her love, himself in despair, or whether, then,
as years went by, he would not lose the thread that took him back to the
memory of her, and forget--and love again.

But then her strong nature rose again, and the vision of fear began to
fade as her faith in his love denied the last thought with scorn. Many a
time, when words could tell no more, and seemed exhausted just when
trust was strongest, he had simply said, "I love you, as you love me,"
and somehow the little phrase meant all, and far more than the tender
speeches that sometimes formed themselves so gracefully, and yet
naturally and simply, because they, too, came straight from the heart.
So now, in her extreme need, the plain words came back to her in his
voice, "I love you, as you love me," with a sudden strength of faith in
him that made her live again, and made fear seem impossible. While her
father slowly paced the floor in silence, she thought what she should
do, and whether there could be anything which she would not do, if Don
John of Austria were kept a prisoner from her; and she felt sure that
she could overcome every obstacle and laugh at every danger, for the
hope of getting to him. If she would, so would he, since he loved her as
she loved him. But for all the world, he would not have her throw
herself upon her father's mercy and make false promises and sob out
denials of her love, out of fear. Death would be better than that.

"Do as you will with me, since you have the power," she said at last,
quite calmly and steadily.

Instantly the old man stopped in his walk, and turned towards her,
almost as if he himself were afraid now. To her amazement she saw that
his dark eyes were moist with tears that clung but half shed to the
rugged lids and rough lashes. He did not speak for some moments, while
she gazed at him in wonder, for she could not understand. Then all at
once he lifted his brown hands and covered his face with a gesture of
utter despair.

"Dolores! My child, my little girl!" he cried, in a broken voice.

Then he sat down, as it overcome, clasped his hands on the hilt of his
sword, and rested his forehead against them, rocking himself with a
barely perceptible motion. In twenty years, Dolores had never
understood, not even guessed, that the hard man, ever preaching of
wholesome duty and strict obedience, always rebuking, never satisfied,
ill pleased almost always, loved her with all his heart, and looked upon
her as the very jewel of his soul. She guessed it now, in a sudden burst
of understanding; but it was so new, so strange, that she could not have
told what she felt. There was at best no triumph at the thought that, of
the two, he had broken down first in the contest. Pity came first,
womanly, simple and kind, for the harsh nature that was so wounded at
last. She came to his side, and laid one hand upon his shoulder,
speaking softly.

"I am very, very sorry that I have hurt you," she said, and waited for
him to speak, pressing his shoulder with a gentle touch.

He did not look up, and still he rocked himself gently, leaning on his
sword. The girl suffered, too, to see him suffering so. A little while
ago he had been hard, fierce, angry, cruel, threatening her with a
living death that had filled her with horror. It had seemed quite
impossible that there could be the least tenderness in him for any
one--least of all for her.

"God be merciful to me," he said at length in very low tones. "God
forgive me if it is my fault--you do not love me--I am nothing to you
but an unkind old man, and you are all the world to me, child!"

He raised his head slowly and looked into her face. She was startled at
the change in his own, as well as deeply touched by what he said. His
dark cheeks had grown grey, and the tears that would not quite fall were
like a glistening mist under the lids, and almost made him look
sightless. Indeed, he scarcely saw her distinctly. His clasped hands
trembled a little on the hilt of the sword he still held.

"How could I know?" cried Dolores, suddenly kneeling down beside him.
"How could I guess? You never let me see that you were fond of me--or I
have been blind all these years--"

"Hush, child!" he said. "Do not hurt me any more--it must have been my

He grew more calm, and though his face was very grave and sad, the
natural dark colour was slowly coming back to it now, and his hands were
steady again. The girl was too young, and far too different from him, to
understand his nature, but she was fast realizing that he was not the
man he had always seemed to her.

"Oh, if I had only known!" she cried, in deep distress. "If I had only
guessed, I would have been so different! I was always frightened, always
afraid of you, since I can remember--I thought you did not care for us
and that we always displeased you--how could we know?"

Mendoza lifted one of his hands from the sword hilt, and took hers, with
as much gentleness as was possible to him. His eyes became clear again,
and the profound emotion he had shown subsided to the depths whence it
had risen.

"We shall never quite understand each other," he said quietly. "You
cannot see that it is a man's duty to do what is right for his children,
rather than to sacrifice that in order to make them love him."

It seemed to Dolores that there might be a way open between the two, but
she said nothing, and left her hand in his, glad that he was kind, but
feeling, as he felt, that there could never be any real understanding
between them. The breach had existed too long, and it was far too wide.

"You are headstrong, my dear," he said, nodding at each word. "You are
very headstrong, if you will only reflect."

"It is not my head, it is my heart," answered Dolores. "And besides,"
she added with a smile, "I am your daughter, and you are not of a very
gentle and yielding disposition, are you?"

"No," he answered with hesitation, "perhaps not." Then his face relaxed
a little, and he almost smiled too.

It seemed as if the peace were made and as if thereafter there need not
be trouble again. But it was even then not far off, for it was as
impossible for Mendoza to yield as it would have been for Dolores to
give up her love for Don John. She did not see this, and she fancied
that a real change had taken place in his disposition, so that he would
forget that he had threatened to send her to Las Huelgas, and not think
of it again.

"What is done cannot be undone," he said, with renewed sadness. "You
will never quite believe that you have been everything to me during your
life. How could you not be, my child? I am very lonely. Your mother has
been dead nearly eighteen years, and Rodrigo--"

He stopped short suddenly, for he had never spoken his son's name in the
girl's hearing since Rodrigo had left him to follow his own fortunes.

"I think Rodrigo broke my heart," said the old man, after a short pause,
controlling his voice so that it sounded dry and indifferent. "And if
there is anything left of it, you will break the rest."

He rose, taking his hand from hers, and turning away, with the roughness
of a strong, hard man, who has broken down once under great emotion and
is capable of any harshness in his fear of yielding to it again. Dolores
started slightly and drew back. In her the kindly impression was still
strong, but his tone and manner wounded her.

"You are wrong," she said earnestly. "Since you have shown me that you
love me, I will indeed do my best not to hurt you or displease you. I
will do what I can--what I can."

She repeated the last words slowly and with unconscious emphasis. He
turned his face to her again instantly.

"Then promise me that you will never see Don John of Austria again, that
you will forget that you ever loved him, that you will put him
altogether out of your thoughts, and that you will obediently accept the
marriage I shall make for you."

The words of refusal to any such obedience as that rose to the girl's
lips, ready and sharp. But she would not speak them this time, lest more
angry words should answer hers. She looked straight at her father's
eyes, holding her head proudly high for a moment. Then, smiling at the
impossibility of what he asked, she turned from him and went to the
window in silence. She opened it wide, leaned upon the stone sill and
looked out. The moon had risen much higher now, and the court was white.

She had meant to cut short the discussion without rousing anger again,
but she could have taken no worse way to destroy whatever was left of
her father's kindlier mood. He did not raise his voice now, as he
followed her and spoke.

"You refuse to do that?" he said, with an already ominous interrogation
in his tone.

"You ask the impossible," she answered, without looking round. "I have
not refused, for I have no will in this, no choice. You can do what you
please with me, for you have power over my outward life--and if you
lacked it, the King would help you. But you have no power beyond that,
neither over my heart nor over my soul. I love him--I have loved him
long, and I shall love him till I die, and beyond that, forever and
ever, beyond everything--beyond the great to-morrow of God's last
judgment! How can I put him out of my thoughts, then? It is madness to
ask it of me."

She paused a moment, while he stood behind her, getting his teeth and
slowly grinding the heel of one heavy boot on the pavement.

"And as for threatening me," she continued, "you will not kill Don John,
nor even try to kill him, for he is the King's brother. If I can see him
this evening, I will--and there will be no risk for him. You would not
murder him by stealth, I suppose? No! Then you will not attack him at
all, and if I can see him, I will--I tell you so, frankly. To-morrow or
the next day, when the festivities they have for him are over, and you
yourself are at liberty, take me to Las Huelgas, if you will, and with
as little scandal as possible. But when I am there, set a strong guard
of armed men to keep me, for I shall escape unless you do. And I shall
go to Don John. That is all I have to say. That is my last word."

"I gave you mine, and it was my word of honour," said Mendoza. "If Don
John tries to enter here, to see you, I will kill him. To-morrow, you
shall go to Las Huelgas."

Dolores made no answer and did not even turn her head. He left her and
went out. She heard his heavy tread in the hall beyond, and she heard a
bolt slipped at the further door. She was imprisoned for the night, for
the entrance her father had fastened was the one which cut off the
portion of the apartment in which the sisters lived from the smaller
part which he had reserved for himself. These rooms, from which there
was no other exit, opened, like the sitting-room, upon the same hall.

When Dolores knew that she was alone, she drew back from the window and
shut it. It had served its purpose as a sort of refuge from her father,
and the night air was cold. She sat down to think, and being in a
somewhat desperate mood, she smiled at the idea of being locked into her
room, supperless, like a naughty child. But her face grew grave
instantly as she tried to discover some means of escape. Inez was
certainly not in the apartment--she must have gone to the other end of
the palace, on pretence of seeing one of the court ladies, but really in
the hope of giving Don John the letter. It was more than probable that
she would not be allowed to enter when she came back, for Mendoza would
distrust her. That meant that Dolores could have no communication with
any one outside her rooms during the evening and night, and she knew her
father too well to doubt that he would send her to Las Huelgas in the
morning, as he had sworn to do. Possibly he would let her serving-woman
come to her to prepare what she needed for the journey, but even that
was unlikely, for he would suspect everybody.

The situation looked hopeless, and the girl's face grew slowly pale as
she realized that after all she might not even exchange a word with Don
John before going to the convent--she might not even be able to tell him
whither they were sending her, and Mendoza might keep the secret for
years--and she would never be allowed to write, of course.

She heard the further door opened again, the bolt running back with a
sharp noise. Then she heard her father's footsteps and his voice calling
to Inez, as he went from room to room. But there was no answer, and
presently he went away, bolting the door a second time. There could be
no more doubt about it now. Dolores was quite alone. Her heart beat
heavily and slowly. But it was not over yet. Again the bolt slipped in
the outer hall, and again she heard the heavy steps. They came straight
towards the door. He had perhaps changed his mind, or he had something
more to say; she held her breath, but he did not come in. As if to make
doubly sure, he bolted her into the little room, crossed the hall a last
time, and bolted it for the night, perfectly certain that Dolores was
safely shut off from the outer world.

For some minutes she sat quite still, profoundly disturbed, and utterly
unable to find any way out of her difficulty, which was, indeed, that
she was in a very secure prison.

Then again there was a sound at the door, but very soft this time, not
half as loud in her ears as the beating of her own heart. There was
something ghostly in it, for she had heard no footsteps. The bolt moved
very slowly and gently--she had to strain her ears to hear it move. The
sound ceased, and another followed it--that of the door being cautiously
opened. A moment later Inez was in the room--turning her head anxiously
from side to side to hear Dolores' breathing, and so to find out where
she was. Then as Dolores rose, the blind girl put her finger to her
lips, and felt for her sister's hand.

"He has the letter," she whispered quickly. "I found him by accident,
very quickly. I am to say to you that after he has been some time in the
great hall, he will slip away and come here. You see our father will be
on duty and cannot come up."

Dolores' hand trembled violently.

"He swore to me that he would kill Don John if he came here," she
whispered. "He will do it, if it costs his own life! You must find him
again--go quickly, dear, for the love of Heaven!" Her anxiety increased.
"Go--go, darling--do not lose a moment--he may come sooner--save him,
save him!"

"I cannot go," answered Inez, in terror, as she understood the
situation. "I had hidden myself, and I am locked in with you. He called
me, but I kept quiet, for I knew he would not let me stay." She buried
her face in her hands and sobbed aloud in an agony of fear.

Dolores' lips were white, and she steadied herself against a chair.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dolores stood leaning against the back of the chair, neither hearing nor
seeing her sister, conscious only that Don John was in danger and that
she could not warn him to be on his guard. She had not believed herself
when she had told her father that he would not dare to lift his hand
against the King's half brother. She had said the words to give herself
courage, and perhaps in a rush of certainty that the man she loved was a
match for other men, hand to hand, and something more. It was different
now. Little as she yet knew of human nature, she guessed without
reasoning that a man who has been angry, who has wavered and given way
to what he believes to be weakness, and whose anger has then burst out
again, is much more dangerous than before, because his wrath is no
longer roused against another only, but also against himself. More
follies and crimes have been committed in that second tide of passion
than under a first impulse. Even if Mendoza had not fully meant what he
had said the first time, he had meant it all, and more, when he had last
spoken. Once more the vision of fear rose before Dolores' eyes, nobler
now; because it was fear for another and not for herself, but therefore
also harder to conquer.

Inez had ceased from sobbing now, and was sitting quietly in her
accustomed seat, in that attitude of concentrated expectancy of sounds
which is so natural to the blind, that one can almost recognize
blindness by the position of the head and body without seeing the face.
The blind rarely lean back in a chair; more often the body is quite
upright, or bent a little forward, the face is slightly turned up when
there is total silence, often turned down when a sound is already heard
distinctly; the knees are hardly ever crossed, the hands are seldom
folded together, but are generally spread out, as if ready to help the
hearing by the sense of touch--the lips are slightly parted, for the
blind know that they hear by the mouth as well as with their ears--the
expression of the face is one of expectation and extreme attention,
still, not placid, calm, but the very contrary of indifferent. It was
thus that Inez sat, as she often sat for hours, listening, always and
forever listening to the speech of things and of nature, as well as for
human words. And in listening, she thought and reasoned patiently and
continually, so that the slightest sounds had often long and accurate
meanings for her. The deaf reason little or ill, and are very
suspicious; the blind, on the contrary, are keen, thoughtful, and
ingenious, and are distrustful of themselves rather than of others. Inez
sat quite still, listening, thinking, and planning a means of helping
her sister.

But Dolores stood motionless as if she were paralyzed, watching the
picture that «he could not chase away. For she saw the familiar figure
of the man she loved coming down the gloomy corridor, alone and unarmed,
past the deep embrasures through which the moonlight streamed, straight
towards the oak door at the end; and then, from one of the windows
another figure stood out, sword in hand, a gaunt man with a grey beard,
and there were few words, and an uncertain quick confounding of shadows
with a ray of cold light darting hither and thither, then a fall, and
then stillness. As soon as it was over, it began again, with little
change, save that it grew more distinct, till she could see Don John's
white face in the moonlight as he lay dead on the pavement of the

It became intolerable at last, and she slowly raised one hand and
covered her eyes to shut out the sight.

"Listen," said Inez, as Dolores stirred. "I have been thinking. You must
see him to-night, even if you are not alone with him. There is only one
way to do that; you must dress yourself for the court and go down to the
great hall with the others and speak to him--then you can decide how to
meet to-morrow."

"Inez--I have not told you the rest! To-morrow I am to be sent to Las
Huelgas, and kept there like a prisoner." Inez uttered a low cry of

"To a convent!" It seemed like death.

Dolores began to tell her all Mendoza had said, but Inez soon
interrupted her. There was a dark flush in the blind girl's face.

"And he would have you believe that he loves you?" she cried
indignantly. "He has always been hard, and cruel, and unkind, he has
never forgiven me for being blind---he will never forgive you for being
young! The King! The King before everything and every one--before
himself, yes, that is well, but before his children, his soul, his
heart--he has no heart! What am I saying--" She stopped short.

"And yet, in his strange way, he loves us both," said Dolores. "I cannot
understand it, but I saw his face when there were tears in his eyes, and
I heard his voice. He would give his life for us."

"And our lives, and hearts, and hopes to feed his conscience and to save
his own soul!"

Inez was trembling with anger, leaning far forward, her face flushed,
one slight hand clenched, the other clenching it hard. Dolores was
silent. It was not the first time that Inez had spoken in this way, for
the blind girl could be suddenly and violently angry for a good cause.
But now her tone changed.

"I will save you," she said suddenly, "but there is no time to be lost.
He will not come back to our rooms now, and he knows well enough that
Don John cannot come here at this hour, so that he is not waiting for
him. We have this part of the place to ourselves, and the outer door
only is bolted now. It will take you an hour to dress--say
three-quarters of an hour. As soon as you get out, you must go quickly
round the palace to the Duchess Alvarez. Our father will not go there,
and you can go down with her, as usual--but tell her nothing. Our father
will be there, and he will see you, but he will not care to make an open
scandal in the court. Don John will come and speak to you; you must stay
beside the Duchess of course--but you can manage to exchange a few

Dolores listened intently, and her face brightened a little as Inez went
on, only to grow sad and hopeless again a moment later. It was all an
impossible dream.

"That would be possible if I could once get beyond the door of the
hall," she said despondently. "It is of no use, dear! The door is

"They will open it for me. Old Eudaldo is always within hearing, and he
will do anything for me. Besides, I shall seem to have been shut in by
mistake, do you see? I shall say that I am hungry, thirsty, that I am
cold, that in locking you in our father locked me in, too, because I was
asleep. Then Eudaldo will open the door for me. I shall say that I am
going to the Duchess's."

"Yes--but then?"

"You will cover yourself entirely with my black cloak and draw it over
your head and face. We are of the same height--you only need to walk as
I do--as if you were blind--across the hall to the left. Eudaldo will
open the outer door for you. You will just nod to thank him, without
speaking, and when you are outside, touch the wall of the corridor with
your left hand, and keep close to it. I always do, for fear of running
against some one. If you meet any of the women, they will take you for
me. There is never much light in the corridor, is there? There is one
oil lamp half way down, I know, for I always smell it when I pass in the

"Yes, it is almost dark there--it is a little lamp. Do you really think
this is possible?"

"It is possible, not sure. If you hear footsteps in the corridor beyond
the corner, you will have time to slip into one of the embrasures. But
our father will not come now. He knows that Don John is in his own
apartments with many people. And besides, it is to be a great festival
to-night, and all the court people and officers, and the Archbishop, and
all the rest who do not live in the palace will come from the city, so
that our father will have to command the troops and give orders for the
guards to march out, and a thousand things will take his time. Don John
cannot possibly come here till after the royal supper, and if our father
can come away at all, it will be at the same time. That is the danger."

Dolores shivered and saw the vision in the corridor again.

"But if you are seen talking with Don John before supper, no one will
suppose that in order to meet him you would risk coming back here, where
you are sure to be caught and locked up again. Do you see?"

"It all depends upon whether I can get out," answered Dolores, but there
was more hope in her tone. "How am I to dress without a maid?" she asked

"Trust me," said Inez, with a laugh. "My hands are better than a
serving-woman's eyes. You shall look as you never looked before. I know
every lock of your hair, and just how it should be turned and curled and
fastened in place so that it cannot possibly get loose. Come, we are
wasting time. Take off your slippers as I have done, so that no one
shall hear us walking through the hall to your room, and bring the
candles with you if you choose--yes, you need them to pick out the
colours you like."

"If you think it will be safer in the dark, it does not matter," said
Dolores. "I know where everything is."

"It would be safer," answered Inez thoughtfully. "It is just possible
that he might be in the court and might see the light in your window,
whereas if it burns here steadily, he will suspect nothing. We will bolt
the door of this room, as I found it. If by any possibility he comes
back, he will think you are still here, and will probably not come in."

"Pray Heaven he may not!" exclaimed Dolores, and she began to go towards
the door.

Inez was there before her, opening it very cautiously.

"My hands are lighter than yours," she whispered.

They both passed out, and Inez slipped the bolt back into its place with
infinite precaution.

"Is there light here?" she asked under her breath.

"There is a very small lamp on the table. I can just see my door."

"Put it out as we pass," whispered Inez. "I will lead you if you cannot
find your way."

They moved cautiously forward, and when they reached the table, Dolores
bent down to the small wick and blew out the flame. Then she felt her
sister's hand taking hers and leading her quickly to the other door. The
blind girl was absolutely noiseless in her movements, and Dolores had
the strange impression that she was being led by a spirit through the
darkness. Inez stopped a moment, and then went slowly on; they had
entered the room though Dolores had not heard the door move, nor did she
hear it closed behind her again. Her own room was perfectly dark, for
the heavy curtain that covered the window was drawn; she made a step
alone, and cautiously, and struck her knee against a chair.

"Do not move," whispered Inez. "You will make a noise. I can dress you
where you stand, or if you want to find anything, I will lead you to the
place where it is. Remember that it is always day for me."

Dolores obeyed, and stood still, holding her breath a little in her
intense excitement. It seemed impossible that Inez could do all she
promised without making a mistake, and Dolores would not have been a
woman had she not been visited just then by visions of ridicule. Without
light she was utterly helpless to do anything for herself, and she had
never before then fully realized the enormous misfortune with which her
sister had to contend. She had not guessed, either, what energy and
quickness of thought Inez possessed, and the sensation of being advised,
guided, and helped by one she had always herself helped and protected
was new.

They spoke in quick whispers of what she was to wear and of how her hair
was to be dressed, and Inez found what was wanted without noise, and
almost as quickly as Dolores could have done in broad daylight, and
placed a chair for her, making her sit down in it, and began to arrange
her hair quickly and skilfully. Dolores felt the spiritlike hands
touching her lightly and deftly in the dark--they were very slight and
soft, and did not offend her with a rough movement or a wrong turn, as
her maid's sometimes did. She felt her golden hair undone, and swiftly
drawn out and smoothed without catching, or tangling, or hurting her at
all, in a way no woman had ever combed it, and the invisible hands
gently divided it, and turned it upon her head, slipping the hairpins
into the right places as if by magic, so that they were firm at the
first trial, and there was a faint sound of little pearls tapping each
other, and Dolores felt the small string laid upon her hair and fastened
in its place,--the only ornament a young girl could wear for a
headdress,--and presently it was finished, and Inez gave a sigh of
satisfaction at her work, and lightly felt her sister's head here and
there to be sure that all was right. It felt as if soft little birds
were just touching the hair with the tips of their wings as they
fluttered round it. Dolores had no longer any fear of looking ill
dressed in the blaze of light she was to face before long. The dressing
of her hair was the most troublesome part, she knew, and though she
could not have done it herself, she had felt that every touch and turn
had been perfectly skilful.

"What a wonderful creature you are!" she whispered, as Inez bade her
stand up.

"You have beautiful hair," answered the blind girl, "and you are
beautiful in other ways, but to-night you must be the most beautiful of
all the court, for his sake--so that every woman may envy you, and every
man envy him, when they see you talking together. And now we must be
quick, for it has taken a long time, and I hear the soldiers marching
out again to form in the square. That is always just an hour and a half
before the King goes into the hall. Here--this is the front of the

"No--it is the back!"

Inez laughed softly, a whispering laugh that Dolores could scarcely

"It is the front," she said. "You can trust me in the dark. Put your
arms down, and let me slip it over your head so as not to touch your
hair. No---hold your arms down!"

Dolores had instinctively lifted her hands to protect her headdress.
Then all went quickly, the silence only broken by an occasional
whispered word and by the rustle of silk, the long soft sound of the
lacing as Inez drew it through the eyelets of the bodice, the light
tapping of her hands upon the folds and gatherings of the skirt and on
the puffed velvet on the shoulders and elbows.

"You must be beautiful, perfectly beautiful to-night," Inez repeated
more than once.

She herself did not understand why she said it, unless it were that
Dolores' beauty was for Don John of Austria, and that nothing in the
whole world could be too perfect for him, for the hero of her thoughts,
the sun of her blindness, the immeasurably far-removed deity of her
heart. She did not know that it was not for her sister's sake, but for
his, that she had planned the escape and was taking such infinite pains
that Dolores might look her best. Yet she felt a deep and delicious
delight in what she did, like nothing she had ever felt before, for it
was the first time in her life that she had been able to do something
that could give him pleasure; and, behind that, there was the belief
that he was in danger, that she could no longer go to him nor warn him
now, and that only Dolores herself could hinder him from coming
unexpectedly against old Mendoza, sword in hand, in the corridor.

"And now my cloak over everything," she said. "Wait here, for I must get
it, and do not move!"

Dolores hardly knew whether Inez left the room or not, so noiselessly
did the girl move. Then she felt the cloak laid upon her shoulders and
drawn close round her to hide her dress, for skirts were short in those
days and easily hidden. Inez laid a soft silk handkerchief upon her
sister's hair, lest it should be disarranged by the hood which she
lightly drew over all, assuring herself that it would sufficiently hide
the face.

"Now come with me," she whispered. I will lead you to the door that is
bolted and place you just where it will open. Then I will call Eudaldo
and speak to him, and beg him to let me out. If he does, bend your head
and try to walk as I do. I shall be on one side of the door, and, as the
room is dark, he cannot possibly see me. While he is opening the outer
door for you, I will slip back into my own room. Do you understand? And
remember to hide in an embrasure if you hear a man's footsteps. Are you
quite sure you understand?"

"Yes; it will be easy if Eudaldo opens. And I thank you, dear; I wish I
knew how to thank you as I ought! It may have saved his life--"

"And yours, too, perhaps," answered Inez, beginning to lead her away.
"You would die in the convent, and you must not come back--you must
never come back to us here--never till you are married. Good-by,
Dolores--dear sister. I have done nothing, and you have done everything
for me all your life. Good-by--one kiss--then we must go, for it is

With her soft hands she drew Dolores' head towards her, lifted the hood
a little, and kissed her tenderly. All at once there were tears on both
their faces, and the arms of each clasped the other almost desperately.

"You must come to me, wherever I am," Dolores said.

"Yes, I will come, wherever you are. I promise it."

Then she disengaged herself quickly, and more than ever she seemed a
spirit as she went before, leading her sister by the hand. They reached
the door, and she made Dolores stand before the right hand panel, ready
to slip out, and once more she touched the hood to be sure it hid the
face. She listened a moment. A harsh and regular sound came from a
distance, resembling that made by a pit-saw steadily grinding its way
lengthwise through a log of soft pine wood.

"Eudaldo is asleep," said Inez, and even at this moment she could hardly
suppress a half-hysterical laugh. "I shall have to make a tremendous
noise to wake him. The danger is that it may bring some one else,---the
women, the rest of the servants."

"What shall we do?" asked Dolores, in a distressed whisper.

She had braced her nerves to act the part of her sister at the dangerous
moment, and her excitement made every instant of waiting seem ten times
its length. Inez did not answer the question at once. Dolores repeated
it still more anxiously.

"I was trying to make up my mind," said the other at last. "You could
pass Eudaldo well enough, I am sure, but it might be another matter if
the hall were full of servants, as it is certain that our father has
given a general order that you are not to be allowed to go out. We may
wait an hour for the man to wake."

Dolores instinctively tried the door, but it was solidly fastened from
the outside. She felt hot and cold by turns as her anxiety grew more
intolerable. Each minute made it more possible that she might meet her
father somewhere outside.

"We must decide something!" she whispered desperately. "We cannot wait

"I do not know what to do," answered Inez. "I have done all I can; I
never dreamt that Eudaldo would be asleep. At least, it is a sure sign
that our father is not in the house."

"But he may come at any moment! We must, we must do something at once!"

"I will knock softly," said Inez. "Any one who hears it will suppose it
is a knock at the hall door. If he does not open, some one will go and
wake him up, and then go away again so as not to be seen."

She clenched her small hand, and knocked three times. Such a sound could
make not the slightest impression upon Eudaldo's sound sleep, but her
reasoning was good, as well as ingenious. After waiting a few moments,
she knocked again, more loudly. Dolores held her breath in the silence
that followed. Presently a door was opened, and a woman's voice was
heard, low but sharp.

"Eudaldo, Eudaldo! Some one is knocking at the front door!"

The woman probably shook the old man to rouse him, for his voice came
next, growling and angry.

"Witch! Hag! Mother of malefactors! Let me alone--I am asleep. Are you
trying to tear my sleeve off with your greasy claws? Nobody is knocking;
you probably hear the wine thumping in your ears!"

The woman, who was the drudge and had been cleaning the kitchen, was
probably used to Eudaldo's manner of expressing himself, for she only

"Wine makes men sleep, but it does not knock at doors," she answered.
"Some one has knocked twice. You had better go and open the door."

A shuffling sound and a deep yawn announced that Eudaldo was getting out
of his chair. The two girls heard him moving towards the outer entrance.
Then they heard the woman go away, shutting the other door behind her,
as soon as she was sure that Eudaldo was really awake. Then Inez called
him softly.

"Eudaldo? Here--it was I that knocked--you must let me out, please--come

"Doña Inez?" asked the old man, standing still.

"Hush!" answered the girl. "Come nearer." She waited, listening while he
approached. "Listen to me," she continued. "The General has locked me
in, by mistake. He did not know I was here when he bolted the door. And
I am hungry and thirsty and very cold, Eudaldo--and you must let me out,
and I will run to the Duchess Alvarez and stay with her little girl.
Indeed, Eudaldo, the General did not mean to lock me in, too."

"He said nothing about your ladyship to me," answered the servant
doubtfully. "But I do not know--" he hesitated.

"Please, please, Eudaldo," pleaded Inez, "I am so cold and lonely

"But Doña Dolores is there, too," observed Eudaldo.

Dolores held her breath and steadied herself against the panel.

"He shut her into the inner sitting-room. How could I dare to open the
door! You may go in and knock--she will not answer you."

"Is your ladyship sure that Doña Dolores is within?" asked Eudaldo, in a
more yielding tone.

"Absolutely, perfectly sure!" answered Inez, with perfect truth. "Oh, do
please let me out."

Slowly the old man drew the bolt, while Dolores' heart stood still, and
she prepared herself for the danger; for she knew well enough that the
faithful old servant feared his master much more than he feared the
devil and all evil spirits, and would prevent her from passing, even
with force, if he recognized her.

"Thank you, Eudaldo--thank you!" cried Inez, as the latch turned. "And
open the front door for me, please," she said, putting her lips just
where the panel was opening.

Then she drew back into the darkness. The door was wide open now, and
Eudaldo was already shuffling towards the entrance. Dolores went
forward, bending her head, and trying to affect her sister's step. No
distance had ever seemed so long to her as that which separated her from
the hall door which Eudaldo was already opening for her. But she dared
not hasten her step, for though Inez moved with perfect certainty in the
house, she always walked with a certain deliberate caution, and often
stopped to listen, while crossing a room. The blind girl was listening
now, with all her marvellous hearing, to be sure that all went well till
Dolores should be outside. She knew exactly how many steps there were
from where she stood to the entrance, for she had often counted them.

Dolores must have been not more than three yards from the door, when
Inez started involuntarily, for she heard a sound from without, far
off--so far that Dolores could not possibly have heard it yet, but
unmistakable to the blind girl's keener ear. She listened
intently--there were Dolores' last four steps to the open doorway, and
there were others from beyond, still very far away in the vaulted
corridors, but coming nearer. To call her sister back would have made
all further attempt at escape hopeless--to let her go on seemed almost
equally fatal--Inez could have shrieked aloud. But Dolores had already
gone out, and a moment later the heavy door swung back to its place, and
it was too late to call her. Like an immaterial spirit, Inez slipped
away from the place where she stood and went back to Dolores' room,
knowing that Eudaldo would very probably go and knock where he supposed
her sister to be a prisoner, before slipping the outer bolt again. And
so he did, muttering an imprecation upon the little lamp that had gone
out and left the small hall in darkness. Then he knocked, and spoke
through the door, offering to bring her food, or fire, and repeating his
words many times, in a supplicating tone, for he was devoted to both the
sisters, though terror of old Mendoza was the dominating element in his

At last he shook his head and turned despondently to light the little
lamp again; and when he had done that, he went away and bolted the door
after him, convinced that Inez had gone out and that Dolores had stayed
behind in the last room.

When she had heard him go away the last time, the blind girl threw
herself upon Dolores' bed, and buried her face in the down cushion,
sobbing bitterly in her utter loneliness; weeping, too, for something
she did not understand, but which she felt the more painfully because
she could not understand it, something that was at once like a burning
fire and an unspeakable emptiness craving to be filled, something that
longed and feared, and feared longing, something that was a strong
bodily pain but which she somehow knew might have been the source of all
earthly delight,--an element detached from thought and yet holding it,
above the body and yet binding it, touching the soul and growing upon
it, but filling the soul itself with fear and unquietness, and making
her heart cry out within her as if it were not hers and were pleading to
be free. So, as she could not understand that this was love, which, as
she had heard said, made women and men most happy, like gods and
goddesses, above their kind, she lay alone in the darkness that was
always as day to her, and wept her heart out in scalding tears.

In the corridor outside, Dolores made a few steps, remembering to put
out her left hand to touch the wall, as Inez had told her to do; and
then she heard what had reached her sister's ears much sooner. She stood
still an instant, strained her eyes to see in the dim light of the
single lamp, saw nothing, and heard the sound coming nearer. Then she
quickly crossed the corridor to the nearest embrasure to hide herself.
To her horror she realized that the light of the full moon was streaming
in as bright as day, and that she could not be hid. Inez knew nothing of

She pressed herself to the wall, on the side away from her own door,
making herself as small as she could, for it was possible that whoever
came by might pass without turning his head. Nervous and exhausted by
all she had felt and been made to feel since the afternoon, she held her
breath and waited.

The regular tread of a man booted and spurred came relentlessly towards
her, without haste and without pause. No one who wore spurs but her
father ever came that way. She listened breathlessly to the hollow
echoes, and turned her eyes along the wall of the embrasure. In a moment
she must see his gaunt figure, and the moonlight would be white on his
short grey beard.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dolores knew that there was no time to reflect as to what she should do,
if her father found her hiding in the embrasure, and yet in those short
seconds a hundred possibilities flashed through her disturbed thoughts.
She might slip past him and run for her life down the corridor, or she
might draw her hood over her face and try to pretend that she was some
one else,--but he would recognize the hood itself as belonging to
Inez,--or she might turn and lean upon the window-sill, indifferently,
as if she had a right to be there, and he might take her for some lady
of the court, and pass on. And yet she could not decide which to
attempt, and stood still, pressing herself against the wall of the
embrasure, and quite forgetful of the fact that the bright moonlight
fell unhindered through all the other windows upon the pavement, whereas
she cast a shadow from the one in which she was standing, and that any
one coming along the corridor would notice it and stop to see who was

There was something fateful and paralyzing in the regular footfall that
was followed instantly by the short echo from the vault above. It was
close at hand now she was sure that at the very next instant she should
see her father's face, yet nothing came, except the sound, for that
deceived her in the silence and seemed far nearer than it was. She had
heard horrible ghost stories of the old Alcazar, and as a child she had
been frightened by tales of evil things that haunted the corridors at
night, of wraiths and goblins and Moorish wizards who dwelt in secret
vaults, where no one knew, and came out in the dark, when all was still,
to wander in the moonlight, a terror to the living. The girl felt the
thrill of unearthly fear at the roots of her hair, and trembled, and the
sound seemed to be magnified till it reëchoed like thunder, though it
was only the noise of an advancing footfall, with a little jingling of

But at last there was no doubt. It was close to her, and she shut her
eyes involuntarily. She heard one step more on the stones, and then
there was silence. She knew that her father had seen her, had stopped
before her, and was looking at her. She knew how his rough brows were
knitting themselves together, and that even in the pale moonlight his
eyes were fierce and angry, and that his left hand was resting on the
hilt of his sword, the bony brown fingers tapping the basket nervously.
An hour earlier, or little more, she had faced him as bravely as any
man, but she could not face him now, and she dared not open her eyes.

"Madam, are you ill, or in trouble?" asked a young voice that was soft
and deep.

She opened her eyes with a sharp cry that was not of fear, and she threw
back her hood with one hand as the looked.

Don John of Austria was there, a step from her, the light full on his
face, bareheaded, his cap in his hand, bending a little towards her, as
one does towards a person one does not know, but who seems to be in
distress and to need help. Against the whiteness without he could not
see her face, nor could he recognize her muffled figure.

"Can I not help you, Madam?" asked the kind voice again, very gravely.

Then she put out her hands towards him and made a step, and as the hood
fell quite back with the silk kerchief, he saw her golden hair in the
silver light. Slowly and in wonder, and still not quite believing, he
moved to meet her movement, took her hands in his, drew her to him,
turned her face gently, till he saw it well. Then he, too, uttered a
little sound that was neither a word nor a syllable nor a cry--a sound
that was half fierce with strong delight as his lips met hers, and his
hands were suddenly at her waist lifting her slowly to his own height,
though he did not know it, pressing her closer and closer to him, as if
that one kiss were the first and last that ever man gave woman.

A minute passed, and yet neither he nor she could speak. She stood with
her hands clasped round his neck, and her head resting on his breast
just below the shoulder, as if she were saying tender words to the heart
she heard beating so loud through the soft black velvet. She knew that
it had never beaten in battle as it was beating now, and she loved it
because it knew her and welcomed her; but her own stood still, and now
and then it fluttered wildly, like a strong young bird in a barred cage,
and then was quite still again. Bending his face a little, he softly
kissed her hair again and again, till at last the kisses formed
themselves into syllables and words, which she felt rather than heard.

"God in heaven, how I love you--heart of my heart--life of my life--love
of my soul!"

And again he repeated the same words, and many more like them, with
little change, because at that moment he had neither thought nor care
for anything else in the world, not for life nor death nor kingdom nor
glory, in comparison with the woman he loved. He could not hear her
answers, for she spoke without words to his heart, hiding her face where
she heard it throbbing, while her lips pressed many kisses on the

Then, as thought returned, and the first thought was for him, she drew
back a little with a quick movement, and looked up to him with
frightened and imploring eyes.

"We must go!" she cried anxiously, in a very low voice. "We cannot stay
here. My father is very angry--he swore on his word of honour that he
would kill you if you tried to see me to-night!"

Don John laughed gently, and his eyes brightened. Before she could speak
again, he held her close once more, and his kisses were on her cheeks
and her eyes, on her forehead and on her hair, and then again upon her
lips, till they would have hurt her if she had not loved them so, and
given back every one. Then she struggled again, and he loosed his hold.

"It is death to stay here," she said very earnestly.

"It is worse than death to leave you," he answered. "And I will not," he
added an instant later, "neither for the King, nor for your father, nor
for any royal marriage they may try to force upon me."

She looked into his eyes for a moment, before she spoke, and there was
deep and true trust in her own.

"Then you must save me," she said quietly. "He has vowed that I shall be
sent to the convent of Las Huelgas to-morrow morning. He locked me into
the inner room, but Inez helped me to dress, and I got out under her

She told him in a few words what she had done and had meant to do, in
order to see him, and how she had taken his step for her father's. He
listened gravely, and she saw his face harden slowly in an expression
she had scarcely ever seen there. When she had finished her story he was
silent for a moment.

"We are quite safe here," he said at last, "safer than anywhere else, I
think, for your father cannot come back until the King goes to supper.
For myself, I have an hour, but I have been so surrounded and pestered
by visitors in my apartments that I have not found time to put on a
court dress--and without vanity, I presume that I am a necessary figure
at court this evening. Your father is with Perez, who seems to be acting
as master of ceremonies and of everything else, as well as the King's
secretary--they have business together, and the General will not have a
moment. I ascertained that, before coming here, or I should not have
come at this hour. We are safe from him here, I am sure."

"You know best," answered Dolores, who was greatly reassured by what he
said about Mendoza.

"Let us sit down, then. You must be tired after all you have done. And
we have much to say to each other."

"How could I be tired now?" she asked, with a loving smile; but she sat
down on the stone seat in the embrasure, close to the window.

It was just wide enough for two to sit there, and Don John took his
place beside her, and drew one of her hands silently to him between both
his own, and kissed the tips of her fingers a great many times. But he
felt that she was watching his face, and he looked up and saw her
eyes--and then, again, many seconds passed before either could speak.
They were but a boy and girl together, loving each other in the tender
first love of early youth, for the victor of the day, the subduer of the
Moors, the man who had won back Granada, who was already High Admiral of
Spain, and who in some ten months from that time was to win a decisive
battle of the world at Lepanto, was a stripling of twenty-three
summers--and he had first seen Dolores when he was twenty and she
seventeen, and now it was nearly two years since they had met.

He was the first to speak, for he was a man of quick and unerring
determinations that led to actions as sudden as they were bold and
brilliant, and what Dolores had told him of her quarrel with her father
was enough to rouse his whole energy at once. At all costs she must
never be allowed to pass the gates of Las Huelgas. Once within the
convent, by the King's orders, and a close prisoner, nothing short of a
sacrilegious assault and armed violence could ever bring her out into
the world again. He knew that, and that he must act instantly to prevent
it, for he knew Mendoza's character also, and had no doubt but that he
would do what he threatened. It was necessary to put Dolores beyond his
reach at once, and beyond the King's also, which was not an easy matter
within the walls of the King's own palace, and on such a night. Don John
had been but little at the court and knew next to nothing of its
intrigues, nor of the mutual relations of the ladies and high officers
who had apartments in the Alcazar. In his own train there were no women,
of course. Dolores' brother Rodrigo, who had fought by his side at
Granada, had begged to be left behind with the garrison, in order that
he might not be forced to meet his father. Doña Magdalena Quixada, Don
John's adoptive mother, was far away at Villagarcia. The Duchess
Alvarez, though fond of Dolores, was Mistress of the Robes to the young
Queen, and it was not to be hoped nor expected that she should risk the
danger of utter ruin and disgrace if it were discovered that she had
hidden the girl against the King's wishes. Yet it was absolutely
necessary that Dolores should be safely hidden within an hour, and that
she should be got out of the palace before morning, and if possible
conveyed to Villagarcia. Don John saw in a moment that there was no one
to whom he could turn.

Again he took Dolores' hand in his, but with a sort of gravity and
protecting authority that had not been in his touch the first time.
Moreover, he did not kiss her fingers now, and he resolutely looked at
the wall opposite him. Then, in a low and quiet voice, he laid the
situation before her, while she anxiously listened.

"You see," he said at last, "there is only one way left. Dolores, do you
altogether trust me?"

She started a little, and her fingers pressed his hand suddenly.

"Trust you? Ah, with all my soul!"

"Think well before you answer," he said. "You do not quite
understand--it is a little hard to put it clearly, but I must. I know
you trust me in many ways, to love you faithfully always, to speak truth
to you always, to defend you always, to help you with my life when you
shall be in need. You know that I love you so, as you love me. Have we
not often said it? You wrote it in your letter, too--ah, dear, I thank
you for that. Yes, I have read it--I have it here, near my heart, and I
shall read it again before I sleep--"

Without a word, and still listening, she bent down and pressed her lips
to the place where her letter lay. He touched her hair with his lips and
went on speaking, as she leaned back against the wall again.

"You must trust me even more than that, my beloved," he said. "To save
you, you must be hidden by some one whom I myself can trust--and for
such a matter there is no one in the palace nor in all Madrid--no one to
whom I can turn and know that you will be safe--not one human being,
except myself."

"Except yourself!" Dolores loved the words, and gently pressed his hand.

"I thank you, dearest heart--but do you know what that means? Do you
understand that I must hide you myself, in my own apartments, and keep
you there until I can take you out of the palace, before morning?"

She was silent for a few moments, turning her face away from him. His
heart sank.

"No, dear," he said sadly, "you do not trust me enough for that--I see
it--what woman could?"

Her hand trembled and started in his, then pressed it hard, and she
turned her face quite to him.

"You are wrong," she said, with a tremor in her voice. "I love you as no
man was ever loved by any woman, far beyond all that all words can say,
and I shall love you till I die, and after that, for ever--even if I can
never be your wife. I love you as no one loves in these days, and when I
say that it is as you love me, I mean a thousand fold for every word. I
am not the child you left nearly two years ago. I am a woman now, for I
have thought and seen much since then--and I love you better and more
than then. God knows, there is enough to see and to learn in this
court--that should be hidden deep from honest women's sight! You and I
shall have a heaven on this earth, if God grants that we may be joined
together--for I will live for you, and serve you, and smooth all trouble
out of your way--and ask nothing of you but your love. And if we cannot
marry, then I will live for you in my heart, and serve you with my soul,
and pray Heaven that harm may never touch you. I will pray so fervently
that God must hear me. And so will you pray for me, as you would fight
for me, if you could. Remember, if you will, that when you are in battle
for Spain, your sword is drawn for Spain's honour, and for the honour of
every Christian Spanish woman that lives--and for mine, too!"

The words pleased him, and his free hand was suddenly clenched.

"You would make cowards fight like wolves, if you could speak to them
like that!" he said.

"I am not speaking to cowards," she answered, with a loving smile. "I am
speaking to the man I love, to the best and bravest and truest man that
breathes--and not to Don John of Austria, the victorious leader, but to
you, my heart's love, my life, my all, to you who are good and brave and
true to me, as no man ever was to any woman. No--" she laughed happily,
and there were tears in her eyes--"no, there are no words for such love
as ours."

"May I be all you would have me, and much more," he said fervently, and
his voice shook in the short speech.

"I am giving you all I have, because it is not belief, it is certainty.
I know you are all that I say you are, and more too. And I trust you, as
you mean it, and as you need my trust to save me. Take me where you
will. Hide me in your own room if you must, and bolt and bar it if need
be. I shall be as safe with you as I should be with my mother in heaven.
I put my hands between yours."

Again he heard her sweet low laughter, full of joy and trust, and she
laid her hands together between his and looked into his eyes, straight
and clear. Then she spoke softly and solemnly.

"Into your hands I put my life, and my faith, and my maiden honour,
trusting them all to you alone in this world, as I trust them to God."

Don John held her hands tightly for a moment, still looking into her
eyes as if he could see her soul there, giving itself to his keeping.
But he swore no great oath, and made no long speech; for a man who has
led men to deeds of glory, and against whom no dishonourable thing was
ever breathed, knows that his word is good.

"You shall not regret that you trust me, and you will be quite safe," he

She wanted no more. Loving as she did, she believed in him without
promises, yet she could not always believe that he quite knew how she
loved him.

"You are dearer to me than I knew," he said presently, breaking the
silence that followed. "I love you even more, and I thought it could
never be more, when I found you here a little while ago--because you do
really trust me."

"You knew it," the said, nestling to him. "But you wanted me to tell
you. Yes--we are nearer now."

"Far nearer--and a world more dear," he answered. "Do you know? In all
these months I have often and often again wondered how we should meet,
whether it would be before many people, or only with your sister Inez
there--or perhaps alone. But I did not dare hope for that."

"Nor I. I have dreamt of meeting you a hundred times--and more than
that! But there was always some one in the way. I suppose that if we had
found each other in the court and had only been able to say a few words,
it would have been a long time before we were quite ourselves
together--but now, it seems as if we had never been parted at all, does
it not?"

"As if we could never be parted again," he answered softly.

For a little while there was silence, and though there was to be a great
gathering of the court, that night, all was very still where the lovers
sat at the window, for the throne room and the great halls of state were
far away on the other side of the palace, and the corridor looked upon a
court through which few persons had to pass at night. Suddenly from a
distance there came the rhythmical beat of the Spanish drums, as some
detachment of troops marched by the outer gate. Don John listened.

"Those are my men," he said. "We must go, for now that they are below I
can send my people on errands with orders to them, until I am alone.
Then you must come in. At the end of my apartments there is a small
room, beyond my own. It is furnished to be my study, and no one will
expect to enter it at night. I must put you there, and lock the door and
take the key with me, so that no one can go in while I am at court--or
else you can lock it on the inside, yourself. That would be better,
perhaps," he added rather hurriedly.

"No," said the girl quietly. "I prefer that you should have the key. I
shall feel even safer. But how can I get there without being seen? We
cannot go so far together without meeting some one."

He rose, and she stood up beside him.

"My apartments open upon the broad terrace on the south side," he said.
"At this time there will be only two or three officers there, and my two
servants. Follow me at a little distance, with your hood over your face,
and when you reach the sentry-box at the corner where I turn off, go in.
There will be no sentinel there, and the door looks outward. I shall
send away every one, on different errands, in five minutes. When every
one is gone I will come for you. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly." She nodded, as if she had made quite sure of what he had
explained. Then she put up her hands, as if to say good-by. "Oh, if we
could only stay here in peace!" she cried.

He said nothing, for he knew that there was still much danger, and he
was anxious for her. He only pressed her hands and then led her away.
They followed the corridor together, side by side, to the turning. Then
he whispered to her to drop behind, and she let him go on a dozen paces
and followed him. The way was long, and ill lighted at intervals by oil
lamps hung from the vault by small chains; they cast a broad black
shadow beneath them, and shed a feeble light above. Several times
persons passed them, and Dolores' heart beat furiously. A court lady,
followed by a duenna and a serving-woman, stopped with a winning smile,
and dropped a low courtesy to Don John, who lifted his cap, bowed, and
went on. They did not look at Dolores. A man in a green cloth apron and
loose slippers, carrying five lighted lamps in a greasy iron tray,
passed with perfect indifference, and without paying the least attention
to the victor of Granada. It was his business to carry lamps in that
part of the palace--he was not a human being, but a lamplighter. They
went on, down a short flight of broad steps, and then through a wider
corridor where the lights were better, though the night breeze was
blowing in and made them flicker and flare.

A corporal's guard of the household halberdiers came swinging down at a
marching step, coming from the terrace beyond. The corporal crossed his
halberd in salute, but Don John stopped him, for he understood at once
that a sentry had been set at his door.

"I want no guard," he said. "Take the man away."

"The General ordered it, your Highness," answered the man, respectfully.

"Request your captain to report to the General that I particularly
desire no sentinel at my door. I have no possessions to guard except my
reputation, and I can take care of that myself." He laughed

The corporal grinned--he was a very dark, broad-faced man, with high
cheek bones, and ears that stuck out. He faced about with his three
soldiers, and followed Don John to the terrace--but in the distance he
had seen the hooded figure of a woman.

Not knowing what to do, for she had heard the colloquy, Dolores stood
still a moment, for she did not care to pass the soldiers as they came
back. Then she turned and walked a little way in the other direction, to
gain time, and kept on slowly. In less than a minute they returned,
bringing the sentinel with them. She walked slowly and counted them as
they went past her--and then she started as if she had been stung, and
blushed scarlet under her hood, for she distinctly heard the big
corporal laugh to himself when he had gone by. She knew, then, how she
trusted the man she loved.

When the soldiers had turned the corner and were out of sight, she ran
back to the terrace and hid herself in the stone sentry-box just
outside, still blushing and angry. On the side of the box towards Don
John's apartment there was a small square window just at the height of
her eyes, and she looked through it, sure that her face could not be
seen from without. She looked from mere curiosity, to see what sort of
men the officers were, and Don John's servants; for everything connected
with him or belonging to him in any way interested her most intensely.
Two tall captains came out first, magnificent in polished breastplates
with gold shoulder straps and sashes and gleaming basket-hilted swords,
that stuck up behind them as their owners pressed down the hilts and
strutted along, twisting their short black moustaches in the hope of
meeting some court lady on their way. Then another and older man passed,
also in a soldier's dress, but with bent head, apparently deep in
thought. After that no one came for some time--then a servant, who
pulled something out of his pocket and began to eat it, before he was in
the corridor.

Then a woman came past the little window. Dolores saw her as distinctly
as she had seen the four men. She came noiselessly and stealthily,
putting down her foot delicately, like a cat. She was a lady, and she
wore a loose cloak that covered all her gown, and on her head a thick
veil, drawn fourfold across her face. Her gait told the girl that she
was young and graceful--something in the turn of the head made her sure
that she was beautiful, too--something in the whole figure and bearing
was familiar. The blood sank from Dolores' cheeks, and she felt a chill
slowly rising to her heart. The lady entered the corridor and went on
quickly, turned, and was out of sight.

Then all at once, Dolores laughed to herself, noiselessly, and was happy
again, in spite of her danger. There was nothing to disturb her, she
reflected. The terrace was long, there were doubtless other apartments
beyond Don John's, though she had not known it. The lady had indeed
walked cautiously, but it might well be that she had reasons for not
being seen there, and that the further rooms were not hers. The Alcazar
was only an old Moorish castle, after all, restored and irregularly
enlarged, and altogether very awkwardly built, so that many of the
apartments could only be reached by crossing open terraces.

When Don John came to get her in the sentry-box, Dolores' momentary
doubt was gone, though not all her curiosity. She smiled as she came out
of her hiding-place and met his eyes--clear and true as her own. She
even hated herself for having thought that the lady could have come from
his apartment at all. The light was streaming from his open door as he
led her quickly towards it. There were three windows beyond it, and
there the terrace ended. She looked at the front as they were passing,
and counted again three windows between the open door and the corner
where the sentry-box stood.

"Who lives in the rooms beyond you?" she asked quickly.

"No one--the last is the one where you are to be." He seemed surprised.

They had reached the open door, and he stood aside to let her go in.

"And on this side?" she asked, speaking with a painful effort.

"My drawing-room and dining-room," he answered.

She paused and drew breath before she spoke again, and she pressed one
hand to her side under her cloak.

"Who was the lady who came from here when all the men were gone?" she
asked, very pale.

       *       *       *       *       *


Don John was a man not easily taken off his guard, but he started
perceptibly at Dolores' question. He did not change colour, however, nor
did his eyes waver; he looked fixedly into her face.

"No lady has been here," he answered quietly.

Dolores doubted the evidence of her own senses. Her belief in the man
she loved was so great that his words seemed at first to have destroyed
and swept away what must have been a bad dream, or a horrible illusion,
and her face was quiet and happy again as she passed him and went in
through the open entrance. She found herself in a vestibule from which
doors opened to the right and left. He turned in the latter direction,
leading the way into the room.

It was his bedchamber. Built in the Moorish manner, the vaulting began
at the height of a man's head, springing upward in bold and graceful
curves to a great height. The room was square and very large, and the
wall below the vault was hung with very beautiful tapestries
representing the battle of Pavia, the surrender of Francis the First,
and a sort of apotheosis of the Emperor Charles, the father of Don John.
There were two tall windows, which were quite covered by curtains of a
dark brocade, in which the coats of Spain and the Empire were woven in
colours at regular intervals; and opposite them, with the head to the
wall, stood a vast curtained bedstead with carved posts twice a man's
height. The vaulting had been cut on that side, in order that the foot
of the bed might stand back against the wall. The canopy had coats of
arms at the four corners, and the curtains were of dark green corded
silk, heavily embroidered with gold thread in the beautiful scrolls and
arabesques of the period of the Renascence. A carved table, dark and
polished, stood half way between the foot of the bedstead and the space
between the windows, where a magnificent kneeling-stool with red velvet
cushions was placed under a large crucifix. Half a dozen big chairs were
ranged against the long walls on each side of the room, and two
commodious folding chairs with cushions of embossed leather were beside
the table. Opposite the door by which Dolores had entered, another
communicated with the room beyond. Both were carved and ornamented with
scroll work of gilt bronze, but were without curtains. Three or four
Eastern, rugs covered the greater part of the polished marble pavement,
which here and there reflected the light of the tall wax torches that
stood on the table in silver candlesticks, and on each side of the bed
upon low stands. The vault above the tapestried walls was very dark
blue, and decorated with gilded stars in relief. Dolores thought the
room gloomy, and almost funereal. The bed looked like a catafalque, the
candles like funeral torches, and the whole place breathed the
magnificent discomfort of royalty, and seemed hardly intended for a
human habitation.

Dolores barely glanced at it all, as her companion locked the first door
and led her on to the next room. He knew that he had not many minutes to
spare, and was anxious that she should be in her hiding-place before his
servants came back. She followed him and went in. Unlike the bedchamber,
the small study was scantily and severely furnished. It contained only a
writing-table, two simple chairs, a straight-backed divan covered with
leather, and a large chest of black oak bound with ornamented steel
work. The window was curtained with dark stuff, and two wax candles
burned steadily beside the writing-materials that were spread out ready
for use.

"This is the room," Don John said, speaking for the first time since
they had entered the apartments.

Dolores let her head fall back, and began to loosen her cloak at her
throat without answering him. He helped her, and laid the long garment
upon the divan. Then he turned and saw her in the full light of the
candles, looking at him, and he uttered an exclamation.

"What is it?" she asked almost dreamily.

"You are very beautiful," he answered in a low voice. "You are the most
beautiful woman I ever saw."

The merest girl knows the tone of a man whose genuine admiration breaks
out unconsciously in plain words, and Dolores was a grown woman. A faint
colour rose in her cheek, and her lips parted to smile, but her eyes
were grave and anxious, for the doubt had returned, and would not be
thrust away. She had seen the lady in the cloak and veil during several
seconds, and though Dolores, who had been watching the men who passed,
had not actually seen her come out of Don John's apartments, but had
been suddenly aware of her as she glided by, it seemed out of the
question that she should have come from any other place. There was
neither niche nor embrasure between the door and the corridor, in which
the lady could have been hidden, and it was hardly conceivable that she
should have been waiting outside for some mysterious purpose, and should
not have fled as soon as she heard the two officers coming out, since
she evidently wished to escape observation. On the other hand, Don John
had quietly denied that any woman had been there, which meant at all
events that he had not seen any one. It could mean nothing else.

Dolores was neither foolishly jealous nor at all suspicious by nature,
and the man was her ideal of truthfulness and honour. She stood looking
at him, resting one hand on the table, while he came slowly towards her,
moving almost unconsciously in the direction of her exquisite beauty, as
a plant lifts itself to the sun at morning. He was near to her, and he
stretched out his arms as if to draw her to him. She smiled then, for in
his eyes she forgot her trouble for a moment, and she would have kissed
him. But suddenly his face grew grave, and he set his teeth, and instead
of taking her into his arms, he took one of her hands and raised it to
his lips, as if it had been the hand of his brother's wife, the young

"Why?" she asked in surprise, and with a little start.

"You are here under my protection," he answered. "Let me have my own

"Yes, I understand. How good you are to me!" She paused, and then went
on, seating herself upon one of the chairs by the table as she spoke.
"You must leave me now," she said. "You must lock me in and keep the
key. Then I shall know that I am safe; and in the meantime you must
decide how I am to escape--it will not be easy." She stopped again. "I
wonder who that woman was!" she exclaimed at last.

"There was no woman here," replied Don John, as quietly and assuredly as

He was leaning upon the table at the other side, with both hands resting
upon it, looking at her beautiful hair as she bent her head.

"Say that you did not see her," she said, "not that she was not here,
for she passed me after all the men, walking very cautiously to make no
noise; and when she was in the corridor she ran--she was young and
light-footed. I could not see her face."

"You believe me, do you not?" asked Don John, bending over the table a
little, and speaking very anxiously.

She turned her face up instantly, her eyes wide and bright.

"Should I be here if I did not trust you and believe you?" she asked
almost fiercely. "Do you think--do you dare to think--that I would have
passed your door if I had supposed that another woman had been here
before me, and had been turned out to make room for me, and would have
stayed here--here in your room--if you had not sent her away? If I had
thought that, I would have left you at your door forever. I would have
gone back to my father. I would have gone to Las Huelgas to-morrow, and
not to be a prisoner, but to live and die there in the only life fit for
a broken-hearted woman. Oh, no! You dare not think that,--you who would
dare anything! If you thought that, you could not love me as I love
you,--believing, trusting, staking life and soul on your truth and

The generous spirit had risen in her eyes, roused not against him, but
by all his question might be made to mean; and as she met his look of
grateful gladness her anger broke away, and left only perfect love and
trust behind it.

"A man would die for you, and wish he might die twice," he answered,
standing upright, as if a weight had been taken from him and he were
free to breathe.

She looked up at the pale, strong features of the young fighter, who was
so great and glorious almost before the down had thickened on his lip;
and she saw something almost above nature in his face,--something high
and angelic, yet manly and well fitted to face earthly battles. He was
her sun, her young god, her perfect image of perfection, the very source
of her trust. It would have killed her to doubt him. Her whole soul went
up to him in her eyes; and as he was ready to die for her, she knew that
for him she would suffer every anguish death could hold, and not flinch.

Then she looked down, and suddenly laughed a little oddly, and her
finger pointed towards the pens and paper.

"She has left something behind," she said. "She was clever to get in
here and slip out again without being seen."

Don John looked where she pointed, and saw a small letter folded round
the stems of two white carnations, and neatly tied with a bit of twisted
silk. It was laid between the paper and the bronze inkstand, and half
hidden by the broad white feather of a goose-quill pen, that seemed to
have been thrown carelessly across the flowers. It lay there as if meant
to be found, only by one who wrote, and not to attract too much

"Oh!" he exclaimed, in a rather singular tone, as he saw it, and a
boyish blush reddened his face.

Then he took the letter and drew out the two flowers by the blossoms
very carefully. Dolores watched him. He seemed in doubt as to what he
should do; and the blush subsided quickly, and gave way to a look of
settled annoyance. The carnations were quite fresh, and had evidently
not been plucked more than an hour. He held them up a moment and looked
at them, then laid them down again and took the note. There was no
writing on the outside. Without opening it he held it to the flame of
the candle, but Dolores caught his wrist.

"Why do you not read it?" she asked quickly.

"Dear, I do not know who wrote it, and I do not wish to know anything
you do not know also."

"You have no idea who the woman is?" Dolores looked at him wonderingly.

"Not the very least," he answered with a smile.

"But I should like to know so much!" she cried. "Do read it and tell me.
I do not understand the thing at all."

"I cannot do that." He shook his head. "That would be betraying a
woman's secret. I do not know who it is, and I must not let you know,
for that would not be honourable."

"You are right," she said, after a pause. "You always are. Burn it."

He pushed the point of a steel erasing-knife through the piece of folded
paper and held it over the flame. It turned brown, crackled and burst
into a little blaze, and in a moment the black ashes fell fluttering to
the table.

"What do you suppose it was?" asked Dolores innocently, as Don John
brushed the ashes away.

"Dear--it is very ridiculous--I am ashamed of it, and I do not quite
know how to explain it to you." Again he blushed a little. "It seems
strange to speak of it--I never even told my mother. At first I used to
open them, but now I generally burn them like this one."

"Generally! Do you mean to say that you often find women's letters with
flowers in them on your table?"

"I find them everywhere," answered Don John, with perfect simplicity. "I
have found them in my gloves, tied into the basket hilt of my
sword--often they are brought to me like ordinary letters by a messenger
who waits for an answer. Once I found one on my pillow!"

"But"--Dolores hesitated--"but are they--are they all from the same
person?" she asked timidly. Don John laughed, and shook his head.

"She would need to be a very persistent and industrious person," he
answered. "Do you not understand?"

"No. Who are these women who persecute you with their writing? And why
do they write to you? Do they want you to help them?"

"Not exactly that;" he was still smiling. "I ought not to laugh, I
suppose. They are ladies of the court sometimes, and sometimes others,
and I--I fancy that they want me to--how shall I say?--to begin by
writing them letters of the same sort."

"What sort of letters?"

"Why--love letters," answered Don John, driven to extremity in spite of
his resistance.

"Love letters!" cried Dolores, understanding at last. "Do you mean to
say that there are women whom you do not know, who tell you that they
love you before you have ever spoken to them? Do you mean that a lady of
the court, whom you have probably never even seen, wrote that note and
tied it up with flowers and risked everything to bring it here, just in
the hope that you might notice her? It is horrible! It is vile! It is
shameless! It is beneath anything!"

"You say she was a lady--you saw her. I did not. But that is what she
did, whoever she may be."

"And there are women like that--here, in the palace! How little I know!"

"And the less you learn about the world, the better," answered the young
soldier shortly.

"But you have never answered one, have you?" asked Dolores, with a scorn
that showed how sure she was of his reply.

"No." He spoke thoughtfully. "I once thought of answering one. I meant
to tell her that she was out of her senses, but I changed my mind. That
was long ago, before I knew you--when I was eighteen."

"Ever since you were a boy!"

The look of wonder was not quite gone from her face yet, but she was
beginning to understand more clearly, though still very far from
distinctly. It did not occur to her once that such things could be
temptations to the brilliant young leader whom every woman admired and
every man flattered, and that only his devoted love for her had kept him
out of ignoble adventures since he had grown to be a man. Had she seen
that, she would have loved him even better, if it were possible. It was
all, as she had said, shameless and abominable. She had thought that she
knew much of evil, and she had even told him so that evening, but this
was far beyond anything she had dreamt of in her innocent thoughts, and
she instinctively felt that there were lower depths of degradation to
which a woman could fall, and of which she would not try to guess the
vileness and horror.

"Shall I burn the flowers, too?" asked Don John, taking them in his

"The flowers? No. They are innocent and fresh. What have they to do with
her? Give them to me."

He raised them to his lips, looking at her, and then held them out. She
took them, and kissed them, as he had done, and they both smiled
happily. Then she fastened them in her hair.

"No one will see me to-night but you," she said. "I may wear flowers in
my hair like a peasant woman!"

"How they make the gold gleam!" he exclaimed, as he looked. "It is
almost time that my men came back," he said sadly. "When I go down to
the court, I shall dismiss them. After the royal supper I shall try and
come here again and see you. By that time everything will be arranged. I
have thought of almost everything already. My mother will provide you
with everything you need. To-morrow evening I can leave this place
myself to go and see her, as I always do."

He always spoke of Doña Magdalena Quixada as his mother--he had never
known his own.

Dolores rose from her seat, for he was ready to go.

"I trust you in everything," she said simply. "I do not need to know how
you will accomplish it all--it is enough to know that you will. Tell
Inez, if you can--protect her if my father is angry with her."

He held out his hand to take hers, and she was going to give it, as she
had done before. But it was too little. Before he knew it she had thrown
her arms round his neck, and was kissing him, with little cries and
broken words of love. Then she drew back suddenly.

"I could not help it," she said. "Now lock me in. No--do not say
good-by--even for two hours!"

"I will come back as soon as I can," he answered, and with a long look
he left her, closed the door and locked it after him, leaving her alone.

She stood a few moments looking at the panels as if her sight could
pierce them and reach him on the other side, and she tried to hold the
last look she had seen in his eyes. Hardly two minutes had elapsed
before she heard voices and footsteps in the bedchamber. Don John spoke
in short sentences now and then to his servants, and his voice was
commanding though it was kindly. It seemed strange to be so near him in
his life; she wondered whether she should some day always be near him,
as she was now, and nearer; she blushed, all alone. So many things had
happened, and he and she had found so much to say that nothing had been
said at all of what was to follow her flight to Villagarcia. She was to
leave for the Quixadas' house before morning, but Quixada and his wife
could not protect her against her father, if he found out where she was,
unless she were married. After that, neither Mendoza nor any one else,
save the King himself, would presume to interfere with the liberty of
Don John of Austria's wife. All Spain would rise to protect her--she was
sure of that. But they had said nothing about a marriage and had wasted
time over that unknown woman's abominable letter. Since she reasoned it
out to herself, she saw that in all probability the ceremony would take
place as soon as Don John reached Villagarcia. He was powerful enough to
demand the necessary permission of the Archbishop, and he would bring it
with him; but no priest, even in the absence of a written order, would
refuse to marry him if he desired it. Between the real power he
possessed and the vast popularity he enjoyed, he could command almost

She heard his voice distinctly just then, though she was not listening
for it. He was telling a servant to bring white shoes. The fact struck
her because she had never seen him wear any that were not black or
yellow. She smiled and wished that she might bring him his white shoes
and hang his order of the Golden Fleece round his neck, and breathe on
the polished hilt of his sword and rub it with soft leather. She had
seen Eudaldo furbish her father's weapons in that way since she had been
a child.

It had all come so suddenly in the end. Shading her eyes from the
candles with her hand, she rested one elbow on the table, and tried to
think of what should naturally have happened, of what must have happened
if the unknown voice among the courtiers had not laughed and roused her
father's anger and brought all the rest. Don John would have come to the
door, and Eudaldo would have let him in--because no one could refuse him
anything and he was the King's brother. He would have spent half an hour
with her in the little drawing-room, and it would have been a
constrained meeting, with Inez near, though she would presently have
left them alone. Then, by this time, she would have gone down with the
Duchess Alvarez and the other maids of honour, and by and by she would
have followed the Queen when she entered the throne room with the King
and Don John; and she might not have exchanged another word with the
latter for a whole day, or two days. But now it seemed almost certain
that she was to be his wife within the coming week. He was in the next

"Do not put the sword away," she heard him say. "Leave it here on the

Of course; what should he do with a sword in his court dress? But if he
had met her father in the corridor, coming to her after the supper, he
would have been unarmed. Her father, on the contrary, being on actual
duty, wore the sword of his rank, like any other officer of the guards,
and the King wore a rapier as a part of his state dress.

She was astonished at the distinctness with which she heard what was
said in the next room. That was doubtless due to the construction of the
vault, as she vaguely guessed. It was true that Don John spoke very
clearly, but she could hear the servants' subdued answers almost as
well, when she listened. It seemed to her that he took but a very short
time to dress.

"I have the key of that room," he said presently. "I have my papers
there. You are at liberty till midnight. My hat, my gloves. Call my
gentlemen, one of you, and tell them to meet me in the corridor."

She could almost hear him drawing on his gloves. One of the servants
went out.

"Fadrique," said Don John, "leave out my riding-cloak. I may like to
walk on the terrace in the moonlight, and it is cold. Have my drink
ready at midnight and wait for me. Send Gil to sleep, for he was up last

There was a strange pleasure in hearing his familiar orders and small
directions and in seeing how thoughtful he was for his servants. She
knew that he had always refused to be surrounded by valets and
gentlemen-in-waiting, and lived very simply when he could, but it was
different to be brought into such close contact with his life. There was
a wonderful gentleness in his ways that contrasted widely with her
father's despotic manner and harsh tone when he gave orders. Mendoza
believed himself the type and model of a soldier and a gentleman, and he
maintained that without rigid discipline there could be no order and no
safety at home or in the army. But between him and Don John there was
all the difference that separates the born leader of men from the mere

Dolores listened. It was clear that Don John was not going to send
Fadrique away in order to see her again before he went down to the
throne room, though she had almost hoped he might.

On the contrary, some one else came. She heard Fadrique announce him.

"The Captain Don Juan de Escobedo is in waiting, your Highness," said
the servant. "There is also Adonis."

"Adonis!" Don John laughed, not at the name, for it was familiar to him,
but at the mere mention of the person who bore it and who was the King's
dwarf jester, Miguel de Antona, commonly known by his classic nickname.
"Bring Adonis here--he is an old friend."

The door opened again, and Dolores heard the well-known voice of the
hunchback, clear as a woman's, scornful and full of evil laughter,--the
sort of voice that is heard instantly in a crowd, though it is not
always recognizable. The fellow came in, talking loud.

"Ave Cæsar!" he cried from the door. "Hail, conqueror! All hail, thou
favoured of heaven, of man,--and of the ladies!"

"The ladies too?" laughed Don John, probably amused by the dwarfs
antics. "Who told you that?"

"The cook, sir. For as you rode up to the gate this afternoon a scullery
maid saw you from the cellar grating and has been raving mad ever since,
singing of the sun, moon, and undying love, until the kitchen is more
like a mad-house than this house would be if the Day of Judgment came
before or after Lent."

"Do you fast in Lent, Adonis?"

"I fast rigidly three times a day, my lord conqueror,--no, six, for I
eat nothing either just before or just after my breakfast, my dinner,
and my supper. No monk can do better than that, for at those times I eat
nothing at all."

"If you said your prayers as often as you fast, you would be in a good
way," observed Don John.

"I do, sir. I say a short grace before and after eating. Why have you
come to Madrid, my lord? Do you not know that Madrid is the worst, the
wickedest, the dirtiest, vilest, and most damnable habitation devised by
man for the corruption of humanity? Especially in the month of November?
Has your lordship any reasonable reason for this unreason of coming
here, when the streets are full of mud, and men's hearts are packed like
saddle-bags with all the sins they have accumulated since Easter and
mean to unload at Christmas? Even your old friends are shocked to see so
young and honest a prince in such a place!"

"My old friends? Who?"

"I saw Saint John the Conqueror graciously wave his hand to a most
highly respectable old nobleman this afternoon, and the nobleman was so
much shocked that he could not stir an arm to return the salutation! His
legs must have done something, though, for he seemed to kick his own
horse up from the ground under him. The shock must have been terrible.
As for me, I laughed aloud, which made both the old nobleman and Don
Julius Caesar of Austria exceedingly angry. Get before me, Don Fadrique!
I am afraid of the terror of the Moors,--and no shame to me either! A
poor dwarf, against a man who tears armies to shreds,--and sends
scullery maids into hysterics! What is a poor crippled jester compared
with a powerful scullery maid or an army of heathen Moriscoes? Give me
that sword, Fadrique, or I am a dead man!"

But Don John was laughing good-naturedly.

"So it was you, Adonis? I might have-known your voice, I should think."

"No one ever knows my voice, sir. It is not a voice, it is a freak of
grammar. It is masculine, feminine, and neuter in gender, singular by
nature, and generally accusative, and it is optative in mood and full of
acute accents. If you can find such another voice in creation, sir, I
will forfeit mine in the King's councils."

Adonis laughed now, and Dolores remembered the laughter she had heard
from the window.

"Does his Majesty consult you on matters of state?" inquired Don John.
"Answer quickly, for I must be going."

"It takes twice as long to tell a story to two men, as to tell it to
one,--when you have to tell them different stories,"

"Go, Fadrique," said Don John, "and shut the door."

The dwarf, seeing the servant gone, beckoned Don John to the other side
of the room.

"It is no great secret, being only the King's," he said. "His Majesty
bids me tell your Serene Highness that he wishes to speak with you
privately about some matters, and that he will come here soon after
supper, and begs you to be alone."

"I will be here--alone."

"Excellent, sir. Now there is another matter of secrecy which is just
the contrary of what I have told you, for it is a secret from the King.
A lady laid a letter and two white carnations on your writing-table. If
there is any answer to be taken, I will take it."

"There is none," answered Don John sternly, "Tell the lady that I burned
the letter without reading it. Go, Adonis, and the next time you come
here, do not bring messages from women. Fadrique!"

"Your Highness burned the letter without reading it?"

"Yes. Fadrique!"

"I am sorry," said the dwarf, in a low voice.

No more words were spoken, and in a few moments there was deep silence,
for they were all gone, and Dolores was alone, locked into the little

       *       *       *       *       *


The great throne room of the palace was crowded with courtiers long
before the time when the King and Queen and Don John of Austria were to
appear, and the entries and halls by which it was approached were almost
as full. Though the late November air was keen, the state apartments
were at summer heat, warmed by thousands of great wax candles that
burned in chandeliers, and in huge sconces and on high candelabra that
stood in every corner. The light was everywhere, and was very soft and
yellow, while the odour of the wax itself was perceptible in the air,
and helped the impression that the great concourse was gathered in a
wide cathedral for some solemn function rather than in a throne room to
welcome a victorious soldier. Vast tapestries, dim and rich in the thick
air, covered the walls between the tall Moorish windows, and above them
the great pointed vaulting, ornamented with the fantastically modelled
stucco of the Moors, was like the creamy crests of waves lashed into
foam by the wind, thrown upright here, and there blown forward in swift
spray, and then again breaking in the fall to thousands of light and
exquisite shapes; and the whole vault thus gathered up the light of the
candles into itself and shed it downward, distributing it into every
corner and lighting every face in a soft and golden glow.

At the upper end, between two great doors that were like the gateways of
an eastern city, stood the vacant throne, on a platform approached by
three broad steps and covered with deep red cloth; and there stood
magnificent officers of the guard in gilded corslets and plumed steel
caps, and other garments of scarlet and gold, with their drawn swords
out. But Mendoza was not there yet, for it was his duty to enter with
the King's own guard, preceding the Majorduomo. Above the throne, a huge
canopy of velvet, red and yellow, was reared up around the royal coat of

To the right and left, on the steps, stood carved stools with silken
cushions--those on the right for the chief ministers and nobles of the
kingdom, those on the left for the great ladies of the court. These
would all enter in the King's train and take their places. For the
throng of courtiers who filled the floor and the entries there were no
seats, for only a score of the highest and greatest personages were
suffered to sit in the royal presence. A few, who were near the windows,
rested themselves surreptitiously on the high mouldings of the
pilasters, pushing aside the curtains cautiously, and seeming from a
distance to be standing while they were in reality comfortably seated,
an object of laughing envy and of many witticisms to their less
fortunate fellow-courtiers. The throng was not so close but that it was
possible to move in the middle of the hall, and almost all the persons
there were slowly changing place, some going forward to be nearer the
throne, others searching for their friends among their many
acquaintances, that they might help the tedious hour to pass more

Seen from the high gallery above the arch of the great entrance the hall
was a golden cauldron full of rich hues that intermingled in streams,
and made slow eddies with deep shadows, and then little waves of light
that turned upon themselves, as the colours thrown into the dyeing vat
slowly seethe and mix together in rivulets of dark blue and crimson, and
of splendid purple that seems to turn black in places and then is
suddenly shot through with flashes of golden and opalescent light. Here
and there also a silvery gleam flashed in the darker surface, like a
pearl in wine, for a few of the court ladies were dressed all in white,
with silver and many pearls, and diamonds that shed little rays of their

The dwarf Adonis had been there for a few moments behind the lattice
which the Moors had left, and as he stood there alone, where no one ever
thought of going, he listened to the even and not unmusical sound that
came up from the great assembly--the full chorus of speaking voices
trained never to be harsh or high, and to use chosen words, with no loud
exclamations, laughing only to please and little enough out of
merriment; and they would not laugh at all after the King and Queen came
in, but would only murmur low and pleasant flatteries, the change as
sudden as when the musician at the keys closes the full organ all at
once and draws gentle harmonies from softer stops.

The jester had stood there, and looked down with deep-set, eager eyes,
his crooked face pathetically sad and drawn, but alive with a swift and
meaning intelligence, while the thin and mobile lips expressed a sort of
ready malice which could break out in bitterness or turn to a kindly
irony according as the touch that moved the man's sensitive nature was
cruel or friendly. He was scarcely taller than a boy of ten years old,
but his full-grown arms hung down below his knees, and his man's head,
with the long, keen face, was set far forward on his shapeless body, so
that in speaking with persons of ordinary stature he looked up under his
brows, a little sideways, to see better. Smooth red hair covered his
bony head, and grew in a carefully trimmed and pointed beard on his
pointed chin. A loose doublet of crimson velvet hid the outlines of his
crooked back and projecting breastbone, and the rest of his dress was of
materials as rich, and all red. He was, moreover, extraordinarily
careful of his appearance, and no courtier had whiter or more delicately
tended hands or spent more time before the mirror in tying a shoulder
knot, and in fastening the stiffened collar of white embroidered linen
at the fashionable angle behind his neck.

He had entered the latticed gallery on his way to Don John's apartments
with the King's message. A small and half-concealed door, known to few
except the servants of the palace, opened upon it suddenly from a niche
in one of the upper corridors. In Moorish days the ladies of the harem
had been wont to go there unseen to see the reception of ambassadors of
state, and such ceremonies, at which, even veiled, they could never be

He only stayed a few moments, and though his eyes were eager, it was by
habit rather than because they were searching for any one in the crowd.
It pleased him now and then to see the court world as a spectacle, as it
delights the hard-worked actor to be for once a spectator at another's
play. He was an integral part of the court himself, a man of whom most
was often expected when he had the least to give, to whom it was
scarcely permitted to say anything in ordinary language, but to whom
almost any license of familiar speech was freely allowed. He was not a
man, he was a tradition, a thing that had to be where it was from
generation to generation; wherever the court had lived a jester lay
buried, and often two and three, for they rarely lived an ordinary
lifetime. Adonis thought of that sometimes, when he was alone, or when
he looked down at the crowd of delicately scented and richly dressed men
and women, every one called by some noble name, who would doubtless
laugh at some jest of his before the night was over. To their eyes the
fool was a necessary servant, because there had always been a fool at
court; he was as indispensable as a chief butler, a chief cook, or a
state coachman, and much more amusing. But he was not a man, he had no
name, he had no place among men, he was not supposed to have a mother, a
wife, a home, anything that belonged to humanity. He was well lodged,
indeed, where the last fool had died, and richly clothed as the other
had been, and he fed delicately, and was given the fine wines of France
to drink, lest his brain should be clouded by stronger liquor and he
should fail to make the court laugh. But he knew well enough that
somewhere in Toledo or Valladolid the next court jester was being
trained to good manners and instructed in the art of wit, to take the
vacant place when he should die. It pleased him therefore sometimes to
look down at the great assemblies from the gallery and to reflect that
all those magnificent fine gentlemen and tenderly nurtured beauties of
Spain were to die also, and that there was scarcely one of them, man or
woman, for whose death some one was not waiting, and waiting perhaps
with evil anxiety and longing. They were splendid to see, those fair
women in their brocades and diamonds, those dark young princesses and
duchesses in velvet and in pearls. He dreamed of them sometimes,
fancying himself one of those Djin of the southern mountains of whom the
Moors told blood-curdling tales, and in the dream he flew down from the
gallery on broad, black wings and carried off the youngest and most
beautiful, straight to his magic fortress above the sea.

They never knew that he was sometimes up there, and on this evening he
did not wait long, for he had his message to deliver and must be in
waiting on the King before the royal train entered the throne room.
After he was gone, the courtiers waited long, and more and more came in
from without. Now and then the crowd parted as best it might, to allow
some grandee who wore the order of the Golden Fleece or of some other
exalted order, to lead his lady nearer to the throne, as was his right,
advancing with measured steps, and bowing gravely to the right and left
as he passed up to the front among his peers. And just behind them, on
one aide, the young girls, of whom many were to be presented to the King
and Queen that night, drew together and talked in laughing whispers,
gathering in groups and knots of three and four, in a sort of irregular
rank behind their mothers or the elder ladies who were to lead them to
the royal presence and pronounce their names. There was more light where
they were gathered, the shadows were few and soft, the colours tender as
the tints of roses in a garden at sunset, and from the place where they
stood the sound of young voices came silvery and clear. That should have
been Inez de Mendoza's place if she had not been blind. But Inez had
never been willing to be there, though she had more than once found her
way to the gallery where the dwarf had stood, and had listened, and
smelled the odour of the wax candles and the perfumes that rose with the
heated air.

It was long before the great doors on the right hand of the canopy were
thrown open, but courtiers are accustomed from their childhood to long
waiting, and the greater part of their occupation at court is to see and
to be seen, and those who can do both and can take pleasure in either
are rarely impatient. Moreover, many found an opportunity of exchanging
quick words and of making sudden plans for meeting, who would have found
it hard to exchange a written message, and who had few chances of seeing
each other in the ordinary course of their lives; and others had waited
long to deliver a cutting speech, well studied and tempered to hurt, and
sought their enemies in the crowd with the winning smile a woman wears
to deal her keenest thrust. There were men, too, who had great interests
at stake and sought the influence of such as lived near the King,
flattering every one who could possibly be of use, and coolly
overlooking any who had a matter of their own to press, though they were
of their own kin. Many officers of Don John's army were there, too,
bright-eyed and bronzed from their campaigning, and ready to give their
laurels for roses, leaf by leaf, with any lady of the court who would
make a fair exchange--and of these there were not a few, and the time
seemed short to them. There were also ecclesiastics, but not many, in
sober black and violet garments, and they kept together in one corner
and spoke a jargon of Latin and Spanish which the courtiers could not
understand; and all who were there, the great courtiers and the small,
the bishops and the canons, the stout princesses laced to suffocation
and to the verge of apoplexy, and fanning themselves desperately in the
heat, and their slim, dark-eyed daughters, cool and laughing--they were
all gathered together to greet Spain's youngest and greatest hero, Don
John of Austria, who had won back Granada from the Moors.

As the doors opened at last, a distant blast of silver trumpets rang in
from without, and the full chorus of speaking voices was hushed to a
mere breathing that died away to breathless silence during a few moments
as the greatest sovereign of the age, and one of the strangest figures
of all time, appeared before his court. The Grand Master of Ceremonies
entered first, in his robe of office, bearing a long white staff. In the
stillness his voice rang out to the ends of the hall:

"His Majesty the King! Her Majesty the Queen!"

Then came a score of halberdiers of the guard, picked men of great
stature, marching in even steps, led by old Mendoza himself, in his
breastplate and helmet, sword in hand; and he drew up the guard at one
side in a rank, making them pass him so that he stood next to the door.

After the guards came Philip the Second, a tall and melancholy figure;
and with him, on his left side, walked the young Queen, a small, thin
figure in white, with sad eyes and a pathetic face--wondering, perhaps,
whether she was to follow soon those other queens who had walked by the
same King to the same court, and had all died before their time--Mary of
Portugal, Mary of England, Isabel of Valois.

The King was one of those men who seem marked by destiny rather than by
nature, fateful, sombre, almost repellent in manner, born to inspire a
vague fear at first sight, and foreordained to strange misfortune or to
extraordinary success, one of those human beings from whom all men
shrink instinctively, and before whom they easily lose their fluency of
speech and confidence of thought. Unnaturally still eyes, of an
uncertain colour, gazed with a terrifying fixedness upon a human world,
and were oddly set in the large and perfectly colourless face that was
like an exaggerated waxen mask. The pale lips did not meet evenly, the
lower one protruding, forced, outward by the phenomenal jaw that has
descended to this day in the House of Austria. A meagre beard, so fair
that it looked faded, accentuated the chin rather than concealed it, and
the hair on the head was of the same undecided tone, neither thin nor
thick, neither long nor short, but parted, and combed with the utmost
precision about the large but very finely moulded ears. The brow was
very full as well as broad, and the forehead high, the whole face too
large, even for a man so tall, and disquieting in its proportions.
Philip bent his head forward a little when at rest; when he looked about
him it moved with something of the slow, sure motion of a piece of
mechanism, stopping now and then, as the look in the eyes solidified to
a stare, and then, moving again, until curiosity was satisfied and it
resumed its first attitude, and remained motionless, whether the lips
were speaking or not.

Very tall and thin, and narrow chested, the figure was clothed all in
cream-coloured silk and silver, relieved only by the collar of the
Golden Fleece, the solitary order the King wore. His step was ungraceful
and slow, as if his thin limbs bore his light weight with difficulty,
and he sometimes stumbled in walking. One hand rested on the hilt of his
sword as he walked, and even under the white gloves the immense length
of the fingers and the proportionate development of the long thumb were
clearly apparent. No one could have guessed that in such a figure there
could be much elasticity or strength, and yet, at rare moments and when
younger, King Philip displayed such strength and energy and quickness as
might well have made him the match of ordinary men. As a rule his anger
was slow, thoughtful, and dangerous, as all his schemes were vast and

With the utmost deliberation, and without so much as glancing at the
courtiers assembled, he advanced to the throne and sat down, resting
both hands on the gilded arms of the great chair; and the Queen took her
place beside him. But before he had settled himself, there was a low
sound of suppressed delight in the hall, a moving of heads, a
brightening of women's eyes, a little swaying of men's shoulders as they
tried to see better over those who stood before them; and voices rose
here and there above the murmur, though not loudly, and were joined by
others. Then the King's waxen face darkened, though the expression did
not change and the still eyes did not move, but as if something passed
between it and the light, leaving it grey in the shadow. He did not turn
to look, for he knew that his brother had entered the throne room and
that every eye was upon him.

Don John was all in dazzling white--white velvet, white satin, white
silk, white lace, white shoes, and wearing neither sword nor ornament of
any kind, the most faultless vision of young and manly grace that ever
glided through a woman's dream.

His place was on the King's right, and he passed along the platform of
the throne with an easy, unhesitating step, and an almost boyish smile
of pleasure at the sounds he heard, and at the flutter of excitement
that was in the air, rather to be felt than otherwise perceived. Coming
up the steps of the throne, he bent one knee before his brother, who
held out his ungloved hand for him to kiss--and when that was done, he
knelt again before the Queen, who did likewise. Then, bowing low as he
passed back before the King, he descended one step and took the chair
set for him in the place that was for the royal princes.

He was alone there, for Philip was again childless at his fourth
marriage, and it was not until long afterwards that a son was born who
lived to succeed him; and there were no royal princesses in Madrid, so
that Don John was his brother's only near blood relation at the court,
and since he had been acknowledged he would have had his place by right,
even if he had not beaten the Moriscoes in the south and won back

After him came the high Ministers of State and the ambassadors in a rich
and stately train, led in by Don Antonio Perez, the King's new
favourite, a man of profound and evil intelligence, upon whom Philip was
to rely almost entirely during ten years, whom he almost tortured to
death for his crimes, and who in the end escaped him, outlived him, and
died a natural death, in Paris, when nearly eighty. With these came also
the court ladies, the Queen's Mistress of the Robes, and the maids of
honour, and with the ladies was Doña Ana de la Cerda, Princess of Eboli
and Melito and Duchess of Pastrana, the wife of old Don Ruy Gomez de
Silva, the Minister. It was said that she ruled her husband, and Antonio
Perez and the King himself, and that she was faithless to all three.

She was not more than thirty years of age at that time, and she looked
younger when seen in profile. But one facing her might have thought her
older from the extraordinary and almost masculine strength of her small
head and face, compact as a young athlete's, too square for a woman's,
with high cheekbones, deep-set black eyes and eyebrows that met between
them, and a cruel red mouth that always curled a little just when she
was going to speak, and showed extraordinarily perfect little teeth,
when the lips parted. Yet she was almost beautiful when she was not
angry or in a hurtful mood. The dark complexion was as smooth as a
perfect peach, and tinged with warm colour, and her eyes could be like
black opals, and no woman in Spain or Andalusia could match her for
grace of figure and lightness of step.

Others came after in the long train. Then, last of all, at a little
distance from the rest, the jester entered, affecting a very dejected
air. He stood still a while on the platform, looking about as if to see
whether a seat had been reserved for him, and then, shaking his head
sadly, he crouched down, a heap of scarlet velvet with a man's face,
just at Don John's feet, and turning a little towards him, so as to
watch his eyes. But Don John would not look at him, and was surprised
that he should put himself there, having just been dismissed with a
sharp reprimand for bringing women's messages.

The ceremony, if it can be called by that name, began almost as soon as
all were seated. At a sign from the King, Don Antonio Perez rose and
read out a document which he had brought in his hand. It was a sort of
throne speech, and set forth briefly, in very measured terms, the
results of the long campaign against the Moriscoes, according high
praise to the army in general, and containing a few congratulatory
phrases addressed to Don John himself. The audience of nobles listened
attentively, and whenever the leader's name occurred, the suppressed
flutter of enthusiasm ran through the hall like a breeze that stirs
forest leaves in summer; but when the King was mentioned the silence was
dead and unbroken. Don John sat quite still, looking down a little, and
now and then his colour deepened perceptibly. The speech did not hint at
any reward or further distinction to be conferred on him.

When Perez had finished reading, he paused a moment, and the hand that
held the paper fell to his side. Then he raised his voice to a higher

"God save his Majesty Don Philip Second!" be cried. "Long live the

The courtiers answered the cheer, but moderately, as a matter of course,
and without enthusiasm, repeating it three times. But at the last time a
single woman's voice, high and clear above all the rest, cried out other

"God save Don John of Austria! Long live Don John of Austria!"

The whole multitude of men and women was stirred at once, for every
heart was in the cheer, and in an instant, courtiers though they were,
the King was forgotten, the time, the place, and the cry went up all at
once, full, long and loud, shaming the one that had gone before it.

King Philip's hands strained at the arms of his great chair, and he half
rose, as if to command silence; and Don John, suddenly pale, had half
risen, too, stretching out his open hand in a gesture of deprecation,
while the Queen watched him with timidly admiring eyes, and the dark
Princess of Eboli's dusky lids drooped to hide her own, for she was
watching him also, but with other thoughts. For a few seconds longer,
the cheers followed each other, and then they died away to a comparative
silence. The dwarf rocked himself, his head between his knees, at Don
John's feet.

"God save the Fool!" he cried softly, mimicking the cheer, and he seemed
to shake all over, as he sat huddled together, swinging himself to and

But no one noticed what he said, for the King had risen to his feet as
soon as there was silence. He spoke in a muffled tone that made his
words hard to understand, and those who knew him best saw that he was
very angry. The Princess of Eboli's red lips curled scornfully as she
listened, and unnoticed she exchanged a meaning glance with Antonio
Perez; for he and she were allies, and often of late they had talked
long together, and had drawn sharp comparisons between the King and his
brother, and the plan they had made was to destroy the King and to crown
Don John of Austria in his place; but the woman's plot was deeper, and
both were equally determined that Don John should not marry without
their consent, and that if he did, his marriage should not hold, unless,
as was probable, his young wife should fall ill and die of a sickness
unknown to physicians.

All had risen with the King, and he addressed Don John amidst the most
profound silence.

"My brother," he said, "your friends have taken upon themselves
unnecessarily to use the words we would have used, and to express to you
their enthusiasm for your success in a manner unknown at the court of
Spain. Our one voice, rendering you the thanks that are your due, can
hardly give you great satisfaction after what you have heard just now.
Yet we presume that the praise of others cannot altogether take the
place of your sovereign's at such a moment, and we formally thank you
for the admirable performance of the task entrusted to you, promising
that before long your services shall be required for an even more
arduous undertaking. It is not in our power to confer upon you any
personal distinction or public office higher than you already hold, as
our brother, and as High Admiral of Spain; but we trust the day is not
far distant when a marriage befitting your rank may place you on a level
with kings."

Don John had moved a step forward from his place and stood before the
King, who, at the end of his short speech, put his long arms over his
brother's shoulders, and proceeded to embrace him in a formal manner by
applying one cheek to his and solemnly kissing the air behind Don John's
head, a process which the latter imitated as nearly as he could. The
court looked on in silence at the ceremony, ill satisfied with Philip's
cold words. The King drew back, and Don John returned to his place. As
he reached it the dwarf jester made a ceremonious obeisance and handed
him a glove which he had dropped as he came forward. As he took it he
felt that it contained a letter, which made a slight sound when his hand
crumpled it inside the glove. Annoyed by the fool's persistence, Don
John's eyes hardened as he looked at the crooked face, and almost
imperceptibly he shook his head. But the dwarf was as grave as he, and
slightly bent his own, clasping his hands in a gesture of supplication.
Don John reflected that the matter must be one of importance this time,
as Adonis would not otherwise have incurred the risk of passing the
letter to him under the eyes of the King and the whole court.

Then followed the long and tedious procession of the court past the
royal pair, who remained seated, while all the rest stood up, including
Don John himself, to whom a master of ceremonies presented the persons
unknown to him, and who were by far the more numerous. To the men, old
and young, great or insignificant, he gave his hand with frank
cordiality. To the women he courteously bowed his head. A full hour
passed before it was over, and still he grasped the glove with the
crumpled letter in his hand, while the dwarf stood at a little distance,
watching in case it should fall; and as the Duchess Alvarez and the
Princess of Eboli presented the ladies of Madrid to the young Queen, the
Princess often looked at Don John and often at the jester from beneath
her half-dropped lids. But she did not make a single mistake of names
nor of etiquette, though her mind was much preoccupied with other

The Queen was timidly gracious to every one; but Philip's face was
gloomy, and his fixed eyes hardly seemed to see the faces of the
courtiers as they passed before him, nor did he open his lips to address
a word to any of them, though some were old and faithful servants of his
own and of his father's.

In his manner, in his silence, in the formality of the ceremony, there
was the whole spirit of the Spanish dominion. It was sombrely
magnificent, and it was gravely cruel; it adhered to the forms of
sovereignty as rigidly as to the outward practices of religion; its
power extended to the ends of the world, and the most remote countries
sent their homage and obeisance to its head; and beneath the dark
splendour that surrounded its gloomy sovereigns there was passion and
hatred and intrigue. Beside Don John of Austria stood Antonio Perez, and
under the same roof with Dolores de Mendoza dwelt Ana de la Cerda,
Princess of Eboli, and in the midst of them all Miguel de Antona, the
King's fool.

       *       *       *       *       *


When the ceremony was over, and every one on the platform and steps of
the throne moved a little in order to make way for the royal personages,
making a slight momentary confusion, Adonis crept up behind Don John,
and softly touched his sleeve to attract his attention. Don John looked
round quickly, and was annoyed to see the dwarf there. He did not notice
the fact that Doña Ana de la Cerda was watching them both, looking
sideways without turning her head.

"It is a matter of importance," said the jester, in a low voice. "Read
it before supper if you can."

Don John looked at him a moment, and turned away without answering, or
even making a sign that he understood. The dwarf met Doña Ana's eyes,
and grew slowly pale, till his face was a yellow mask; for he feared

The door on the other side of the throne was opened, and the King and
Queen, followed by Don John, and preceded by the Master of Ceremonies,
went out. The dwarf, who was privileged, went after them with his
strange, rolling step, his long arms hanging down and swinging
irregularly, as if they did not belong to his body, but were only
stuffed things that hung loose from his shoulders.

As on all such state occasions, there were separate suppers, in separate
apartments, one for the King, and one for the ministers of state and the
high courtiers; thirdly, a vast collation was spread in a hall on the
other side of the throne room for the many nobles who were but guests at
the court and held no office nor had any special privileges. It was the
custom at that time that the supper should last an hour, after which all
reëntered the throne room to dance, except the King and Queen, who
either retired to the royal apartments, or came back for a short time
and remained standing on the floor of the hall, in order to converse
with a few of the grandees and ambassadors.

The royal party supped in a sombre room of oval shape, dark with
tapestries and splendid with gold. The King and Queen sat side by side,
and Don John was placed opposite them at the table, of which the shape
and outline corresponded on a small scale with those of the room. Four
or five gentlemen, whose office it was, served the royal couple,
receiving the dishes and wines from the hands of the chief butler; and
he, with two other servants in state liveries, waited on Don John.
Everything was most exactly ordered according to the unchangeable rules
of the most formal court in Europe, not even excepting that of Rome.

Philip sat in gloomy silence, eating nothing, but occasionally drinking
a little Tokay wine, brought with infinite precaution from Hungary to
Madrid. As be said nothing, neither the Queen nor Don John could speak,
it being ordained that the King must be the first to open his lips. The
Queen, however, being young and of a good constitution in spite of her
almost delicate appearance, began to taste everything that was set
before her, glancing timidly at her husband, who took no notice of her,
or pretended not to do so. Don John, soldier-like, made a sparing supper
of the first thing that was offered to him, and then sat silently
watching the other two. He understood very well that his brother wished
to see him in private, and was annoyed that the Queen should make the
meal last longer than necessary. The dwarf understood also, and smiled
to himself in the corner where he stood waiting in case the King should
wish to be amused, which on that particular evening seemed far from
likely. But sometimes he turned pale and his lips twisted a little as if
he were suffering great pain; for Don John had not yet read the letter
that was hidden in his glove; and Adonis saw in the dark corners of the
room the Princess of Eboli's cruel half-closed eyes, and he fancied he
heard her deep voice, that almost always spoke very sweetly, telling him
again and again that if Don John did not read her letter before he met
the King alone that night, Adonis should before very long cease to be
court jester, and indeed cease to be anything at all that 'eats and
drinks and sleeps and wears a coat'--as Dante had said. What Doña Ana
said she would do, was as good as done already, both then and for nine
years from that time, but thereafter she paid for all her deeds, and
more too. But this history is not concerned with those matters, being
only the story of what happened in one night at the old Alcazar of

King Philip sat a little bent in his chair, apparently staring at a
point in space, and not opening his lips except to drink. But his
presence filled the shadowy room, his large and yellowish face seemed to
be all visible from every part of it, and his still eyes dominated
everything and every one, except his brother. It was as if the
possession of some supernatural and evil being were stealing slowly upon
all who were there; as if a monstrous spider sat absolutely motionless
in the midst of its web, drawing everything within reach to itself by
the unnatural fascination of its lidless sight--as if the gentlemen in
waiting were but helpless flies, circling nearer and nearer, to be
caught at last in the meshes, and the Queen a bright butterfly, and Don
John a white moth, already taken and soon to be devoured. The dwarf
thought of this in his corner, and his blood was chilled, for three
queens lay in their tombs in three dim cathedrals, and she who sat at
table was the fourth who had supped with the royal Spider in his web.
Adonis watched him, and the penetrating fear he had long known crept all
through him like the chill that shakes a man before a marsh fever, so
that he had to set his teeth with all his might, lest they should
chatter audibly. As he looked, he fancied that in the light of the waxen
torches the King's face turned by degrees to an ashy grey, and then more
slowly to a shadowy yellow again, as he had seen a spider's ugly body
change colour when the flies came nearer, and change again when one was
entangled in the threads. He thought that the faces of all the people in
the room changed, too, and that he saw in them the look that only near
and certain death can bring, which is in the eyes of him who goes out
with bound hands, at dawn, amongst other men who will see the rising sun
shine on his dead face. That fear came on the dwarf sometimes, and he
dreaded always lest at that moment the King should call to him and bid
him sing or play with words. But this had never happened yet. There were
others in the room, also, who knew something of that same terror, though
in a less degree, perhaps because they knew Philip less well than the
jester, who was almost always near him. But Don John sat quietly in his
place, no more realizing that there could be danger than if he had been
charging the Moors at the head of his cavalry, or fighting a man hand to
hand with drawn swords.

But still the fear grew, and even the gentlemen and the servants
wondered, for it had never happened that the King had not at last broken
the silence at supper, so that all guessed trouble near at hand, and
peril for themselves. The Queen grew nervous and ceased to eat. She
looked from Philip to Don John, and more than once seemed about to
speak, but recollected herself and checked the words. Her hand shook and
her thin young nostrils quivered now and then. Evil was gathering in the
air, and she felt it approaching, though she could not tell whence it
came. A sort of tension took possession of every one, like what people
feel in southern countries when the southeast wind blows, or when,
almost without warning, the fresh sea-breeze dies away to a dead calm
and the blackness rises like a tide of pitch among the mountains of the
coast, sending up enormous clouds above it to the pale sky, and lying
quite still below; and the air grows lurid quickly, and heavy to breathe
and sultry, till the tempest breaks in lightning and-thunder and
drenching rain.

In the midst of the brewing storm the dwarf saw only the Spider in its
web, illuminated by the unearthly glare of his own fear, and with it the
frightened butterfly and the beautiful silver moth, that had never
dreamed of danger. He shrank against the hangings, pressing backwards
till he hurt his crooked back against the stone wall behind the
tapestry, and could have shrieked with fear had not a greater fear made
him dumb. He felt that the King was going to speak to him, and that he
should not be able to answer him. A horrible thought suddenly seized
him, and he fancied that the King had seen him slip the letter into Don
John's glove, and would ask for it, and take it, and read it--and that
would be the end. Thrills of torment ran through him, and he knew how it
must feel to lie bound on the rack and to hear the executioner's hands
on the wheel, ready to turn it again at the judge's word. He had seen a
man tortured once, and remembered his face. He was sure that the King
must have seen the letter, and that meant torment and death, and the
King was angry also because the court had cheered Don John. It was
treason, and he knew it--yet it would have been certain death, too, to
refuse to obey Doña Ana. There was destruction on either side, and he
could not escape. Don John had not read the writing yet, and if the King
asked for it, he would probably give it to him without a thought,
unopened, for he was far too simple to imagine that any one could accuse
him of a treasonable thought, and too boyishly frank to fancy that his
brother could be jealous of him--above all, he was too modest to suppose
that there were thousands who would have risked their lives to set him
on the throne of Spain. He would therefore give the King the letter
unopened, unless, believing it to be a love message from some foolish
woman, he chose to tear it up unread. The wretched jester knew that
either would mean his own disgrace and death, and he quivered with agony
from head to foot.

The lights moved up and down before his sight, the air grew heavier, the
royal Spider took gigantic proportions, and its motionless eyes were
lurid with evil It was about to turn to him; he felt it turning already,
and knew that it saw him in his corner, and meant to draw him to it,
very slowly. In a moment he should fall to the floor a senseless heap,
out of deadly fear--it would be well if his fear really killed him, but
he could not even hope for that. His hands gripped the hangings on each
side of him as he shrank and crushed his deformity against the wall.
Surely the King was taming his head. Yes--he was right. He felt his
short hair rising on his scalp and unearthly sounds screamed in his
ears. The terrible eyes were upon him now, but he could not move hand or
foot--if he had been nailed to the wall to die, he could not have been
so helpless.

Philip eyed him with cold curiosity, for it was not an illusion, and he
was really looking steadily at the dwarf. After a long time, his
protruding lower lip moved two or three times before he spoke. The
jester should have come forward at his first glance, to answer any
question asked him. Instead, his colourless lips were parted and tightly
drawn back, and his teeth were chattering, do what he could to close
them. The Queen and Don John followed the King's gaze and looked at the
dwarf in surprise, for his agony was painfully visible.

"He looks as if he were in an ague," observed Philip, as though he were
watching a sick dog.

He had spoken at last, and the fear of silence was removed. An audible
sigh of relief was heard in the room.

"Poor man!" exclaimed the Queen. "I am afraid he is very ill!"

"It is more like--" began Don John, and then he checked himself, for he
had been on the point of saying that the dwarfs fit looked more like
physical fear than illness, for he had more than once seen men afraid of
death; but he remembered the letter in his glove and thought the words
might rouse Philip's suspicions.

"What was your Serene Highness about to say?" enquired the King,
speaking coldly, and laying stress on the formal title which he had
himself given Don John the right to use.

"As your Majesty says, it is very like the chill of a fever," replied
Don John.

But it was already passing, for Adonis was not a natural coward, and the
short conversation of the royal personages had broken the spell that
held him, or had at least diminished its power. When he had entered the
room he had been quite sure that no one except the Princess had seen him
slip the letter into Don John's glove. That quieting belief began to
return, his jaw became steady, and he relaxed his hold on the
tapestries, and even advanced half a step towards the table.

"And now he seems better," said the King, in evident surprise. "What
sort of illness is this, Fool? If you cannot explain it, you shall be
sent to bed, and the physicians shall practise experiments upon your
vile body, until they find out what your complaint is, for the
advancement of their learning."

"They would advance me more than their science, Sire," answered Adonis,
in a voice that still quaked with past fear, "for they would send me to
paradise at once and learn nothing that they wished to know."

"That is probable," observed Don John, thoughtfully, for he had little
belief in medicine generally, and none at all in the present case.

"May it please your Majesty," said Adonis, taking heart a little, "there
are musk melons on the table."

"Well, what of that?" asked the King.

"The sight of melons on your Majesty's table almost kills me," answered
the dwarf.

"Are you so fond of them that you cannot bear to see them? You shall
have a dozen and be made to eat them all. That will cure your abominable

"Provided that the King had none himself, I would eat all the rest,
until I died of a surfeit of melons like your Majesty's great-grandsire
of glorious and happy memory, the Emperor Maximilian."

Philip turned visibly pale, for he feared illness and death as few have
feared either.

"Why has no one ever told me that?" he asked in a muffled and angry
voice, looking round the room, so that the gentlemen and servants shrank
back a little.

No one answered his question, for though the fact was true, it had been
long forgotten, and it would have been hard for any of those present to
realize that the King would fear a danger so far removed. But the dwarf
knew him well.

"Let there be no more melons," said Philip, rising abruptly, and still

Don John had suppressed a smile, and was taken unawares when the King
rose, so that in standing up instantly, as was necessary according to
the rules, his gloves slipped from his knees, where he had kept them
during supper, to the floor, and a moment passed before he realized that
they were not in his hand. He was still in his place, for the King had
not yet left his own, being engaged in saying a Latin grace in a low
tone, He crossed himself devoutly, and an instant later Don John stooped
down and picked up what he had dropped. Philip could not but notice the
action, and his suspicions were instantly roused.

"What have you found?" he asked sharply, his eyes fixing themselves

"My gloves, Sire. I dropped them."

"And are gloves such precious possessions that Don John of Austria must
stoop to pick them up himself?"

Adonis began to tremble again, and all his fear returned, so that he
almost staggered against the wall. The Queen looked on in surprise, for
she had not been Philip's wife many months. Don John was unconcerned,
and laughed in reply to the question.

"It chances that after long campaigning these are the only new white
gloves Don John of Austria possesses," he answered lightly.

"Let me see them," said the King, extending his hand, and smiling

With some deliberation Don John presented one of the gloves to his
brother, who took it and pretended to examine it critically, still
smiling. He turned it over several times, while Adonis looked on,
gasping for breath, but unnoticed.

"The other," said Philip calmly.

Adonis tried to suppress a groan, and his eyes were fixed on Don John's
face. Would he refuse? Would he try to extract the letter from the glove
under his brother's eyes? Would he give it up?

Don John did none of those things, and there was not the least change of
colour in his cheek. Without any attempt at concealment he took the
letter from its hiding-place, and held out the empty glove with his
other hand. The King drew back, and his face grew very grey and shadowy
with anger.

"What have you in your other hand?" he asked in a voice indistinct with

"A lady's letter, Sire," replied Don John, unmoved.

"Give it to me at once!"

"That, your Majesty, is a request I will not grant to any gentleman in

He undid a button of his close-fitting doublet, thrust the letter into
the opening and fastened the button again, before the King could speak.
The dwarf's heart almost stood still with joy,--he could have crawled to
Don John's feet to kiss the dust from his shoes. The Queen smiled
nervously, between fear of the one man and admiration for the other.

"Your Serene Highness," answered Philip, with a frightful stare, "is the
first gentleman of Spain who has disobeyed his sovereign."

"May I be the last, your Majesty," said Don John, with a courtly gesture
which showed well enough that he had no intention of changing his mind.

The King turned from him coldly and spoke to Adonis, who had almost got
his courage back a second time.

"You gave my message to his Highness, Fool?" he asked, controlling his
voice, but not quite steadying it to a natural tone.

"Yes, Sire."

"Go and tell Don Antonio Perez to come at once to me in my own

The dwarf bent till his crooked back was high above his head, and he
stepped backwards towards the door through which the servants had
entered and gone out. When he had disappeared, Philip turned and, as if
nothing had happened, gave his hand to the Queen to lead her away with
all the prescribed courtesy that was her due. The servants opened wide
the door, two gentlemen placed themselves on each side of it, the chief
gentleman in waiting went before, and the royal couple passed out,
followed at a little distance by Don John, who walked unconcernedly,
swinging his right glove carelessly in his hand as he went. The four
gentlemen walked last. In the hall beyond, Mendoza was in waiting with
the guards.

A little while after they were all gone, Adonis came back from his
errand, with his rolling step, and searched for the other glove on the
floor, where the King had dropped it. He found it there at once and hid
it in his doubtlet. No one was in the room, for the servants had
disappeared as soon as they could. The dwarf went quickly to Don John's
place, took a Venetian goblet full of untasted wine that stood there and
drank it at a draught. Then he patted himself comfortably with his other
hand and looked thoughtfully at the slices of musk melon that lay in the
golden dish flanked by other dishes full of late grapes and pears.

"God bless the Emperor Maximilian!" he said in a devout tone. "Since he
could not live for ever, it was a special grace of Providence that his
death should be by melons."

Then he went away again, and softly closed the door behind him, after
looking back once more to be sure that no one was there after all, and
perhaps, as people sometimes do on leaving a place where they have
escaped a great danger, fixing its details unconsciously in his memory,
with something almost akin to gratitude, as if the lifeless things had
run the risk with them and thus earned their lasting friendship. Thus
every man who has been to sea knows how, when his vessel has been hove
to in a storm for many hours, perhaps during more than one day, within a
few miles of the same spot, the sea there grows familiar to him as a
landscape to a landsman, so that when the force of the gale is broken at
last and the sea subsides to a long swell, and the ship is wore to the
wind and can lay her course once more, he looks astern at the grey water
he has learned to know so well and feels that he should know it again if
he passed that way, and he leaves it with a faint sensation of regret.
So Adonis, the jester, left the King's supper-room that night, devoutly
thanking Heaven that the Emperor Maximilian had died of eating too many
melons more than a hundred and fifty years ago.

Meanwhile, the King had left the Queen at the door of her apartments,
and had dismissed Don John in angry silence by a gesture only, as he
went on to his study. And when there, he sent away his gentlemen and
bade that no one should disturb him, and that only Don Antonio Perez,
the new favourite, should be admitted. The supper had scarcely lasted
half an hour, and it was still early in the evening when he found
himself alone and was able to reflect upon what had happened, and upon
what it would be best to do to rid himself of his brother, the hero and
idol of Spain.

He did not admit that Don John of Austria could be allowed to live on,
unmolested, as if he had not openly refused to obey an express command
and as if he were not secretly plotting to get possession of the throne.
That was impossible. During more than two years, Don John's popularity,
not only with the people, but with the army, which was a much more
serious matter, had been steadily growing; and with it and even faster
than it, the King's jealousy and hatred had grown also, till it had
become a matter of common discussion and jest among the soldiers when
their officers were out of hearing.

But though it was without real cause, it was not without apparent
foundation. As Philip slowly paced the floor of his most private room,
with awkward, ungainly steps, stumbling more than once against a cushion
that lay before his great armchair, he saw clearly before him the whole
dimensions of that power to which he had unwillingly raised his brother.
The time had been short, but the means used had been great, for they had
been intended to be means of destruction, and the result was tremendous
when they turned against him who used them. Philip was old enough to
have been Don John's father, and he remembered how indifferent he had
been to the graceful boy of twelve, whom they called Juan Quixada, when
he had been brought to the old court at Valladolid and acknowledged as a
son of the Emperor Charles. Though he was his brother, Philip had not
even granted him the privilege of living in the palace then, and had
smiled at the idea that he should be addressed as "Serene Highness."
Even as a boy, he had been impatient to fight; and Philip remembered how
he was always practising with the sword or performing wild feats of
skill and strength upon half-broken horses, except when he was kept to
his books by Doña Magdalena Quixada, the only person in the world whom
he ever obeyed without question. Every one had loved the boy from the
first, and Philip's jealousy had begun from that; for he, who was loved
by none and feared by all, craved popularity and common affection, and
was filled with bitter resentment against the world that obeyed him but
refused him what he most desired.

Little more than ten years had passed since the boy had come, and he had
neither died a natural death nor fallen in battle, and was grown up to
young manhood, and was by far the greatest man in Spain. He had been
treated as an inferior, the people had set him up as a god. He had been
sent out to command expeditions that be might fail and be disgraced; but
he had shown deeper wisdom than his elders, and had come back covered
with honour; and now he had been commanded to fight out the final battle
of Spain with the Moriscoes, in the hope that he might die in the fight,
since he could not be dishonoured, and instead he had returned in
triumph, having utterly subdued the fiercest warriors in Europe, to reap
the ripe harvest of his military glory at an age when other men were in
the leading-strings of war's school, and to be acclaimed a hero as well
as a favourite by a court that could hardly raise a voice to cheer for
its own King. Ten years had done all that. Ten more, or even five, might
do the rest. The boy could not be without ambition, and there could be
no ambition for him of which the object should be less than a throne.
And yet no word had been breathed against him,--his young reputation was
charmed, as his life was. In vain Philip had bidden Antonio Perez and
the Princess of Eboli use all their wits and skill to prove that he was
plotting to seize the crown. They answered that he loved a girl of the
court, Mendoza's daughter, and that besides war, for war's sake, he
cared for nothing in the world but Dolores and his adopted mother.

They spoke the truth, for they had reason to know it, having used every
means in their power to find out whether he could be induced to quarrel
with Philip and enter upon a civil war, which could have had but one
issue, since all Spain would have risen to proclaim him king. He had
been tempted by questions, and led into discussions in which it seemed
certain that he must give them some hope. But they and their agents lost
heart before the insuperable obstacle of the young prince's loyalty. It
was simple, unaffected, and without exaggeration. He never drew his
sword and kissed the blade, and swore by the Blessed Virgin to give his
last drop of blood for his sovereign and his country. He never made
solemn vows to accomplish ends that looked impossible. But when the
charge sounded, he pressed his steel cap a little lower upon his brow,
and settled himself in the saddle without any words and rode at death
like the devil incarnate; and then men followed him, and the impossible
was done, and that was all. Or he could wait and watch, and manoeuvre
for weeks, until he had his foe in his hand, with a patience that would
have failed his officers and his men, had they not seen him always ready
and cheerful, and fully sure that although he might fail twenty times to
drive the foe into the pen, he should most certainly succeed in the
end,--as he always did.

Philip paced the chamber in deep and angry thought. If at that moment
any one had offered to rid him of his brother, the reward would have
been ready, and worth a murderer's taking. But the King had long
cherished the scheme of marrying Don John to Queen Mary of
Scotland,--whose marriage with Bothwell could easily be annulled--in
order that his presumptuous ambition might be satisfied, and at the same
time that he might make of his new kingdom a powerful ally of Spain
against Elizabeth of England. It was for this reason that he had long
determined to prevent his brother's marriage with Maria Dolores de
Mendoza. Perez and Doña Ana de la Cerda, on the other hand, feared that
if Don John were allowed to marry the girl he so devotedly loved, he
would forget everything for her, give up campaigning, and settle to the
insignificance of a thoroughly happy man. For they knew the world well
from their own point of view. Happiness is often like sadness, for it
paralyzes those to whose lot it falls; but pain and danger rouse man's
strength of mind and body.

Yet though the King and his treacherous favourite had diametrically
opposite intentions, a similar thought had crossed the minds of both,
even before Don John had ridden up to the palace gate late on that
afternoon, from his last camping ground outside the city walls. Both had
reasoned that whoever was to influence a man so straightforward and
fearless must have in his power and keeping the person for whom Don John
would make the greatest sacrifice of his life; and that person, as both
knew, was Dolores herself. Yet when Antonio Perez entered Philip's
study, neither had guessed the other's thought.

       *       *       *       *       *


The court had been still at supper when Adonis had summoned Don Antonio
Perez to the King, and the Secretary, as he was usually called, had been
obliged to excuse his sudden departure by explaining that the King had
sent for him unexpectedly. He was not even able to exchange a word with
Doña Ana, who was seated at another of the three long tables and at some
distance from him. She understood, however, and looked after him
anxiously. His leaving was not signal for the others, but it caused a
little stir which unhinged the solemn formality of the supper. The
Ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire presently protested that he was
suffering from an unbearable headache, and the Princess of Eboli, next
to whom he was seated, begged him not to stand upon ceremony, since
Perez was gone from the room, but to order his coach at once; she found
it hot, she said, and would be glad to escape. The two rose together,
and others followed their example, until the few who would have stayed
longer were constrained to imitate the majority. When Mendoza, relieved
at last from his duty, went towards the supper-room to take the place
that was kept for him at one of the tables, he met Doña Ana in the
private corridor through which the officers and ladies of the household
passed to the state apartments. He stood still, surprised to see her

"The supper is over," she said, stopping also, and trying to scrutinize
the hard old face by the dim light of the lamps. "May I have a word with
you, General? Let us walk together to your apartments."

"It is far, Madam," observed Mendoza, who suspected at once that she
wished to see Dolores.

"I shall be glad to walk a little, and breathe the air," she answered.
"Your corridor has arches open to the air, I remember." She began to
walk, and he was obliged to accompany her. "Yes," she continued
indifferently, "we have had such changeable weather to-day! This morning
it almost snowed, then it rained, then it, began to freeze, and now it
feels like summer! I hope Dolores has not taken cold? Is she ill? She
was not at court before supper."

"The weather is indeed very changeable," replied the General, who did
not know what to say, and considered it beneath his dignity to lie
except by order of the King.

"Yes--yes, I was saying so, was I not? But Dolores--is she ill? Please
tell me." The Princess spoke almost anxiously.

"No, Madam, my daughters are well, so far as I know."

"But then, my dear General, it is strange that you should not have sent
an excuse for Dolores' not appearing. That is the rule, you know. May I
ask why you ventured to break it?" Her tone grew harder by degrees.

"It was very sudden," said Mendoza, trying to put her off. "I hope that
your Grace will excuse my daughter."

"What was sudden?" enquired Doña Ana coldly. "You say she was not taken

"Her--her not coming to court." Mendoza hesitated and pulled at his grey
beard as they went along. "She fully intended to come," he added, with
perfect truth.

Doña Ana walked more slowly, glancing sideways at his face, though she
could hardly see it except when they passed by a lamp, for he was very
tall, and she was short, though exquisitely proportioned.

"I do not understand," she said, in a clear, metallic voice. "I have a
right to an explanation, for it is quite impossible to give the ladies
of the court who live in the palace full liberty to attend upon the
Queen or not, as they please. You will be singularly fortunate if Don
Antonio Perez does not mention the matter to the King."

Mendoza was silent, but the words had their effect upon him, and a very
unpleasant one, for they contained a threat.

"You see," continued the Princess, pausing as they reached a flight of
steps which they would have to ascend, "every one acknowledges the
importance of your services, and that you have been very poorly rewarded
for them. But that is in a degree your own fault, for you have refused
to make friends when you might, and you have little interest with the

"I know it," said the old soldier, rather bitterly. "Princess," he
continued, without giving her time to say more, "this is a private
matter, which concerns only me and my daughter. I entreat you to
overlook the irregularity and not to question me further. I will serve
you in any way in my power--"

"You cannot serve me in any way," answered Doña Ana cruelly. "I am
trying to help you," she added, with a sudden change of tone. "You see,
my dear General, you are no longer young. At your age, with your name
and your past services, you should have been a grandee and a rich man.
You have thrown away your opportunities of advancement, and you have
contented yourself with an office which is highly honourable--but poorly
paid, is it not? And there are younger men who court it for the honour
alone, and who are willing to be served by their friends."

"Who is my successor?" asked Mendoza, bravely controlling his voice
though he felt that he was ruined.

The skilful and cruel woman began to mount the steps in silence, in
order to let him suffer a few moments, before she answered. Reaching the
top, she spoke, and her voice was soft and kind.

"No one," she answered, "and there is nothing to prevent you from
keeping your post as long as you like, even if you become infirm and
have to appoint a deputy--but if there were any serious cause of
complaint, like this extraordinary behaviour of Dolores--why, perhaps--"

She paused to give her words weight, for she knew their value.

"Madam," said Mendoza, "the matter I keep from you does not touch my
honour, and you may know it, so far as that is concerned. But it is one
of which I entreat you not to force me to speak."

Doña Ana softly passed her arm through his.

"I am not used to walking so fast," she said, by way of explanation.
"But, my dear Mendoza," she went on, pressing his arm a little, "you do
not think that I shall let what you tell me go further and reach any one
else--do you? How can I be of any use to you, if you have no confidence
in me? Are we not relatives? You must treat me as I treat you."

Mendoza wished that he could.

"Madam," he said almost roughly, "I have shut my daughter up in her own
room and bolted the door, and to-morrow I intend to send her to a
convent, and there she shall stay until she changes her mind, for I will
not change mine"

"Oh!" ejaculated Doña Ana, with a long intonation, as if grasping the
position of affairs by degrees. "I understand," she said, after a long
time. "But then you and I are of the same opinion, my dear friend. Let
us talk about this."

Mendoza did not wish to talk of the matter at all, and said nothing, as
they slowly advanced. They had at last reached the passage that ended at
his door, and he slackened his pace still more, obliging his companion,
whose arm was still in his, to keep pace with him. The moonlight no
longer shone in straight through the open embrasures, and there was a
dim twilight in the corridor.

"You do not wish Dolores to marry Don John of Austria, then," said the
Princess presently, in very low tones. "Then the King is on your side,
and so am I. But I should like to know your reason for objecting to such
a very great marriage."

"Simple enough, Madam. Whenever it should please his Majesty's policy to
marry his brother to a royal personage, such as Queen Mary of Scotland,
the first marriage would be proved null and void, because the King would
command that it should be so, and my daughter would be a dishonoured
woman, fit for nothing but a convent."

"Do you call that dishonour?" asked the Princess thoughtfully. "Even if
that happened, you know that Don John would probably not abandon
Dolores. He would keep her near him--and provide for her generously--"

"Madam!" cried the brave old soldier, interrupting her in sudden and
generous anger, "neither man nor woman shall tell me that my daughter
could ever fall to that!"

She saw that she had made a mistake, and pressed his arm soothingly.

"Pray, do not be angry with me, my dear friend. I was thinking what the
world would say--no, let me speak! I am quite of your opinion that
Dolores should be kept from seeing Don John, even by quiet force if
necessary, for they will certainly be married at the very first
opportunity they can find. But you cannot do such things violently, you
know. You will make a scandal. You cannot take your daughter away from
court suddenly and shut her up in a convent without doing her a great
injury. Do you not see that? People will not understand that you will
not let her marry Don John--I mean that most people would find it hard
to believe. Yes, the world is bad, I know; what can one do? The world
would say--promise me that you will not be angry, dear General! You can
guess what the world would say."'

"I see--I see!" exclaimed the old man, in sudden terror for his
daughter's good name. "How wise you are!"

"Yes," answered Doña Ana, stopping at ten paces from the door, "I am
wise, for I am obliged to be. Now, if instead of locking Dolores into
her room two or three hours ago, you had come to me, and told me the
truth, and put her under my protection, for our common good, I would
have made it quite impossible for her to exchange a word with Don John,
and I would have taken such good care of her that instead of gossiping
about her, the world would have said that she was high in favour, and
would have begun to pay court to her. You know that I have the power to
do that."

"How very wise you are!" exclaimed Mendoza again, with more emphasis.

"Very well. Will you let me take her with me now, my dear friend? I will
console her a little, for I daresay she has been crying all alone in her
room, poor girl, and I can keep her with me till Don John goes to
Villagarcia. Then we shall see."

Old Mendoza was a very simple-hearted man, as brave men often are, and a
singularly spotless life spent chiefly in war and austere devotion had
left him more than ignorant of the ways of the world. He had few
friends, chiefly old comrades of his own age who did not live in the
palace, and he detested gossip. Had he known what the woman was with
whom he was speaking, he would have risked Dolores' life rather than
give her into the keeping of Doña Ana. But to him, the latter was simply
the wife of old Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, the Minister of State, and she
was the head of the Queen's household. No one would have thought of
repeating the story of a court intrigue to Mendoza, but it was also true
that every one feared Doña Ana, whose power was boundless, and no one
wished to be heard speaking ill of her. To him, therefore, her
proposition seemed both wise and kind.

"I am very grateful," he said, with some emotion, for he believed that
she was helping him to save his fortune and his honour, as was perhaps
really the case, though she would have helped him to lose both with
equally persuasive skill could his ruin have served her. "Will you come
in with me, Princess?" he asked, beginning to move towards the door.

"Yes. Take me to her room and leave me with her."

"Indeed, I would rather not see her myself this evening," said Mendoza,
feeling his anger still not very far from the surface. "You will be able
to speak more wisely than I should."

"I daresay," answered Doña Ana thoughtfully. "If you went with me to
her, there might be angry words again, and that would make it much
harder for me. If you will leave me at the door of her rooms, and then
go away, I will promise to manage the rest. You are not sorry that you
have told me, now, are you, my dear friend?"

"I am most grateful to you. I shall do all I can to be of service to
you, even though you said that it was not in my power to serve you."

"I was annoyed," said Doña Ana sweetly. "I did not mean it--please
forgive me."

They reached the door, and as she withdrew her hand from his arm, he
took it and ceremoniously kissed her gloved fingers, while she smiled
graciously. Then he knocked three times, and presently the shuffling of
Eudaldo's slippers was heard within, and the old servant opened
sleepily. On seeing the Princess enter first, he stiffened himself in a
military fashion, for he had been a soldier and had fought under Mendoza
when both were younger.

"Eudaldo," said the General, in the stern tone he always used when
giving orders, "her Excellency the Princess of Eboli will take Doña
Dolores to her own apartments this evening. Tell the maid to follow
later with whatever my daughter needs, and do you accompany the ladies
with a candle."

But at this Doña Ana protested strongly. There was moonlight, there were
lamps, there was light everywhere, she said. She needed no one. Mendoza,
who had no man-servant in the house but Eudaldo, and eked out his meagre
establishment by making use of his halberdiers when he needed any one,
yielded after very little persuasion.

"Open the door of my daughter's apartments," he said to Eudaldo.
"Madam," he said, turning to the Princess, "I have the honour to wish
you good-night. I am your Grace's most obedient servant. I must return
to my duty."

"Good-night, my dear friend," answered Doña Ana, nodding graciously.

Mendoza bowed low, and went out again, Eudaldo closing the door behind
him. He would not be at liberty until the last of the grandees had gone
home, and the time he had consumed in accompanying the Princess was just
what he could have spared for his supper. She gave a short sigh of
relief as she heard his spurred heels and long sword on the stone
pavement. He was gone, leaving Dolores in her power, and she meant to
use that power to the utmost.

Eudaldo shuffled silently across the hall, to the other door, and she
followed him. He drew the bolt.

"Wait here," she said quietly. "I wish to see Doña Dolores alone."

"Her ladyship is in the farther room, Excellency," said the servant,
bowing and standing back.

She entered and closed the door, and Eudaldo returned to his big chair,
to doze until she should come out.

She had not taken two steps in the dim room, when a shadow flitted
between her and the lamp, and it was almost instantly extinguished. She
uttered an exclamation of surprise and stood still. Anywhere save in
Mendoza's house, she would have run back and tried to open the door as
quickly as possible, in fear of her life, for she had many enemies, and
was constantly on her guard. But she guessed that the shadowy figure she
had seen was Dolores. She spoke, without hesitation, in a gentle voice.

"Dolores! Are you there?" she asked.

A moment later she felt a small hand on her arm.

"Who is it?" asked a whisper, which might have come from Dolores' lips
for all Doña Ana could tell.

She had forgotten the existence of Inez, whom she had rarely seen, and
never noticed, though she knew that Mendoza had a blind daughter.

"It is I--the Princess of Eboli," she answered in the same gentle tone.

"Hush! Whisper to me."

"Your father has gone back to his duty, my dear--you need not be

"Yes, but Eudaldo is outside--he hears everything when he is not asleep.
What is it, Princess? Why are you here?"

"I wish to talk with you a little," replied Doña Ana, whispering now, to
please the girl. "Can we not get a light? Why did you put out the lamp?
I thought you were in another room."

"I was frightened. I did not know who you were. We can talk in the dark,
if you do not mind. I will lead you to a chair. I know just where
everything is in this room."

The Princess suffered herself to be led a few steps, and presently she
felt herself gently pushed into a seat. She was surprised, but realizing
the girl's fear of her father, she thought it best to humour her. So far
Inez had said nothing that could lead her visitor to suppose that she
was not Dolores. Intimate as the devoted sisters were, Inez knew almost
as much of the Princess as Dolores herself; the two girls were of the
same height, and so long as the conversation was carried on in whispers,
there was no possibility of detection by speech alone. The quick-witted
blind girl reflected that it was strange if Doña Ana had not seen
Dolores, who must have been with the court the whole evening, and she
feared some harm. That being the case, her first impulse was to help her
sister if possible, but so long as she was a prisoner in Dolores' place,
she could do nothing, and she resolved that the Princess should help her
to escape.

Doña Ana began to speak quickly and fluently in the dark. She said that
she knew the girl's position, and had long known how tenderly she loved
Don John of Austria, and was loved by him. She sympathized deeply with
them both, and meant to do all in her power to help them. Then she told
how she had missed Dolores at court that night.

Inez started involuntarily and drew her breath quickly, but Doña Ana
thought it natural that Dolores should give some expression to the
disappointment she must have felt at being shut up a prisoner on such an
occasion, when all the court was assembled to greet the man she loved.

Then the Princess went on to tell how she had met Mendoza and had come
with him, and how with great difficulty she had learned the truth, and
had undertaken Dolores' care for a few days; and how Mendoza had been
satisfied, never suspecting that she really sympathized with the lovers.
That was a state secret, but of course Dolores must know it. The King
privately desired the marriage, she said, because he was jealous of his
brother and wished that he would tire of winning battles and live
quietly, as happy men do.

"Don John will tell you, when you see him," she continued. "I sent him
two letters this evening. The first he burned unopened, because he
thought it was a love letter, but he has read the second by this time.
He had it before supper."

"What did you write to him?" asked Inez, whispering low.

"He will tell you. The substance was this: If he would only be prudent,
and consent to wait two days, and not attempt to see you alone, which
would make a scandal, and injure you, too, if any one knew it, the King
would arrange everything at his own pleasure, and your father would give
his consent. You have not seen Don John since he arrived, have you?" She
asked the question anxiously.

"Oh no!" answered the blind girl, with conviction. "I have not seen him.
I wish to Heaven I had!"

"I am glad of that," whispered the Princess. "But if you will come with
me to my apartments, and stay with me till matters are arranged--well--I
will not promise, because it might be dangerous, but perhaps you may see
him for a moment."

"Really? Do you think that is possible?" In the dark Inez was smiling

"Perhaps. He might come to see me, for instance, or my husband, and I
could leave you together a moment."

"That would be heaven!" And the whisper came from the heart.

"Then come with me now, my dear, and I will do my best," answered the

"Indeed I will! But will you wait one moment while I dress? I am in my
old frock--it is hardly fit to be seen."

This was quite true; but Inez had reflected that dressed as she was she
could not pass Eudaldo and be taken by him for her sister, even with a
hood over her head. The clothes Dolores had worn before putting on her
court dress were in her room, and Dolores' hood was there, too. Before
the Princess could answer, Inez was gone, closing the door of the
bedroom behind her. Doña Ana, a little taken by surprise again, was fain
to wait where she was, in the dark, at the risk of hurting herself
against the furniture. Then it struck her that Dolores must be dressing
in the dark, for no light had come from the door as it was opened and
shut. She remembered the blind sister then, and she wondered idly
whether those who lived continually with the blind learned from them to
move easily in the dark and to do everything without a light. The
question did not interest her much, but while she was thinking of it the
door opened again. A skirt and a bodice are soon changed. In a moment
she felt her hand taken, and she rose to her feet.

"I am ready, Princess. I will open the door if you will come with me. I
have covered my head and face," she added carelessly, though always
whispering, "because I am afraid of the night air."

"I was going to advise you to do it in any case, my dear. It is just as
well that neither of us should be recognized by any one in the corridors
so far from my apartments."

The door opened and let in what seemed a flood of light by comparison
with the darkness. The Princess went forward, and Eudaldo got upon his
legs as quickly as he could to let the two ladies out, without looking
at them as they crossed the hall. Inez followed her companion's footfall
exactly, keeping one step behind her by ear, and just pausing before
passing out. The old servant saw Dolores' dress and Dolores' hood, which
he expected to see, and no more suspected anything than he had when, as
he supposed, Inez, had gone out earlier.

But Inez herself had a far more difficult part to perform than her
sister's. Dolores had gone out alone, and no one had watched her beyond
the door, and Dolores had eyes, and could easily enough pretend that she
could not see. It was another matter to be blind and to play at seeing,
with a clever woman like the Princess at one's elbow, ready to detect
the slightest hesitation. Besides, though she had got out of the
predicament in which it had been necessary to place her, it was quite
impossible to foresee what might happen when the Princess discovered
that she had been deceived, and that catastrophe must happen sooner or
later, and might occur at any moment. The Princess walked quickly, too,
with a gliding, noiseless step that was hard to follow. Fortunately Inez
was expected to keep to the left of a superior like her companion, and
was accustomed to taking that side when she went anywhere alone in the
palace. That made it easier, but trouble might come at one of the short
flights of steps down and up which they would have to pass to reach the
Princess's apartments. And then, once there, discovery must come, to a
certainty, and then, she knew not what.

She had not run the risk for the sake of being shut up again. She had
got out by a trick in order to help her sister, if she could find her,
and in order to be at liberty the first thing necessary was to elude her
companion. To go to the door of her apartments would be fatal, but she
had not had time to think what she should do. She thought now, with all
the concentration of her ingenuity. One chance presented itself to her
mind at once. They most pass the pillar behind which was the concealed
entrance to the Moorish gallery above the throne room, and it was not at
all likely that Doña Ana should know of its existence, for she never
came to that part of the palace, and if Inez lagged a little way behind,
before they reached the spot, she could slip noiselessly behind the
pillar and disappear. She could always trust herself not to attract
attention when she had to open and shut a door.

The Princess spoke rarely, making little remarks now and then that
hardly required an answer, but to which Inez answered in monosyllables,
speaking in a low voice through the thick veil she had drawn over her
mantle under her hood, on pretence of fearing the cold. She thought it a
little safer to speak aloud in that way, lest her companion should
wonder at her total silence.

She knew exactly where she was, for she touched each corner as she
passed, and counted her steps between one well-known point and the next,
and she allowed the Princess to gain a little as they neared the last
turning before reaching the place where she meant to make the attempt.
She hoped in this way, by walking quite noiselessly, and then stopping
suddenly just before she reached the pillar, to gain half a dozen paces,
and the Princess would take three more before she stopped also. Inez had
noticed that most people take at least three steps before they stop, if
any one calls them suddenly when they are walking fast. It seems to need
as much to balance the body when its speed is checked. She noticed
everything that could be heard.

She grew nervous. It seemed to her that her companion was walking more
slowly, as if not wishing to leave her any distance behind. She
quickened her own pace again, fearing that she had excited suspicion.
Then she heard the Princess stop suddenly, and she had no choice but to
do the same. Her heart began to beat painfully, as she saw her chance
slipping from her. She waited for Doña Ana to speak, wondering what was
the matter.

"I have mistaken the way," said the Princess, in a tone of annoyance. "I
do not know where I am. We had better go back and turn down the main
staircase, even if we meet some one. You see, I never come to this part
of the palace."

"I think we are on the right corridor," said Inez nervously. "Let me go
as far as the corner. There is a light there, and I can tell you in a
moment." In her anxiety to seem to see, she had forgotten for the moment
to muffle her voice in her veil.

They went on rapidly, and the Doña Ana did what most people do when a
companion offers to examine the way,--she stood still a moment and
hesitated, looking after the girl, and then followed her with the slow
step with which a person walks who is certain of having to turn back.
Inez walked lightly to the corner, hardly touching the wall, turned by
the corner, and was out of sight in a moment. The Princess walked
faster, for though she believed that Dolores trusted her, it seemed
foolish to give the girl a chance. She reached the corner, where there
was a lamp,--and she saw that the dim corridor was empty to the very

       *       *       *       *       *


The Princess was far from suspecting, even then, that she had been
deceived about her companion's identity as well as tricked at the last,
when Inez escaped from her. She would have laughed at the idea that any
blind person could have moved as confidently as Inez, or could
afterwards have run the length of the next corridor in what had seemed
but an instant, for she did not know of the niche behind the pillar, and
there were pilasters all along, built into the wall. The construction of
the high, springing vault that covered the whole throne room required
them for its solidity, and only the one under the centre of the arch was
built as a detached pillar, in order to give access to the gallery. Seen
from either end of the passage, it looked exactly like the rest, and few
persons would have noticed that it differed from them, even in passing

Doña Ana stood looking in the direction she supposed the girl to have
taken. An angry flush rose in her cheek, she bit her lips till they
almost bled, and at last she stamped once before she turned away, so
that her little slipper sent a sharp echo along the corridor. Pursuit
was out of the question, of course, though she could run like a deer;
some one might meet her at any turning, and in an hour the whole palace
would know that she had been seen running at full speed after some
unknown person. It would be bad enough if she were recognized walking
alone at night at a distance from her own apartments. She drew her veil
over her face so closely that she could hardly see her way, and began to
retrace her steps towards the principal staircase, pondering as to what
she should say to Mendoza when he discovered that she had allowed his
daughter to escape. She was a woman of manlike intelligence and not
easily unbalanced by a single reverse, however, and before she had gone
far her mind began to work clearly. Dolores, she reasoned, would do one
of two things. She would either go straight to Don John's apartments,
wait for him, and then tell him her story, in the hope that he would
protect her, or she would go to the Duchess Alvarez and seek protection
there. Under no circumstances would she go down to the throne room
without her court dress, for her mere appearance there, dressed as she
was, would produce the most profound astonishment, and could do her no
possible good. And as for her going to the Duchess, that was impossible,
too. If she had run away from Doña Ana, she had done so because the idea
of not seeing Don John for two days was intolerable, and she meant to
try and see him at once. The Duchess was in all probability with the
Queen, in the latter's private apartments, as Dolores would know. On the
whole, it seemed far more likely that she had done the rashest thing
that had suggested itself to her, and had gone directly to the man she
loved,--a man powerful enough to protect her against all comers, at the
present time, and quite capable of facing even the King's displeasure.

But the whole object of Doña Ana's manoeuvre had been to get possession
of Dolores' person, as a means of strongly influencing Don John's
actions, in order thus to lead him into a false position from which he
should not be able to escape without a serious quarrel with King Philip,
which would be the first step towards the execution of the plot
elaborated by Doña Ana and Perez together. Anything which could produce
an open difference between the brothers would serve to produce two
parties in Spain, of which the one that would take Don John's side would
be by far the stronger. His power would be suddenly much increased, an
organized agitation would be made throughout the country to set him on
the throne, and his popularity, like Cæsar's, would grow still more,
when he refused the crown, as he would most certainly do. But just then
King Philip would die suddenly of a fever, or a cold, or an indigestion,
as the conspirators thought best. There would be no direct male heir to
the throne but Don John himself, the acknowledged son of the Emperor
Charles; and even Don John would then be made to see that he could only
serve his country by ruling it, since it cried out for his rule and
would have no other. It was a hard and dangerous thing to lead King
Philip; it would be an easy matter to direct King John. An honest and
unsuspicious soldier would be but as a child in such skilful hands. Doña
Ana and Perez would rule Spain as they pleased, and by and by Don John
should be chosen Emperor also by the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire,
and the conspirators would rule the world, as Charles the Fifth had
ruled it. There was no limit to their ambition, and no scruple would
stand between them and any crime, and the stake was high and worth many

The Princess walked slowly, weighing in the balance all there was to
lose or gain. When she reached the head of the main staircase, she had
not yet altogether decided how to act, and lest she should meet some one
she returned, and walked up and down the lonely corridor nearly a
quarter of an hour, in deep thought. Suddenly a plan of action flashed
upon her, and she went quickly on her way, to act at once.

Don John, meanwhile, had read the letter she had sent him by the dwarf
jester. When the King had retired into his own apartments, Don John
found himself unexpectedly alone. Mendoza and the guard had filed into
the antechamber, the gentlemen in waiting, being temporarily at liberty,
went to the room leading out of it on one side, which was appropriated
to their use. The sentries were set at the King's door, and Mendoza
marched his halberdiers out again and off to their quarters, while the
servants disappeared, and the hero of the day was left to himself. He
smiled at his own surprise, recollecting that he should have ordered his
own attendants to be in waiting after the supper, whereas he had
dismissed them until midnight.

He turned on his heel and walked away to find a quiet place where he
might read the paper which had suddenly become of such importance, and
paused at a Moorish niche, where Philip had caused a sacred picture to
be placed, and before which a hanging silver lamp shed a clear light.

The small sheet of paper contained but little writing. There were half a
dozen sentences in a clear hand, without any signature--it was what has
since then come to be called an anonymous letter. But it contained
neither any threat, nor any evidence of spite; it set forth in plain
language that if, as the writer supposed, Don John wished to marry
Dolores de Mendoza, it was as necessary for her personal safety as for
the accomplishment of his desires, that he should make no attempt to see
her for at least two days, and that, if he would accept this advice, he
should have the support of every noble and minister at court, including
the very highest, with the certainty that no further hindrance would be
set in his way; it added that the letter he had burned had contained the
same words, and that the two flowers had been intended to serve as a
signal which it was now too late to use. It would be sufficient if he
told the bearer of the present letter that he agreed to take the advice
it contained. His assent in that way would, of course, be taken by the
writer to mean that he promised, on his word. That was all.

He did not like the last sentence, for it placed him in an awkward
position, as a man of honour, since he had already seen Dolores, and
therefore could not under any circumstances agree to take advice
contrary to which he had already acted. The most he could now say to the
dwarf would be that he could give no answer and would act as carefully
as possible. For the rest, the letter contained nothing treasonable, and
was not at all what he had expected and believed it to be. It appeared
to be written in a friendly spirit, and with the exception of his own
brother and Mendoza, he was not aware that he had an enemy in Spain, in
which he was almost right. Nevertheless, bold and frank as he was by
nature, he knew enough of real warfare to distrust appearances. The
writer was attached to the King's person, or the letter might have been
composed, and even written in an assumed hand, by the King himself, for
Philip was not above using the methods of a common conspirator. The
limitation of time set upon his prudence was strange, too. If he had not
seen her and agreed to the terms, he would have supposed that Dolores
was being kept out of his way during those two days, whereas in that
time it would be possible to send her very far from Madrid, or to place
her secretly in a convent where it would be impossible to find her. It
flashed upon him that in shutting up Dolores that evening Mendoza had
been obeying the King's secret orders, as well as in telling her that
she was to be taken to Las Huelgas at dawn. No one but Philip could have
written the letter--only the dwarf's fear of Philip's displeasure could
have made him so anxious that it should be read at once. It was all as
clear as daylight now, and the King and Mendoza were acting together.
The first letter had been brought by a woman, who must have got out
through the window of the study, which was so low that she could almost
have stepped from it to the terrace without springing. She had watched
until the officers and the servants had gone out and the way was clear.
Nothing could have been simpler or easier.

He would have burnt the letter at the lamp before the picture, had he
not feared that some one might see him do it, and he folded it again and
thrust it back under his doublet. His face was grave as he turned away,
for the position, as he understood it, was a very desperate one. He had
meant to send Dolores to Villagarcia, but it was almost impossible that
such a matter should remain unknown, and in the face of the King's
personal opposition, it would probably ruin Quixada and his wife. He, on
his side, might send Dolores to a convent, under an assumed name, and
take her out again before she was found, and marry her. But that would
be hard, too, for no places were more directly under the sovereign's
control than convents and monasteries. Somewhere she must go, for she
could not possibly remain concealed in his study more than three or four

Suddenly he fancied that she might be in danger even now. The woman who
had brought the first letter had of course left the window unfastened.
She, or the King, or any one, might get in by that way, and Dolores was
alone. They might have taken her away already. He cursed himself for not
having looked to see that the window was bolted. The man who had won
great battles felt a chill at his heart, and he walked at the best of
his speed, careless whether he met any one or not. But no place is more
deserted than the more distant parts of a royal palace when there is a
great assembly in the state apartments. He met no one on his way, and
entered his own door alone. Ten minutes had not elapsed since the King
had left the supper-room, and it was almost at that moment that Doña Ana
met Mendoza.

Dolores started to her feet as she heard his step in the next room and
then the key in the lock, and as he entered her hands clasped themselves
round his neck, and her eyes looked into his. He was very pale when he
saw her at last, for the belief that she had been stolen away had grown
with his speed, till it was an intolerable certainty.

"What is it? What has happened?" she cried anxiously. "Why are you so
white? Are you ill?"

"I was frightened," he said simply. "I was afraid you were gone. Look

He led her to the window, and drew the curtain to one side. The cool air
rushed in, for the bolts were unfastened, and the window was ajar. He
closed it and fastened it securely, and they both came back.

"The woman got out that way," he said, in explanation. "I understand it
all now--and some one might have come back."

He told her quietly what had happened, and showed her the letter, which
she read slowly to the end before she gave it back to him.

"Then the other was not a love letter, after all," she said, with a
little laugh that had more of relief in it than amusement, though she
did not know it herself.

"No," he answered gravely. "I wish I had read it. I should at least have
shut the window before leaving you!"

Careless of any danger to herself, she sat looking up into his anxious
face, her clasped hands lying in his and quite covered by them, as he
stood beside her. There was not a trace of fear in her own face, nor
indeed of any feeling but perfect love and confidence. Under the gaze of
her deep grey eyes his expression relaxed for a moment, and grew like
hers, so that it would have been hard to say which trusted the other the

"What does anything matter, since we are together now?" she asked. "I am
with you, can anything happen to me?"

"Not while I am alive," he answered, but the look of anxiety for her
returned at once. "You cannot stay here."

"No--you will take me away. I am ready--"

"I do not mean that. You cannot stay in this room, nor in my apartments.
The King is coming here in a few minutes. I cannot tell what he may
do--he may insist on seeing whether any one is here, listening, for he
is very suspicious, and he only comes here because he does not even
trust his own apartments. He may wish to open the door--"

"I will lock it on the inside. You can say that it is locked, and that
you have not the key. If he calls men to open it, I will escape by the
window, and hide in the old sentry-box. He will not stay talking with
you till morning!"

She laughed, and he saw that she was right, simply because there was no
other place where she could be even as safe as where she was. He slowly
nodded as she spoke.

"You see," she cried, with another little laugh of happy satisfaction,
"you must keep me here whether you will or not! You are really
afraid--frightened like a boy! You! How men would stare if they could
see you afraid!"

"It is true," he answered, with a faint smile.

"But I will give you courage!" she said. "The King cannot come yet.
Perez can only have just gone to him, you say. They will talk at least
half an hour, and it is very likely that Perez will persuade him not to
come at all, because he is angry with you. Perhaps Perez will come
instead, and he will be very smooth and flattering, and bring messages
of reconciliation, and beg to make peace. He is very clever, but I do
not like his face. He makes me think of a beautiful black fox! Even if
the King comes himself, we have more than half an hour. You can stay a
little while with me--then go into your room and sit down and read, as
if you were waiting for him. You can read my letter over, and I will sit
here and say all the things I wrote, over and over again, and you will
know that I am saying them--it will be almost as if I were with you, and
could say them quite close to you--like this--I love you!"

She had drawn his hand gently down to her while she was speaking, and
she whispered the last words into his ear with a delicate little kiss
that sent a thrill straight to his heart.

"You are not afraid any more now, are you?" she asked, as she let him
go, and he straightened himself suddenly as a man drawing back from
something he both fears and loves.

He opened and shut his hands quickly two or three times, as some nervous
men do, as if trying to shake them clear from a spell, or an influence.
Then he began to walk up and down, talking to her.

"I am at my wit's end," he said, speaking fast and not looking at her
face, as he turned and turned again. "I cannot send you to
Villagarcia--there are things that neither you nor I could do, even for
each other, things you would not have me do for you, Dolores. It would
be ruin and disgrace to my adopted mother and Quixada--it might be
worse, for the King can call anything he pleases high treason. It is
impossible to take you there without some one knowing it--can I carry
you in my arms? There are grooms, coachmen, servants, who will tell
anything under examination--under torture! How can I send you there?"

"I would not go," answered Dolores quietly.

"I cannot send you to a convent, either," he went on, for he had taken
her answer for granted, as lovers do who trust each other. "You would be
found in a day, for the King knows everything. There is only one place,
where I am master--"

He stopped short, and grew very pale again, looking at the wall, but
seeing something very far away.

"Where?" asked Dolores. "Take me there! Oh, take me where you are
master--where there is no king but you, where we can be together all our
lives, and no one can come between us!"

He stood motionless, staring at the wall, contemplating in amazement the
vastness of the temptation that arose before him. Dolores could not
understand, but she did what a loving women does when the man she loves
seems to be in a great distress. She came and stood beside him, passing
one arm through his and pressing it tenderly, without a word. There are
times when a man needs only that to comfort him and give him strength.
But even a woman does not always know them.

Very slowly he turned to her, almost as if he were trying to resist her
eyes and could not. He took his arm from hers and his hands framed her
face softly, and pushed the gold hair gently back on her forehead. But
she grew frightened by degrees, for there was a look in his eyes she had
never seen there, and that had never been in them before, neither in
love nor in battle. His hands were quite cold, and his face was like a
beautiful marble, but there was an evil something in it, as in a fallen
angel's, a defiance of God, an irresistible strength to do harm, a
terror such as no man would dare to meet.

"You are worth it," he said in a tone so different from his natural
voice that Dolores started, and would have drawn back from him, but
could not, for his hands held her, shaking a little fiercely.

"What? What is it?" she asked, growing more and more frightened--half
believing that he was going mad.

"You are worth it," he repeated. "I tell you, you are worth that, and
much more, and the world, and all the world holds for me, and all earth
and heaven besides. You do not know how I love you--you can never

Her eyes grew tender again, and her hands went up and pressed his that
still framed her face.

"As I love you--dear love!" she answered, wondering, but happy.

"No--not now. I love you more. You cannot guess--you shall see what I
will do for your sake, and then you will understand."

He uttered an incoherent exclamation, and his eyes dazzled her as he
seized her in his arms and pressed her to him so that she could have
cried out. And suddenly he kissed her, roughly, almost cruelly, as if he
meant to hurt her, and knew that he could. She struggled in his arms, in
an unknown terror of him, and her senses reeled.

Then all at once, he let her go, and turned from her quickly, leaving
her half fainting, so that she leaned against the wall and pressed her
cheek to the rough hanging. She felt a storm of tears, that she could
not understand, rising in her heart and eyes and throat. He had crossed
the room, getting as far as he could from her, and stood there, turned
to the wall, his arms bent against it and his face buried in his sleeve.
He breathed hard, and spoke as if to himself in broken words.

"Worth it? My God! What are you not worth?"

There was such a ring of agony and struggling in his voice that Dolores
forgot herself and stood up listening, suddenly filled with anxiety for
him again. He was surely going mad. She would have gone to him again,
forgetting her terror that was barely past, the woman's instinct to help
the suffering man overruling everything else. It was for his sake that
she stayed where she was, lest if she touched him he should lose his
senses altogether.

"Oh, there is one place, where I am master and lord!" he was saying.
"There is one thing to do--one thing--"

"What is the thing?" she asked very gently. "Why are you suffering so?
Where is the place?"

He turned suddenly, as he would have turned in his saddle in battle at a
trumpet call, straight and strong, with fixed eyes and set lips, that
spoke deliberately.

"There is Granada," he said. "Do you understand now?"

"No," she answered timidly. "I do not understand. Granada? Why there? It
is so far away--"

He laughed harshly.

"You do not understand? Yes, Granada is far away--far enough to be
another kingdom--so far that John of Austria is master there--so far
that with his army at his back he can be not only its master, but its
King? Do you understand now? Do you see what I will do for your sake?"

He made one step towards her, and she was very white.

"I will take you, and go back to-morrow. Do you think the Moors are not
men, because I beat them? I tell you that if I set up my standard in
Granada and call them to me, they will follow me--if I lead them to the
gate of Madrid. Yes--and so will more than half the Spanish army, if I
will! But I do not want that--it is not the kingdom--what should I care
for that? Could I not have taken it and held it? It is for you, dear
love--for your sake only--that we may have a world of our own--a kingdom
in which you are queen! Let there be war--why should I care? I will set
the world ablaze and let it burn to its own ashes, but I will not let
them take you from me, neither now, nor ever, while I am alive!"

He came quickly towards her now, and she could not draw back, for the
wall was behind her. But she thrust out her hands against him to keep
him off. The gesture stopped him, just when he would have taken her in
his arms.

"No, no!" she cried vehemently. "You must not say such things, you must
not think such thoughts! You are beside yourself, and you will drive me
mad, too!"

"But it will be so easy--you shall see--"

She cut his words short.

"It must not be easy, it must not be possible, it must not be at all! Do
you believe that I love you and that I would let you do such deeds? Oh,
no! That would not be love at all--it would be hate, it would be treason
to you, and worse treason than yours against your brother!"

The fierce light was sinking from his face. He had folded his arms and
stood very still, listening to her.

"You!" she cried, with rising energy. "You, the brave soldier, the
spotless man, the very soul of honour made flesh and blood! You, who
have but just come back in triumph from fighting your King's
enemies--you against whom no living being has ever dared to breathe a
slander or a slighting word. Oh, no, no, no, no! I could not bear that
you should betray your faith and your country and yourself, and be
called traitor for my sake! Not for ten lives of mine shall you ruin
yours. And not because I might love you less if you had done that deed.
God help me! I think I should love you if you committed any crime! The
shame is the more to me--I know it. I am only a woman! But rather than
let my love ruin you, make a traitor of you and lose you in this world
and the next, my soul shall go first--life, soul, honour, everything!
You shall not do it! You think that you love me more than I love you,
but you do not. For to save you as you are, I love you so dearly that I
will leave you--leave you to honour, leave you to your King, leave you
to the undying glory of the life you have lived, and will live, in
memory of my love!"

The splendid words rang from her lips like a voice from heaven, and her
eyes were divinely lightened. For they looked up, and not at him,
calling Heaven to witness that she would keep her promise. As her open
hand unconsciously went out, he took it tenderly, and felt her fingers
softly closing on his own, as if she would lift him to himself again,
and to the dear light of her own thoughts. There was silence for a

"You are better and wiser than I," he said, and his tone told her that
the madness was past.

"And you know that I am right? You see that I must leave you, to save
you from me?"

"Leave me--now?" he cried. "You only said that--you meant me to
understand--you did not mean that you would leave me now?"

"I do mean it," she said, in a great effort. "It is all I can do, to
show you how I love you. As long as I am in your life you will be in
danger--you will never be safe from yourself--I see it all now! I stand
between you and all the world would give you--I will not stand between
you and honour!"

She was breaking down, fight as she would against the pain. He could say
nothing, for he could not believe that she really was in earnest.

"I must!" she exclaimed suddenly. "It is all I can do for you--it is my
life--take it!"

The tears broke from her eyes, but she held her head high, and let them
fall unheeded.

"Take it!" she repeated. "It is all I have to give for yours and your
honour. Good-by--oh, love, I love you so dearly! Once more, before I

She almost, fell into his arms as she buried her face on his shoulder
and clasped his throat as she was wont. He kissed her hair gently, and
from time to time her whole frame shook with the sobs she was choking

"It kills me," she said in a broken voice. "I cannot--I thought I was so
strong! Oh, I am the most miserable living woman in the world!"

She broke away from him wildly and threw herself upon a chair, turning
from him to its cushion and hiding her face in her hands, choking,
pressing the furious tears back upon her eyes, shaking from head to

"You cannot go! You cannot!" he cried, falling on his knees beside her
and trying to take her hands in his. "Dolores--look at me! I will do
anything--promise anything--you will believe me! Listen, love--I give
you my word--I swear before God--"

"No--swear nothing--" she said, between the sobs that broke her voice.

"But I will!" he insisted, drawing her hands down till she looked at
him. "I swear upon my honour that I will never raise my hand against the
King--that I will defend him, and fight for him, and be loyal to him,
whatever he may do to me--and that even for you, I will never strike a
blow in battle nor speak a word in peace that is not all honourable,
through and through,--even as I have fought and spoken until now!"

As she listened to his words her weeping subsided, and her tearful eyes
took light and life again. She drew him close, and kissed him on the

"I am so glad--so happy!" she cried softly. "I should never have had
strength to really say good-by!"

       *       *       *       *       *


Don John smoothed her golden hair. Never since he had known that he
loved her, had she seemed so beautiful as then, and his thought tried to
hold her as she was, that she might in memory be always the same. There
was colour in her cheeks, a soft flush of happiness that destroyed all
traces of her tears, so that they only left her grey eyes dark and
tender under the long wet lashes.

"It was a cruel dream, dear love! It was not true!" Finding him again,
her voice was low, and sweet with joy.

He smiled, too, and his own eyes were quiet and young, now that the
tempest had passed away, almost out of recollection. It had raged but
for a few moments, but in that time both he and she had lived and loved
as it were through years, and their love had grown better and braver.
She knew that his word was enough, and that he would die rather than
break it; but though she had called herself weak, and had seemed to
break down in despair, she would have left him for ever rather than
believe that he was still in danger through her. She did not again ask
herself whether her sudden resolution had been all for his sake, and had
not formed itself because she dreaded to think of being bound to one who
betrayed his country. She knew it and needed no further self-questioning
to satisfy her. If such a man could have committed crimes, she would
have hated them, not him, she would have pardoned him, not them, she
would still have laid her hand in his before the whole world, though it
should mean shame and infamy, because she loved him and would always
love him, and could never have left him for her own sake, come all that
might. She had said it was a shame to her that she would have loved him
still; yet if it had been so, she would have gloried in being shamed for
his sake, for even then her love might have brought him back from the
depths of evil and made him again for her in truth what he had once
seemed to the whole world. She could have done that, and if in the end
she had saved him she would have counted the price of her name as very
little to set against his salvation from himself. She would have given
that and much more, for her love, as she would freely give all for him
and even for his memory, if he were dead, and if by some unimaginable
circumstances her ruin before the world could keep his name spotless,
and his glory unsullied. For there is nothing that a true-hearted loving
woman will not give and do for him she loves and believes and trusts;
and though she will give the greatest thing last of all, she will give
it in the end, if it can save him from infamy and destruction. For it is
the woman's glory to give, as it is the man's to use strength in the
hour of battle and gentleness in the day of peace, and to follow honour

"Forget it all," answered Don John presently. "Forget it, dear, and
forgive me for it all."

"I can forget it, because it was only a dream," she said, "and I have
nothing to forgive. Listen to me. If it were true--even if I believed
that we had not been dreaming, you and I, could I have anything to
forgive you? What?"

"The mere thought that I could betray a trust, turn against my sovereign
and ruin my country," he answered bravely, and a blush of honest shame
rose in his boyish cheeks.

"It was for me," said Dolores.

That should explain all, her heart said. But he was not satisfied, and
being a man he began to insist.

"Not even for you should I have thought of it," he said. "And there is
the thought to forgive, if nothing else."

"No--you are wrong, love. Because it was for me, it does not need my
forgiveness. It is different--you do not understand yet. It is I who
should have never forgiven myself on earth nor expected pardon
hereafter, if I had let myself be the cause of such deeds, if I had let
my love stand between you and honour. Do you see?"

"I see," he answered. "You are very brave and kind and good. I did not
know that a woman could be like you."

"A woman could be anything--for you--dare anything, do anything,
sacrifice anything! Did I not tell you so, long ago? You only half
believed me, dear--perhaps you do not quite believe me now--"

"Indeed, indeed I do, with all my soul! I believe you as I love you, as
I believe in your love--"

"Yes. Tell me that you do--and tell me that you love me! It is so good
to hear, now that the bad dream is gone."

"Shall I tell you?" He smiled, playing with her hand. "How can I? There
are so few words in which to say so much. But I will tell you this--I
would give my word for you. Does that sound little? You should know, for
you know at what price you would have saved my honour a while ago. I
believe in you so truly that I would stake my word, and my honour, and
my Christian oath upon your faith, and promise for you before God or man
that you will always love me as you do to-day."

"You may pledge all three. I will, and I will give you all I have that
is not God's--and if that is not enough, I will give my soul for yours,
if I may, to suffer in your stead."

She spoke quietly enough, but there was a little quaver of true
earnestness in her voice, that made each word a solemn promise.

"And besides that," she added, "you see how I trust you."

She smiled again as she looked at him, and knew how safe she was, far
safer now than when she had first come with him to the door. Something
told her that he had mastered himself--she would not have wished to
think that she had ruled him? it was enough if she had shown him the
way, and had helped him. He pressed her hand to his cheek and looked
down thoughtfully, wishing that he could find such simple words that
could say so much, but not trusting himself to speak. For though, in
love, a man speaks first, he always finds the least to say of love when
it has strongest hold of him; but a woman has words then, true and
tender, that come from her heart unsought. Yet by and by, if love is not
enduring, so that both tire of it, the man plays the better comedy,
because he has the greater strength, and sometimes what he says has the
old ring in it, because it is so well said, and the woman smiles and
wonders that his love should have lasted longer than hers, and desiring
the illusion, she finds old phrases again; yet there is no life in them,
because when love is dead she thinks of herself, and instead, it was
only of him she thought in the good days when her heart used to beat at
the sound of his footfall, and the light grew dim and unsteady as she
felt his kiss. But the love of these two was not born to tire; and
because he was so young, and knew the world little, save at his sword's
point, he was ashamed that he could not speak of love as well as she.

"Find words for me," he said, "and I will say them, for yours are better
than mine."

"Say, 'I love you, dear,' very softly and gently--not roughly, as you
sometimes do. I want to hear it gently now, that, and nothing else."

She turned a little, leaning towards him, her face near his, her eyes
quiet and warm, and she took his hands and held them together before her
as if he were her prisoner--and indeed she meant that he should not
suddenly take her in his arms, as he often did.

"I love you, dear," he repeated, smiling, and pretending to be very

"That is not quite the way," she said, with a girlish laugh. "Say it
again--quite as softly, but more tenderly! You must be very much in
earnest, you know, but you must not be in the least violent." She
laughed again. "It is like teaching a young lion," she added. "He may
eat you up at any moment, instead of obeying you. Tell me, you have a
little lion that follows you like a dog when you are in your camp, have
you not? You have not told me about him yet. How did you teach him?"

"I did not try to make him say 'I love you, dear,'" answered Don John,
laughing in his turn.

As he spoke a distant sound caught his ear, and the smile vanished from
his face, for though he heard only the far off rumbling of a coach in
the great court, it recalled him to reality.

"We are playing with life and death," he said suddenly. "It is late, the
King may be here at any moment, and we have decided nothing." He rose.

"Is it late?" asked Dolores, passing her hand over her eyes dreamily. "I
had forgotten--it seems so short. Give me the key on my side of the
door--we had decided that, you know. Go and sit down in your room, as we
agreed. Shall you read my letter again, love? It may be half an hoar
still before the King comes. When he is gone, we shall have all the
night in which to decide, and the nights are very long now. Oh, I hate
to lose one minute of you! What shall you say to the King?"

"I do not know what he may say to me," answered Don John. "Listen and
you shall hear--I would rather know that you hear everything I say. It
will be as if I were speaking before you, and of course I should tell
you everything the King says. He will speak of you, I think."

"Indeed, it would be hard not to listen," said Dolores. "I should have
to stop my ears, for one cannot help hearing every word that is said in
the next room. Do you know? I heard you ask for your white shoes! I
hardly dared to breathe for fear the servants should find out that I was

"So much the better then. Sit in this chair near the door. But be
careful to make no noise, for the King is very suspicious."

"I know. Do not be afraid; I will be as quiet as a mouse. Go, love, go!
It is time--oh, how I hate to let you leave me! You will be careful? You
will not be angry at what he says? You would be wiser if you knew I were
not hearing everything; you will want to defend me if he says the least
word you do not like, but let him say what he will! Anything is better
than an open quarrel between you and the King! Promise me to be very
moderate in what you say, and very patient. Remember that he is the

"And my brother," said Don John, with some bitterness. "Do not fear. You
know what I have promised you. I will bear anything he may say that
concerns me as well as I can, but if he says anything slighting of

"But he may--that is the danger. Promise me not to be angry--"

"How can I promise that, if he insults you?"

"No, I did not mean that exactly. Promise that you will not forget
everything and raise your hand against him. You see I know you would."

"No, I will not raise my hand against him. That was in the promise I
made you. And as for being angry, I will do my best to keep my temper."

"I know you will. Now you must go. Good-by, love! Good-by, for a little

"For such a little time shall we say good-by? I hate the word; it makes
me think of the day when I left you last."

"How can I tell what may happen to you when you are out of my sight?"
asked Dolores. "And what is 'good-by' but a blessing each prays for the
other? That is all it means. It does not mean that we part for long,
love. Why, I would say it for an hour! Good-by, dear love, good-by!"

She put up her face to kiss him, and it was so full of trust and
happiness that the word lost all the bitterness it has gathered through
ages of partings, and seemed, what she said it was, a loving blessing.
Yet she said it very tenderly, for it was hard to let him go even for
less than an hour. He said it, too, to please her; but yet the syllables
came mournfully, as if they meant a world more than hers, and the sound
of them half frightened her, so that she was sorry she had asked him for
the word.

"Not so!" she cried, in quick alarm. "You are not keeping anything from
me? You are only going to the next room to meet the King--are you sure?"

"That is all. You see, the word frightened you. It seems such a sad word
to me--I will not say it again."

He kissed her gently, as if to soothe her fear, and then he opened the
door and set the key in the lock on the inside. Then when he was
outside, he lingered a moment, and their lips met once more without a
word, and they nodded and smiled to one another a last time, and he
closed the door and heard her lock it.

When she was alone, she turned away as if he were gone from her
altogether instead of being in the next room, where she could hear him
moving now and then, as he placed his chair near the light to read and
arranged the candlesticks on the table. Then he went to the other door
and opened it and opened the one beyond upon the terrace, and she knew
that he was looking out to see if any one were there. But presently he
came back and sat down, and she distinctly heard the rustle of the
strong writing-paper as he unfolded a letter. It was hers. He was going
to read it, as they had agreed.

So she sat down where she could look at the door, and she tried to force
her eyes to see through it, to make him feel that she was watching him,
that she came near him and stood beside him, and softly read the words
for him, but without looking at them, because she knew them all by
heart. But it was not the same as if she had seen him, and it was very
hard to be shut off from his sight by an impenetrable piece of wood, to
lose all the moments that might pass before the King chose to come.
Another hour might pass. No one could even tell whether he would come at
all after he had consulted with Antonio Perez. The skilful favourite
desired a quarrel between his master and Don John with all his heart,
but he was not ready for it yet. He must have possession of Dolores
first and hide her safely; and when the quarrel came, Don John should
believe that the King had stolen her and imprisoned her, and that she
was treated ill; and for the woman he loved, Don John would tear down
the walls of Madrid, if need be, and if at the last he found her dead,
there would be no harm done, thought Perez, and Don John would hate his
brother even to death, and all Spain would cry out in sympathy and
horror. But all this Dolores could neither know nor even suspect. She
only felt sure that the King and Perez were even now consulting together
to hinder her marriage with Don John, and that Perez might persuade the
King not to see his brother that night.

It was almost intolerable to think that she might wait there for hours,
wasting the minutes for which she would have given drops of blood.
Surely they both were overcautious. The door could be left open, so that
they could talk, and at the first sound without, she could lock it again
and sit down. That would be quite as safe.

She rose and was almost in the act of opening the door again when she
stopped and hesitated. It was possible that at any moment the King might
be at the door; for though she could hear every sound that came from the
next room, the thick curtains that hid the window effectually shut out
all sound from without. It struck her that she could go to the window,
however, and look out. Yet a ray of light might betray her presence in
the room to any one outside, and if she drew aside the curtain the light
would shine out upon the terrace. She listened at Don John's door, and
presently she heard him turn her letter in his hand, and all her heart
went out to him, and she stood noiselessly kissing the panels and saying
over again in her heart that she loved him more than any words could
tell. If she could only see out of the window and assure herself that no
one was coming yet, there would be time to go to him again, for one
moment only, and say the words once more.

Then she sat down and told herself how foolish she was. She had been
separated from him for many long and empty months, and now she had been
with him and talked long with him twice in leas than three hours, and
yet she could not bear that he should be out of her sight five minutes
without wishing to risk everything to see him again. She tried to laugh
at herself, repeating over and over again that she was very, very
foolish, and that she should have a just contempt for any woman who
could be as foolish as she. For some moments she sat still, staring at
the wall.

In the thought of him that filled her heart and soul and mind, she saw
that her own life had begun when he had first spoken to her, and she
felt that it would end with the last good-by, because if he should die
or cease to love her, there would be nothing more to live for. Her early
girlhood seemed dim and far away, dull and lifeless, as if it had not
been hers at all, and had no connection with the present. She saw
herself in the past, as she could not see herself now, and the child she
remembered seemed not herself but another--a fair-haired girl living in
the gloomy old house in Valladolid, with her blind sister and an old
maiden cousin of her father's, who had offered to bring up the two and
to teach them, being a woman of some learning, and who fulfilled her
promise in such a conscientious and austere way as made their lives
something of a burden under her strict rule. But that was all forgotten
now, and though she still lived in Valladolid she had probably changed
but little in the few years since Dolores had seen her; she was part of
the past, a relic of something that had hardly ever had a real
existence, and which it was not at all necessary to remember. There was
one great light in the girl's simple existence, it had come all at once,
and it was with her still. There was nothing dim nor dark nor forgotten
about the day when she had been presented at court by the Duchess
Alvarez, and she had first seen Don John, and he had first seen her and
had spoken to her, when he had talked with the Duchess herself. At the
first glance--and it was her first sight of the great world--she had
seen that of all the men in the great hall, there was no one at all like
him. She had no sooner looked into his face and cast her eyes upon his
slender figure, all in white then, as he was dressed to-night, than she
began to compare him with the rest. She looked so quickly from one to
another that any one might have thought her to be anxiously searching
for a friend in the crowd. But she had none then, and she was but
assuring herself once, and for all her life, that the man she was to
love was immeasurably beyond all other men, though the others were the
very flower of Spain's young chivalry.

Of course, as she told herself now, she had not loved him then, nor even
when she heard his voice speaking to her the first time and was almost
too happy to understand his words. But she had remembered them. He had
asked her whether she lived in Madrid. She had told him that she lived
in the Alcazar itself, since her father commanded the guards and had his
quarters in the palace. And then Don John had looked at her very fixedly
for a moment, and had seemed pleased, for he smiled and said that he
hoped he might see her often, and that if it were in his power to be of
use to her father, he would do what he could. She was sure that she had
not loved him then, though she had dreamed of his winning face and voice
and had thought of little else all the next day, and the day after that,
with a sort of feverish longing to see him again, and had asked the
Duchess Alvarez so many questions about him that the Duchess had smiled
oddly, and had shaken her handsome young head a little, saying that it
was better not to think too much about Don John of Austria. Surely, she
had not loved him already, at first sight. But on the evening of the
third day, towards sunset, when she had been walking with Inez on a
deserted terrace where no one but the two sisters ever went, Don John
had suddenly appeared, sauntering idly out with one of his gentlemen on
his left, as if he expected nothing at all; and he had seemed very much
surprised to see her, and had bowed low, and somehow very soon, blind
Inez, who was little more than a child three years ago, was leading the
gentleman about the terrace, to show him where the best roses grew,
which she knew by their touch and smell, and Don John and Dolores were
seated on an old stone bench, talking earnestly together. Even to
herself she admitted that she had loved him from that evening, and
whenever she thought of it she smelt the first scent of roses, and saw
his face with the blaze of the sunset in his eyes, and heard his voice
saying that he should come to the terrace again at that hour, in which
matter he had kept his word as faithfully as he always did, and
presumably without any especial effort. So she had known him as he
really was, without the formalities of the court life, of which she was
herself a somewhat insignificant part; and it was only when he said a
few words to her before the other ladies that she took pains to say
'your Highness' to him once or twice, and he called her 'Doña Dolores,'
and enquired in a friendly manner about her father's health. But on the
terrace they managed to talk without any such formal mode of address,
and used no names at all for each other, until one day--but she would
not think of that now. If she let her memory run all its course, she
could not sit there with the door closed between him and her, for
something stronger than she would force her to go and open it, and make
sure he was there. This method, indeed, would be a very certain one,
leaving no doubt whatever, but at the present moment it would be foolish
to resort to it, and, perhaps, it would be dangerous, too. The past was
so beautiful and peaceful; she could think its history through many
times up to that point, where thinking was sure to end suddenly in
something which was too present for memory and too well remembered not
to be present.

It came back to her so vividly that she left her seat again and went to
the curtained window, as if to get as far as possible from the
irresistible attraction. Standing there she looked back and saw the key
in the lock. It was foolish, girlish, childish, at such a time, but she
felt that as long as it was there she should want to turn it. With a
sudden resolution and a smile that was for her own weakness, she went to
the door again, listened for footsteps, and then quietly took the key
from the lock. Instantly Don John was on the other side, calling to her

"What is it?" he asked. "For Heaven's sake do not come in, for I think I
hear him coming."

"No," she answered through the panel. "I was afraid I should turn the
key, so I have taken it out." She paused. "I love you!" she said, so
that he could hear, and she kissed the wood, where she thought his face
must be, just above her own.

"I love you with all my heart!" he answered gently. "Hush, dear love, he
is coming!"

They were like two children, playing at a game; but they were playing on
the very verge of tragedy, playing at life with death at the door and
the safety of a great nation hanging in the balance.

A moment later, Dolores heard Don John opening and shutting the other
doors again, and then there were voices. She heard her father's name
spoken in the King's unmistakable tones, at once harsh and muffled.
Every word came to her from the other room, as if she were present.

"Mendoza," said Philip, "I have private matters to discuss with his
Highness. I desire you to wait before the entrance, on the terrace, and
to let no one pass in, as we do not wish to be disturbed."

Her father did not speak, but she knew how he was bending a little
stiffly, before he went backwards through the open door. It closed
behind him, and the two brothers were alone. Dolores' heart beat a
little faster, and her face grew paler as she concentrated her attention
upon making no noise. If they could hear her as she heard them, a mere
rustling of her silk gown would be enough to betray her, and if then the
King bade her father take her with him, all would be over, for Don John
would certainly not use any violence to protect her.

"This is your bedchamber," said Philip's voice.

He was evidently examining the room, as Don John had anticipated that he
would, for he was moving about. There was no mistaking his heavy steps
for his brother's elastic tread.

"There is no one behind the curtain," said the King, by which it was
clear that he was making search for a possible concealed listener. He
was by no means above such precautions.

"And that door?" he said, with a question. "What is there?"

Dolores' heart almost stood still, as she held her breath, and heard the
clumsy footfall coming nearer.

"It is locked," said Don John, with undisturbed calm. "I have not the
key. I do not know where it is,--it is not here."

As Dolores had taken it from the lock, even the last statement was true
to the letter, and in spite of her anxiety she smiled as she heard it,
but the next moment she trembled, for the King was trying the door, and
it shook under his hand, as if it must fly open.

"It is certainly locked," he said, in a discontented tone. "But I do not
like locked doors, unless I know what is beyond them."

He crossed the room again and called out to Mendoza, who answered at

"Mendoza, come here with me. There is a door here, of which his Highness
has not the key. Can you open it?"

"I will try, your Majesty," answered the General's hard voice.

A moment later the panels shook violently under the old man's weight,
for he was stronger than one might have thought, being lean and tough
rather than muscular. Dolores took the moment when the noise was loudest
and ran a few steps towards the window. Then the sounds ceased suddenly,
and she stood still.

"I cannot open it, your Majesty," said Mendoza, in a disconsolate tone.

"Then go and get the key," answered the King almost angrily.

       *       *       *       *       *


Inez remained hidden a quarter of an hour in the gallery over the throne
room, before she ventured to open the door noiselessly and listen for
any sound that might come from the passage. She was quite safe there, as
long as she chose to remain, for the Princess had believed that she had
fled far beyond and was altogether out of reach of any one whose dignity
would not allow of running a race. It must be remembered that at the
time she entered the gallery Mendoza had returned to his duty below, and
that some time afterwards he had accompanied the King to Don John's
apartments, and had then been sent in search of the key to the locked

The blind girl was of course wholly ignorant of his whereabouts, and
believed him to be in or about the throne room. Her instinct told her
that since Dolores had not gone to the court, as she had intended, with
the Duchess Alvarez, she must have made some last attempt to see Don
John alone. In her perfect innocence such an idea seemed natural enough
to Inez, and it at first occurred to her that the two might have
arranged to meet on the deserted terrace where they had spent so many
hours in former times. She went there first, finding her way with some
little difficulty from the corridor where the gallery was, for the
region was not the one to which she was most accustomed, though there
was hardly a corner of the upper story where she had never been.
Reaching the terrace, she went out and called softly, but there was no
answer, nor could she hear any sound. The night was not cold now, but
the breeze chilled her a little, and just then the melancholy cry of a
screech owl pierced the air, and she shivered and went in again.

She would have gone to the Duchess Alvarez had she not been sure that
the latter was below with the Queen, and even as it was, she would have
taken refuge in the Duchess's apartments with the women, and she might
have learned something of Dolores there. But her touch reminded her that
she was dressed in her sister's clothes, and that many questions might
be asked her which it would be hard to answer. And again, it grew quite
clear to her that Dolores must be somewhere near Don John, perhaps
waiting in some concealed corner until all should be quiet. It was more
than probable that he would get her out of the palace secretly during
the night and send her to his adoptive mother at Villagarcia. She had
not believed the Princess's words in the least, but she had not
forgotten them, and had argued rightly enough to their real meaning.

In the upper story all was still now. She and Dolores had known where
Don John was to be lodged in the palace nearly a month before he had
returned, and they had been there more than once, when no one was on the
terrace, and Dolores had made her touch the door and the six windows,
three on each side of it. She could get there without difficulty,
provided that no one stopped her.

She went a little way in the right direction and then hesitated. There
was more danger to Dolores than to herself if she should be recognized,
and, after all, if Dolores was near Don John she was safer than she
could be anywhere else. Inez could not help her very much in any way if
she found her there, and it would be hard to find her if she had met
Mendoza at first and if he had placed her in the keeping of a third
person. She imagined what his astonishment would have been had he found
the real Dolores in her court dress a few moments after Inez had been
delivered over to the Princess disguised in Dolores' clothes, and she
almost smiled. But then a great loneliness and a sense of helplessness
came over her, and she turned back and went out upon the deserted
terrace again and sat down upon the old stone seat, listening for the
screech owl and the fluttering of the bats that flew aimlessly in and
out, attracted by the light and then scared away by it again because the
moon was at the full.

Inez had never before then wandered about the palace at night, and
though darkness and daylight were one to her, there was something in the
air that frightened her, and made her feel how really helpless she was
in spite of her almost superhuman hearing and her wonderful sense of
touch. It was very still--it was never so still by day. It seemed as if
people must be lying in wait for her, holding their breath lest she
should hear even that. She had never felt blind before; she had never so
completely realized the difference between her life and the lives of
others. By day, she could wander where she pleased on the upper
story--it was cheerful, familiar; now and then some one passed and
perhaps spoke to her kindly, as every one did who knew her; and then
there was the warm sunlight at the windows, and the cool breath of the
living day in the corridors. The sounds guided her, the sun warmed her,
the air fanned her, the voices of the people made her feel that she was
one of them. But now, the place was like an empty church, full of tombs
and silent as the dead that lay there. She felt horribly lonely, and
cold, and miserable, and she would have given anything to be in bed in
her own room. She could not go there. Eudaldo would not understand her
return, after being told that she was to stay with the Princess, and she
would be obliged to give him some explanation. Then her voice would
betray her, and there would be terrible trouble. If only she had kept
her own cloak to cover Dolores' frock, she could have gone back and the
servant would have thought it quite natural Indeed, by this time he
would be expecting her. It would be almost better to go in after all,
and tell him some story of her having mistaken her sister's skirt for
her own, and beg him to say nothing. She could easily confuse him a
little so that he would not really understand--and then in a few minutes
she could be in her own room, safe and in bed, and far away from the
dismal place where she was sitting and shivering as she listened to the

She rose and began to walk towards her father's quarters. But suddenly
she felt that it was cowardly to go back without accomplishing the least
part of her purpose, and without even finding out whether Dolores was in
safety after all. There was but one chance of finding her, and that lay
in searching the neighbourhood of Don John's lodging. Without hesitating
any longer, she began to find her way thither at once. She determined
that if she were stopped, either by her father or the Princess, she
would throw back her head and show her face at once. That would be the
safest way in the end.

She reached Don John's windows unhindered at last. She had felt every
corner, and had been into the empty sentry-box; and once or twice, after
listening a long time, she had called Dolores in a very low tone. She
listened by the first window, and by the second and third, and at the
door, and then beyond, till she came to the last. There were voices
there, and her heart beat quickly for a moment. It was impossible to
distinguish the words that were spoken, through the closed window and
the heavy curtains, but the mere tones told her that Don John and
Dolores were there together. That was enough for her, and she could go
back to her room; for it seemed quite natural to her that her sister
should be in the keeping of the man she loved,--she was out of harm's
way and beyond their father's power, and that was all that was
necessary. She would go back to her room at once, and explain the matter
of her dress to Eudaldo as best she might. After all, why should he care
what she wore or where she had been, or whether in the Princess's
apartments she had for some reason exchanged gowns with Dolores. Perhaps
he would not even notice the dress at all.

She meant to go at once, but she stood quite still, her hands resting on
the low sill of the window, while her forehead pressed against the cold
round panes of glass. Something hurt her which she could not understand,
as she tried to fancy the two beautiful young beings who were
within,--for she knew what beauty they had, and Dolores had described
Don John to her as a young god. His voice came to her like strains of
very distant sweet music, that connect themselves to an unknown melody
in the fancy of him who faintly hears. But Dolores was hearing every
word he said, and it was all for her; and Dolores not only heard, but
saw; and seeing and hearing, she was loved by the man who spoke to her,
as dearly as she loved him.

Then utter loneliness fell upon the blind girl as she leaned against the
window. She had expected nothing, she had asked nothing, even in her
heart; and she had less than nothing, since never on earth, nor in
heaven hereafter, could Don John say a loving word to her. And yet she
felt that something had been taken from her and given to her
sister,--something that was more to her than life, and dearer than the
thought of sight to her blindness. She had taken what had not been given
her, in innocent girlish thoughts that were only dreams, and could hurt
no one. He had always spoken gently to her, and touched her hand kindly;
and many a time, sitting alone in the sun, she had set those words to
the well-remembered music of his voice, and she had let the memory of
his light touch on her fingers thrill her strangely to the very quick.
It had been but the reflection of a reflection in her darkness, wherein
the shadow of a shadow seemed as bright as day. It had been all she had
to make her feel that she was a part of the living, loving world she
could never see. Somehow she had unconsciously fancied that with a
little dreaming she could live happy in Dolores' happiness, as by a
proxy, and she had never called it love, any more than she would have
dared to hope for love in return. Yet it was that, and nothing
else,--the love that is so hopeless and starving, and yet so innocent,
that it can draw the illusion of an airy nourishment from that which to
another nature would be the fountain of all jealousy and hatred.

But now, without reason and without warning, even that was taken from
her, and in its place something burned that she did not know, save that
it was a bad thing, and made even blackness blacker. She heard their
voices still. They were happy together, while she was alone outside, her
forehead resting against the chill glass, and her hands half numb upon
the stone; and so it would always be hereafter. They would go, and take
her life with them, and she should be left behind, alone for ever; and a
great revolt against her fate rose quickly in her breast like a flame
before the wind, and then, as if finding nothing to consume, sank down
again into its own ashes, and left her more lonely than before. The
voices had ceased now, or else the lovers were speaking very low,
fearing, perhaps, that some one might be listening at the window. If
Inez had heard their words at first, she would have stopped her ears or
gone to a distance, for the child knew what that sort of honour meant,
and had done as much before. But the unformed sound had been good to
hear, and she missed it. Perhaps they were sitting close and, hand in
hand, reading all the sweet unsaid things in one another's eyes. There
must be silent voices in eyes that could see, she thought. She took
little thought of the time, yet it seemed long to her since they had
spoken. Perhaps they had gone to another room. She moved to the next
window and listened there, but no sound came from within. Then she heard
footfalls, and one was her father's. Two men were coming out by the
corridor, and she had not time to reach the sentry-box. With her hands
out before her, she went lightly away from the windows to the outer side
of the broad terrace, and cowered down by the balustrade as she ran
against it, not knowing whether she was in the moonlight or the shade.
She had crossed like a shadow and was crouching there before Mendoza and
the King came out. She knew by their steady tread, that ended at the
door, that they had not noticed her; and as the door closed behind them,
she ran back to the window again and listened, expecting to hear loud
and angry words, for she could not doubt that the King and her father
had discovered that Dolores was there, and had come to take her away.
The Princess must have told Mendoza that Dolores had escaped. But she
only heard men's voices speaking in an ordinary tone, and she understood
that Dolores was concealed. Almost at once, and to her dismay, she heard
her father's step in the hall, and now she could neither pass the door
nor run across the terrace again. A moment later the King called him
from within. Instantly she slipped across to the other side, and
listened again. They were shaking a door,--they were in the very act of
finding Dolores. Her heart hurt her. But then the noise stopped, as if
they had given up the attempt, and presently she heard her father's step
again. Thinking that he would remain in the hall until the King called
him,--for she could not possibly guess what had happened,--she stood
quite still.

The door opened without warning, and he was almost upon her before she
knew it. To hesitate an instant was out of the question, and for the
second time that night she fled, running madly to the corridor, which
was not ten steps from where she had been standing, and as she entered
it the light fell upon her from the swinging lamp, though she did not
know it.

Old as he was, Mendoza sprang forward in pursuit when he saw her figure
in the dimness, flying before him, but as she reached the light of the
lamp he stopped himself, staggering one or two steps and then reeling
against the wall. He had recognized Dolores' dress and hood, and there
was not the slightest doubt in his mind but that it was herself. In that
same dress he had seen her in the late afternoon, she had been wearing
it when he had locked her into the sitting-room, and, still clad in it,
she must have come out with the Princess. And now she was running before
him from Don John's lodging. Doubtless she had been in another room and
had slipped out while he was trying the door within.

He passed his hand over his eyes and breathed hard as he leaned against
the wall, for her appearance there could only mean one thing, and that
was ruin to her and disgrace to his name--the very end of all things in
his life, in which all had been based upon his honour and every action
had been a tribute to it.

He was too much stunned to ask himself how the lovers had met, if there
had been any agreement between them, but the frightful conviction took
hold of him that this was not the first time, that long ago, before Don
John had led the army to Granada, Dolores had found her way to that same
door and had spent long hours with her lover when no one knew. Else she
could not have gone to him without agreement, at an instant's notice, on
the very night of his return.

Despair took possession of the unhappy man from that moment. But that
the King was with Don John, Mendoza would have gone back at that moment
to kill his enemy and himself afterwards, if need be. He remembered his
errand then. No doubt that was the very room where Dolores had been
concealed, and she had escaped from it by some other way, of which her
father did not know. He was too dazed to think connectedly, but he had
the King's commands to execute at once. He straightened himself with a
great effort, for the weight of his years had come upon him suddenly and
bowed him like a burden. With the exertion of his will came the thirst
for the satisfaction of blood, and he saw that the sooner he returned
with the key, the sooner he should be near his enemy. But the pulses
came and went in his throbbing temples, as when a man is almost spent in
a struggle with death, and at first he walked uncertainly, as if he felt
no ground under his feet.

By the time he had gone a hundred yards he had recovered a sort of
mechanical self-possession, such as comes upon men at very desperate
times, when they must not allow themselves to stop and think of what is
before them. They were pictures, rather than thoughts, that formed
themselves in his brain as he went along, for he saw all the past years
again, from the day when his young wife had died, he being then already
in middle age, until that afternoon. One by one the years came back, and
the central figure in each was the fair-haired little child, growing
steadily to be a woman, all coming nearer and nearer to the end he had
seen but now, which was unutterable shame and disgrace, and beyond which
there was nothing. He heard the baby voice again, and felt the little
hands upon his brow, and saw the serious grey eyes close to his own; and
then the girl, gravely lovely--and her far-off laugh that hardly ever
rippled through the room when he was there; and then the stealing
softness of grown maidenhood, winning the features one by one, and
bringing back from death to life the face he had loved best, and the
voice with long-forgotten tones that touched his soul's quick, and
dimmed his sight with a mist, so that he grew hard and stern as he
fought within him against the tenderness he loved and feared. All this
he saw and heard and felt again, knowing that each picture must end but
in one way, in the one sight he had seen and that had told his shame--a
guilty woman stealing by night from her lover's door. Not only that,
either, for there was the almost certain knowledge that she had deceived
him for years, and that while he had been fighting so hard to save her
from what seemed but a show of marriage, she had been already lost to
him for ever and ruined beyond all hope of honesty.

They were not thoughts, but pictures of the false and of the true, that
rose and glowed an instant and then sank like the inner darkness of his
soul, leaving only that last most terrible one of all behind them,
burned into his eyes till death should put out their light and bid him
rest at last, if he could rest even in heaven with such a memory.

It was too much, and though he walked upright and gazed before him, he
did not know his way, and his feet took him to his own door instead of
on the King's errand. His hand was raised to knock before he understood,
and it fell to his side in a helpless, hopeless way, when he saw where
he was. Then he turned stiffly, as a man turns on parade, and gathered
his strength and marched away with a measured tread. For the world and
what it held he would not have entered his dwelling then, for he felt
that his daughter was there before him, and that if he once saw her face
he should not be able to hold his hand. He would not see her again on
earth, lest he should take her life for what she had done.

He was more aware of outward things after that, though he almost
commanded himself to do what he had to do, as he would have given orders
to one of his soldiers. He went to the chief steward's office and
demanded the key of the room in the King's name. But it was not
forthcoming, and the fact that it could not be found strengthened his
conviction that Don John had it in his keeping. Yet, for the sake of
form, he insisted sternly, saying that the King was waiting for it even
then. Servants were called and examined and threatened, but those who
knew anything about it unanimously declared that it had been left in the
door, while those who knew nothing supported their fellow-servants by
the same unhesitating assertion, till Mendoza was convinced that he had
done enough, and turned his back on them all and went out with a grey
look of despair on his face.

He walked rapidly now, for he knew that he was going back to meet his
enemy, and he was trying not to think what he should do when he should
see Don John before him and at arm's length, but defended by the King's
presence from any sudden violence. He knew that in his heart there was
the wild resolve to tell the truth before his master and then to take
the payment of blood with one thrust and destroy himself with the next,
but though he was half mad with despair, he would not let the thought
become a resolve. In his soldier's nature, high above everything else
and dominating his austere conscience of right and wrong, as well as
every other instinct of his heart, there was the respect of his
sovereign and the loyalty to him at all costs, good or bad, which sent
self out of sight where his duty to the King was concerned.

       *       *       *       *       *


When he had sent away Mendoza, the King remained standing and began to
pace the floor, while Don John stood by the table watching him and
waiting for him to speak. It was clear that he was still angry, for his
anger, though sometimes suddenly roused, was very slow to reach its
height, and slower still to subside; and when at last it had cooled, it
generally left behind it an enduring hatred, such as could be satisfied
only by the final destruction of the object that had caused it. That
lasting hate was perhaps more dangerous than the sudden outburst had
been, but in moments of furious passion Philip was undoubtedly a man to
be feared.

He was evidently not inclined to speak until he had ascertained that no
one was listening in the next room, but as he looked from time to time
at Don John his still eyes seemed to grow almost yellow, and his lower
lip moved uneasily. He knew, perhaps, that Mendoza could not at once
find the servant in whose keeping the key of the door was supposed to
be, and he grew impatient by quick degrees until his rising temper got
the better of his caution. Don John instinctively drew himself up, as a
man does who expects to be attacked. He was close to the table, and
remained almost motionless during the discussion that followed, while
Philip paced up and down, sometimes pausing before his brother for a
moment, and then turning again to resume his walk. His voice was muffled
always, and was hard to hear; now and then it became thick and
indistinct with rage, and he cleared his throat roughly, as if he were
angry with it, too. At first he maintained the outward forms of courtesy
in words if not in tone, but long before his wrath had reached its final
climax he forgot them altogether.

"I had hoped to speak with you in privacy, on matters of great
importance. It has pleased your Highness to make that impossible by your
extraordinary behaviour."

Don John raised his eyebrows a little incredulously, and answered with
perfect calmness.

"I do not recollect doing anything which should seem extraordinary to
your Majesty."

"You contradict me," retorted Philip. "That is extraordinary enough, I
should think. I am not aware that it is usual for subjects to contradict
the King. What have you to say in explanation?"

"Nothing. The facts explain themselves well enough."

"We are not in camp," said Philip. "Your Highness is not in command
here, and I am not your subordinate. I desire you to remember whom you
are addressing, for your words will be remembered."

"I never said anything which I wished another to forget," answered Don
John proudly.

"Take care, then!" The King spoke sullenly, and turned away, for he was
slow at retort until he was greatly roused.

Don John did not answer, for he had no wish to produce such a result,
and moreover he was much more preoccupied by the serious question of
Dolores' safety than by any other consideration. So far the King had
said nothing which, but for some derogation from his dignity, might not
have been said before any one, and Don John expected that he would
maintain the same tone until Mendoza returned. It was hard to predict
what might happen then. In all probability Dolores would escape by the
window and endeavour to hide herself in the empty sentry-box until the
interview was over. He could then bring her back in safety, but the
discussion promised to be long and stormy, and meanwhile she would be in
constant danger of discovery. But there was a worse possibility, not
even quite beyond the bounds of the probable. In his present mood,
Philip, if he lost his temper altogether, would perhaps be capable of
placing Don John under arrest. He was all powerful, he hated his
brother, and he was very angry. His last words had been a menace, or had
sounded like one, and another word, when Mendoza returned, could put the
threat into execution. Don John reflected, if such thought could be
called reflection, upon the situation that must ensue, and upon the
probable fate of the woman he loved. He wondered whether she were still
in the room, for hearing that the door was to be opened, she might have
thought it best to escape at once, while her father was absent from the
terrace on his errand. If not, she could certainly go out by the window
as soon as she heard him coming back. It was clearly of the greatest
importance to prevent the King's anger from going any further. Antonio
Perez had recognized the same truth from a very different point of view,
and had spent nearly three-quarters of an hour in flattering his master
with the consummate skill which he alone possessed. He believed that he
had succeeded when the King had dismissed him, saying that he would not
see Don John until the morning. Five minutes after Perez was gone,
Philip was threading the corridors, completely disguised in a long black
cloak, with the ever-loyal Mendoza at his heels. It was not the first
time that he had deceived his deceivers.

He paced the room in silence after he had last spoken. As soon as Don
John realized that his liberty might be endangered, he saw that he must
say what he could in honour and justice to save himself from arrest,
since nothing else could save Dolores.

"I greatly regret having done anything to anger your Majesty," he said,
with quiet dignity. "I was placed in a very difficult position by
unforeseen circumstances. If there had been time to reflect, I might
have acted otherwise."

"Might have acted otherwise!" repeated Philip harshly. "I do not like
those words. You might have acted otherwise than to defy your sovereign
before the Queen! I trusted you might, indeed!"

He was silent again, his protruding lip working angrily, as if he had
tasted something he disliked. Don John's half apology had not been
received with much grace, but he saw no way open save to insist that it
was genuine.

"It is certainly true that I have lived much in camps of late," he
answered, "and that a camp is not a school of manners, any more than the
habit of commanding others accustoms a man to courtly submission."

"Precisely. You have learned to forget that you have a superior in
Spain, or in the world. You already begin to affect the manners and
speech of a sovereign--you will soon claim the dignity of one, too, I
have no doubt. The sooner we procure you a kingdom of your own, the
better, for your Highness will before long become an element of discord
in ours."

"Rather than that," answered Don John, "I will live in retirement for
the rest of my life."

"We may require it of your Highness," replied Philip, standing still and
facing his brother. "It may be necessary for our own safety that you
should spend some time at least in very close retirement--very!" He
almost laughed.

"I should prefer that to the possibility of causing any disturbance in
your Majesty's kingdom."

Nothing could have been more gravely submissive than Don John's tone,
but the King was apparently determined to rouse his anger.

"Your deeds belie your words," he retorted, beginning to walk again.
"There is too much loyalty in what you say, and too much of a rebellious
spirit in what you do. The two do not agree together. You mock me."

"God forbid that!" cried Don John. "I desire no praise for what I may
have done, but such as my deeds have been they have produced peace and
submission in your Majesty's kingdom, and not rebellion--"

"And is it because you have beaten a handful of ill-armed Moriscoes, in
the short space of two years, that the people follow you in throngs
wherever you go, shouting for you, singing your praises, bringing
petitions to you by hundreds, as if you were King--as if you were more
than that, a sort of god before whom every one must bow down? Am I so
simple as to believe that what you have done with such leisure is enough
to rouse all Spain, and to make the whole court break out into cries of
wonder and applause as soon as you appear? If you publicly defy me and
disobey me, do I not know that you believe yourself able to do so, and
think your power equal to mine? And how could that all be brought about,
save by a party that is for you, by your secret agents everywhere, high
and low, forever praising you and telling men, and women, too, of your
graces, and your generosities, and your victories, and saying that it is
a pity so good and brave a prince should be but a leader of the King's
armies, and then contrasting the King himself with you, the cruel King,
the grasping King, the scheming King, the King who has every fault that
is not found in Don John of Austria, the people's god! Is that peace and
submission? Or is it the beginning of rebellion, and revolution, and
civil war, which is to set Don John of Austria on the throne of Spain,
and send King Philip to another world as soon as all is ready?"

Don John listened in amazement. It had never occurred to him any one
could believe him capable of the least of the deeds Philip was
attributing to him, and in spite of his resolution his anger began to
rise. Then, suddenly, as if cold water had been dashed in his face, he
remembered that an hour had not passed since he had held Dolores in his
arms, swearing to do that of which he was now accused, and that her
words only had held him back. It all seemed monstrous now. As she had
said, it had been only a bad dream and he had wakened to himself again.
Yet the thought of rebellion had more than crossed his mind, for in a
moment it had taken possession of him and had seemed to change all his
nature from good to bad. In his own eyes he was rebuked, and he did not
answer at once.

"You have nothing to say!" exclaimed Philip scornfully. "Is there any
reason why I should not try you for high treason?"

Don John started at the words, but his anger was gone, and he thought
only of Dolores' safety in the near future.

"Your Majesty is far too just to accuse an innocent man who has served
you faithfully," he answered.

Philip stopped and looked at him curiously and long, trying to detect
some sign of anxiety if not of fear. He was accustomed to torture men
with words well enough, before he used other means, and he himself had
not believed what he had said. It had been only an experiment tried on a
mere chance, and it had failed. At the root of his anger there was only
jealousy and personal hatred of the brother who had every grace and
charm which he himself had not.

"More kind than just, perhaps," he said, with a slight change of tone
towards condescension. "I am willing to admit that I have no proofs
against you, but the evidence of circumstances is not in your favour.
Take care, for you are observed. You are too much before the world, too
imposing a figure to escape observation."

"My actions will bear it. I only beg that your Majesty will take account
of them rather than listen to such interpretation as may be put upon
them by other men."

"Other men do nothing but praise you," said Philip bluntly. "Their
opinion of you is not worth having! I thought I had explained that
matter sufficiently. You are the idol of the people, and as if that were
not enough, you are the darling of the court, besides being the women's
favourite. That is too much for one man to be--take care, I say, take
care! Be at more pains for my favour, and at less trouble for your

"So far as that goes," answered Don John, with some pride, "I think that
if men praise me it is because I have served the King as well as I
could, and with success. If your Majesty is not satisfied with what I
have done, let me have more to do. I shall try to do even the

"That will please the ladies," retorted Philip, with a sneer. "You will
be overwhelmed with correspondence--your gloves will not hold it all"

Don John did not answer, for it seemed wiser to let the King take this
ground than return to his former position.

"You will have plenty of agreeable occupation in time of peace. But it
is better that you should be married soon, before you become so
entangled with the ladies of Madrid as to make your marriage

"Saving the last clause," said Don John boldly, "I am altogether of your
Majesty's opinion. But I fear no entanglements here."

"No--you do not fear them. On the contrary, you live in them as if they
were your element."

"No man can say that," answered Don John.

"You contradict me again. Pray, if you have no entanglements, how comes
it that you have a lady's letter in your glove?"

"I cannot tell whether it was a lady's letter or a man's."

"Have you not read it?"


"And you refused to show it to me on the ground that it was a woman's

"I had not read it then. It was not signed, and it might well have been
written by a man."

Don John watched the King's face. It was for from improbable, he
thought, that the King had caused it to be written, or had written it
himself, that he supposed his brother to have read it, and desired to
regain possession of it as soon as possible. Philip seemed to hesitate
whether to continue his cross-examination or not, and he looked at the
door leading into the antechamber, suddenly wondering why Mendoza had
not returned. Then he began to speak again, but he did not wish, angry
though he was, to face alone a second refusal to deliver the document to
him. His dignity would have suffered too much.

"The facts of the case are these," he said, as if he were recapitulating
what had gone before in his mind. "It is my desire to marry you to the
widowed Queen of Scots, as you know. You are doing all you can to oppose
me, and you have determined to marry the dowerless daughter of a poor
soldier. I am equally determined that you shall not disgrace yourself by
such an alliance."

"Disgrace!" cried Don John loudly, almost before the word had passed the
King's lips, and he made half a step forward. "You are braver than I
thought you, if you dare use that word to me!"

Philip stepped back, growing livid, and his hand was on his rapier. Don
John was unarmed, but his sword lay on the table within his reach.
Seeing the King afraid, he stepped back.

"No," he said scornfully, "I was mistaken. You are a coward." He laughed
as he glanced at Philip's hand, still on the hilt of his weapon and
ready to draw it.

In the next room Dolores drew frightened breath, for the tones of the
two men's voices had changed suddenly. Yet her heart had leapt for joy
when she had heard Don John's cry of anger at the King's insulting word.
But Don John was right, for Philip was a coward at heart, and though he
inwardly resolved that his brother should be placed under arrest as soon
as Mendoza returned, his present instinct was not to rouse him further.
He was indeed in danger, between his anger and his fear, for at any
moment he might speak some bitter word, accustomed as he was to the
perpetual protection of his guards, but at the next his brother's hands
might be on his throat, for he had the coward's true instinct to
recognize the man who was quite fearless.

"You strangely forget yourself," he said, with an appearance of dignity.
"You spring forward as if you were going to grapple with me, and then
you are surprised that I should be ready to defend myself."

"I barely moved a step from where I stand," answered Don John, with
profound contempt. "I am unarmed, too. There lies my sword, on the
table. But since you are the King as well as my brother, I make all
excuses to your Majesty for having been the cause of your fright."

Dolores understood what had happened, as Don John meant that she should.
She knew also that her position was growing more and more desperate and
untenable at every moment; yet she could not blame her lover for what he
had said. Even to save her, she would not have had him cringe to the
King and ask pardon for his hasty word and movement, still less could
she have borne that he should not cry out in protest at a word that
insulted her, though ever so lightly.

"I do not desire to insist upon our kinship," said Philip coldly. "If I
chose to acknowledge it when you were a boy, it was out of respect for
the memory of the Emperor. It was not in the expectation of being called
brother by the son of a German burgher's daughter."

Don John did not wince, for the words, being literally true and without
exaggeration, could hardly be treated as an insult, though they were
meant for one, and hurt him, as all reference to his real mother always

"Yes," he said, still scornfully. "I am the son of a German burgher's
daughter, neither better nor worse. But I am your brother, for all that,
and though I shall not forget that you are King and I am subject, when
we are before the world, yet here, we are man and man, you and I,
brother and brother, and there is neither King nor prince. But I shall
not hurt you, so you need fear nothing. I respect the brother far too
little for that, and the sovereign too much."

There was a bad yellow light in Philip's face, and instead of walking
towards Don John and away from him, as he had done hitherto, he began to
pace up and down, crossing and recrossing before him, from the foot of
the great canopied bed to one of the curtained windows, keeping his eyes
upon his brother almost all the time.

"I warned you when I came here that your words should be remembered," he
said. "And your actions shall not be forgotten, either. There are safe
places, even in Madrid, where you can live in the retirement you desire
so much, even in total solitude."

"If it pleases your Majesty to imprison Don John of Austria, you have
the power. For my part, I shall make no resistance."

"Who shall, then?" asked the King angrily. "Do you expect that there
will be a general rising of the people to liberate you, or that there
will be a revolution within the palace, brought on by your party, which
shall force me to set you free for reasons of state? We are not in Paris
that you should expect the one, nor in Constantinople where the other
might be possible. We are in Spain, and I am master, and my will shall
be done, and no one shall cry out against it. I am too gentle with you,
too kind! For the half of what you have said and done, Elizabeth of
England would have had your life to-morrow--yes, I consent to give you a
chance, the benefit of a doubt there is still in my thoughts about you,
because justice shall not be offended and turned into an instrument of
revenge. Yes--I am kind, I am clement. We shall see whether you can save
yourself. You shall have the chance."

"What chance is that?" asked Don John, growing very quiet, for he saw
the real danger near at hand again.

"You shall have an opportunity of proving that a subject is at liberty
to insult his sovereign, and that the King is not free to speak his mind
to a subject. Can you prove that?"

"I cannot."

"Then you can be convicted of high treason," answered Philip, his evil
mouth curling. "There are several methods of interrogating the accused,"
he continued. "I daresay you have heard of them."

"Do you expect to frighten me by talking of torture?" asked Don John,
with a smile at the implied suggestion.

"Witnesses are also examined," replied the King, his voice thickening
again in anticipation of the effect he was going to produce upon the man
who would not fear him. "With them, even more painful methods are often
employed. Witnesses may be men or women, you know, my dear brother--" he
pronounced the word with a sneer--"and among the many ladies of your

"There are very few."

"It will be the easier to find the two or three, or perhaps the only
one, whom it will be necessary to interrogate--in your presence, most
probably, and by torture."

"I was right to call you a coward," said Don John, slowly turning pale
till his face was almost as white as the white silks and satins of his

"Will you give me the letter you were reading when I came here?"


"Not to save yourself from the executioner's hands?"


"Not to save--" Philip paused, and a frightful stare of hatred fixed his
eyes on his brother. "Will you give me that letter to save Dolores de
Mendoza from being torn piecemeal?"


By instinct Don John's hand went to the hilt of his sheathed sword this
time, as he cried out in rage, and sprang forward. Even then he would
have remembered the promise he had given and would not have raised his
hand to strike. But the first movement was enough, and Philip drew his
rapier in a flash of light, fearing for his life. Without waiting for an
attack he made a furious pass at his brother's body. Don John's hand
went out with the sheathed sword in a desperate attempt to parry the
thrust, but the weapon was entangled in the belt that hung to it, and
Philip's lunge had been strong and quick as lightning.

With a cry of anger Don John fell straight backwards, his feet seeming
to slip from under him on the smooth marble pavement, and with his fall,
as he threw out his hands to save himself, the sword flew high into the
air, sheathed as it was, and landed far away. He lay at full length with
one arm stretched out, and for a moment the hand twitched in quick
spasms. Then it was quite still.

At his feet stood Philip, his rapier in his hand, and blood on its fine
point. His eyes shone yellow in the candlelight, his jaw had dropped a
little, and he bent forwards, looking intently at the still, white face.

He had longed for that moment ever since he had entered his brother's
room, though even he himself had not guessed that he wanted his
brother's life. There was not a sound in the room as he looked at what
he had done, and two or three drops of blood fell one by one, very
slowly, upon the marble. On the dazzling white of Don John's doublet
there was a small red stain. As Philip watched it, he thought it grew
wider and brighter.

Beyond the door, Dolores had fallen upon her knees, pressing her hands
to her temples in an agony beyond thought or expression. Her fear had
risen to terror while she listened to the last words that had been
exchanged, and the King's threat had chilled her blood like ice, though
she was brave. She had longed to cry out to Don John to give up her
letter or the other, whichever the King wanted--she had almost tried to
raise her voice, in spite of every other fear, when she had heard Don
John's single word of scorn, and the quick footsteps, the drawing of the
rapier from its sheath, the desperate scuffle that had not lasted five
seconds, and then the dull fall which meant that one was hurt.

It could only be the King,--but that was terrible enough,--and yet, if
the King had fallen, Don John would have come to the door the next
instant. All was still in the room, but her terror made wild noises in
her ears. The two men might have spoken now and she could not have heard
them,--nor the opening of a door, nor any ordinary sound. It was no
longer the fear of being heard, either, that made her silent. Her throat
was parched and her tongue paralyzed. She remembered suddenly that Don
John had been unarmed, and how he had pointed out to Philip that his
sword lay on the table. It was the King who had drawn his own, then, and
had killed his unarmed brother. She felt as if something heavy were
striking her head as the thoughts made broken words, and flashes of
light danced before her eyes. With her hands she tried to press feeling
and reason and silence back into her brain that would not be quieted,
but the certainty grew upon her that Don John was killed, and the tide
of despair rose higher with every breath.

The sensation came upon her that she was dying, then and there, of a
pain human nature could not endure, far beyond the torments Philip had
threatened, and the thought was merciful, for she could not have lived
an hour in such agony,--something would have broken before then. She was
dying, there, on her knees before the door beyond which her lover lay
suddenly dead. It would be easy to die. In a moment more she would be
with him, for ever, and in peace. They would find her there, dead, and
perhaps they would be merciful and bury her near him. But that would
matter little, since she should be with him always now. In the first
grief that struck her, and bruised her, and numbed her as with material
blows, she had no tears, but there was a sort of choking fire in her
throat, and her eyes burned her like hot iron.

She did not know how long she knelt, waiting for death. She was dying,
and there was no time any more, nor any outward world, nor anything but
her lover's dead body on the floor in the next room, and his soul
waiting for hers, waiting beside her for her to die also, that they
might go together. She was so sure now, that she was wondering dreamily
why it took so long to die, seeing that death had taken him so quickly.
Could one shaft be aimed so straight and could the next miss the mark?
She shook all over, as a new dread seized her. She was not dying,--her
life clung too closely to her suffering body, her heart was too young
and strong to stand still in her breast for grief. She was to live, and
bear that same pain a lifetime. She rocked herself gently on her knees,
bowing her head almost to the floor.

She was roused by the sound of her father's voice, and the words he was
speaking sent a fresh shock of horror through her unutterable grief, for
they told her that Don John was dead, and then something else so strange
that she could not understand it.

Philip had stood only a few moments, sword in hand, over his brother's
body, staring down at his face, when the door opened. On the threshold
stood old Mendoza, half-stunned by the sight he saw. Philip heard, stood
up, and drew back as his eyes fell upon the old soldier. He knew that
Mendoza, if no one else, knew the truth now, beyond any power of his to
conceal it. His anger had subsided, and a sort of horror that could
never be remorse, had come over him for what he had done. It must have
been in his face, for Mendoza understood, and he came forward quickly
and knelt down upon the floor to listen for the beating of the heart,
and to try whether there was any breath to dim the brightness of his
polished scabbard. Philip looked on in silence. Like many an old soldier
Mendoza had some little skill, but he saw the bright spot on the white
doublet, and the still face and the hands relaxed, and there was neither
breath nor beating of the heart to give hope. He rose silently, and
shook his head. Still looking down he saw the red drops that had fallen
upon the pavement from Philip's rapier, and looking at that, saw that
the point was dark. With a gesture of excuse he took the sword from the
King's hand and wiped it quite dry and bright upon his own handkerchief,
and gave it back to Philip, who sheathed it by his side, but never

Together the two looked at the body for a full minute and more, each
silently debating what should be done with it. At last Mendoza raised
his head, and there was a strange look in his old eyes and a sort of wan
greatness came over his war-worn face. It was then that he spoke the
words Dolores heard.

"I throw myself upon your Majesty's mercy! I have killed Don John of
Austria in a private quarrel, and he was unarmed."

Philip understood well enough, and a faint smile of satisfaction flitted
through the shadows of his face. It was out of the question that the
world should ever know who had killed his brother, and he knew the man
who offered to sacrifice himself by bearing the blame of the deed.
Mendoza would die, on the scaffold if need be, and it would be enough
for him to know that his death saved his King. No word would ever pass
his lips. The man's loyalty would bear any proof; he could feel horror
at the thought that Philip could have done such a deed, but the King's
name must be saved at all costs, and the King's divine right must be
sustained before the world. He felt no hesitation from the moment when
he saw clearly how this must be done. To accuse some unknown murderer
and let it be supposed that he had escaped would have been worse than
useless; the court and half Spain knew of the King's jealousy of his
brother, every one had seen that Philip had been very angry when the
courtiers had shouted for Don John; already the story of the quarrel
about the glove was being repeated from mouth to mouth in the throne
room, where the nobles had reassembled after supper. As soon as it was
known that Don John was dead, it would be believed by every one in the
palace that the King had killed him or had caused him to be murdered.
But if Mendoza took the blame upon himself, the court would believe him,
for many knew of Dolores' love for Don John, and knew also how bitterly
the old soldier was opposed to their marriage, on the ground that it
would be no marriage at all, but his daughter's present ruin. There was
no one else in the palace who could accuse himself of the murder and who
would be believed to have done it without the King's orders, and Mendoza
knew this, when he offered his life to shield Philip's honour. Philip
knew it, too, and while he wondered at the old man's simple devotion, he
accepted it without protest, as his vast selfishness would have
permitted the destruction of all mankind, that it might be satisfied and

He looked once more at the motionless body at his feet, and once more at
the faithful old man. Then he bent his head with condescending gravity,
as if he were signifying his pleasure to receive kindly, for the giver's
sake, a gift of little value.

"So be it," he said slowly.

Mendoza bowed his head, too, as if in thanks, and then taking up the
long dark cloak which the King had thrown off on entering, he put it
upon Philip's shoulders, and went before him to the door. And Philip
followed him without looking back, and both went out upon the terrace,
leaving both doors ajar after them. They exchanged a few words more as
they walked slowly in the direction of the corridor.

"It is necessary that your Majesty should return at once to the throne
room, as if nothing had happened," said Mendoza. "Your Majesty should be
talking unconcernedly with some ambassador or minister when the news is
brought that his Highness is dead."

"And who shall bring the news?" asked Philip calmly, as if he were
speaking to an indifferent person.

"I will, Sire," answered Mendoza firmly.

"They will tear you in pieces before I can save you," returned Philip,
in a thoughtful tone.

"So much the better. I shall die for my King, and your Majesty will be
spared the difficulty of pardoning a deed which will be unpardonable in
the eyes of the whole world."

"That is true," said the King meditatively. "But I do not wish you to
die, Mendoza," he added, as an afterthought. "You must escape to France
or to England."

"I could not make my escape without your Majesty's help, and that would
soon be known. It would then be believed that I had done the deed by
your Majesty's orders, and no good end would have been gained."

"You may be right. You are a very brave man, Mendoza--the bravest I have
ever known. I thank you. If it is possible to save you, you shall be

"It will not be possible," replied the soldier, in a low and steady
voice. "If your Majesty will return at once to the throne room, it may
be soon over. Besides, it is growing late, and it must be done before
the whole court."

They entered the corridor, and the King walked a few steps before
Mendoza, covering his head with the hood of his cloak lest any one
should recognize him, and gradually increasing his distance as the old
man fell behind. Descending by a private staircase, Philip reëntered his
own apartments by a small door that gave access to his study without
obliging him to pass through the antechamber, and by which he often came
and went unobserved. Alone in his innermost room, and divested of his
hood and cloak, the King went to a Venetian mirror that stood upon a
pier table between the windows, and examined his face attentively. Not a
trace of excitement or emotion was visible in the features he saw, but
his hair was a little disarranged, and he smoothed it carefully and
adjusted it about his ears. From a silver box on the table he took a
little scented lozenge and put it into his mouth. No reasonable being
would have suspected from his appearance that he had been moved to
furious anger and had done a murderous deed less than twenty minutes
earlier. His still eyes were quite calm now, and the yellow gleam in
them had given place to their naturally uncertain colour. With a smile
of admiration for his own extraordinary powers, he turned and left the
room. He was enjoying one of his rare moments of satisfaction, for the
rival he had long hated and was beginning to dread was never to stand in
his way again nor to rob him of the least of his attributes of

       *       *       *       *       *


Dolores had not understood her father's words. All that was clear to her
was that Don John was dead and that his murderers were gone. Had there
been danger still for herself, she could not have felt it; but there was
none now as she laid her hand upon the key to enter the bedchamber. At
first the lock would not open, as it had been injured in some way by
being so roughly shaken when Mendoza had tried it. But Dolores'
desperate fingers wound themselves upon the key like little ropes of
white silk, slender but very strong, and she wrenched at the thing
furiously till it turned. The door flew open, and she stood motionless a
moment on the threshold. Mendoza had said that Don John was dead, but
she had not quite believed it.

He lay on his back as he had fallen, his feet towards her, his graceful
limbs relaxed, one arm beside him, the other thrown back beyond his
head, the colourless fingers just bent a little and showing the nervous
beauty of the hand. The beautiful young face was white as marble, and
the eyes were half open, very dark under the waxen lids. There was one
little spot of scarlet on the white satin coat, near the left breast.
Dolores saw it all in the bright light of the candles, and she neither
moved nor closed her fixed eyes as she gazed. She felt that she was at
the end of life; she stood still to see it all and to understand. But
though she tried to think, it was as if she had no mind left, no
capacity for grasping any new thought, and no power to connect those
that had disturbed her brain with the present that stared her in the
face. An earthquake might have torn the world open under her feet at
that moment, swallowing up the old Alcazar with the living and the dead,
and Dolores would have gone down to destruction as she stood,
unconscious of her fate, her eyes fixed upon Don John's dead features,
her own life already suspended and waiting to follow his. It seemed as
if she might stand there till her horror should stop the beating of her
own heart, unless something came to rouse her from the stupor she was

But gradually a change came over her face, her lids drooped and
quivered, her face turned a little upward, and she grasped the doorpost
with one hand, lest she should reel and fall. Then, knowing that she
could stand no longer, instinct made a last effort upon her; its
invisible power thrust her violently forward in a few swift steps, till
her strength broke all at once, and she fell and lay almost upon the
body of her lover, her face hidden upon his silent breast, one hand
seeking his hand, the other pressing his cold forehead.

It was not probable that any one should find her there for a long time.
The servants and gentlemen had been dismissed, and until it was known
that Don John was dead, no one would come. Even if she could have
thought at all, she would not have cared who saw her lying there; but
thought was altogether gone now, and there was nothing left but the
ancient instinct of the primeval woman mourning her dead mate alone,
with long-drawn, hopeless weeping and blinding tears.

They came, too, when she had lain upon his breast a little while and
when understanding had wholly ceased and given way to nature. Then her
body shook and her breast heaved strongly, almost throwing her upon her
side as she lay, and sounds that were hardly human came from her lips;
for the first dissolving of a woman's despair into tears is most like
the death agony of those who die young in their strength, when the limbs
are wrung at the joints and the light breaks in the upturned eyes, when
the bosom heaves and would take in the whole world at one breath, when
the voice makes sounds of fear that are beyond words and worse to hear
than any words could be.

Her weeping was wild at first, measureless and violent, broken by sharp
cries that hurt her heart like jagged knives, then strangled to a
choking silence again and again, as the merciless consciousness that
could have killed, if it had prevailed, almost had her by the throat,
but was forced back again with cruel pain by the young life that would
not die, though living was agony and death would have been as welcome as

Then her loud grief subsided to a lower key, and her voice grew by
degrees monotonous and despairing as the turning tide on a quicksand,
before bad weather,--not diminished, but deeper drawn within itself; and
the low moan came regularly with each breath, while the tears flowed
steadily. The first wild tempest had swept by, and the more enduring
storm followed in its track.

So she lay a long time weeping; and then strong hands were upon her,
lifting her up and dragging her away, without warning and without word.
She did not understand, and she fancied herself in the arms of some
supernatural being of monstrous strength that was tearing her from what
was left of life and love. She struggled senselessly, but she could find
no foothold as she was swept through the open door. She gasped for
breath, as one does in bad dreams, and bodily fear almost reached her
heart through its sevenfold armour of such grief as makes fear
ridiculous and turns mortal danger to an empty show. The time had seemed
an age since she had fallen upon dead Don John--it had measured but a
short few minutes; it seemed as if she were being dragged the whole
length of the dim palace as the strong hands bore her along, yet she was
only carried from the room to the terrace; and when her eyes could see,
she knew that she was in the open air on a stone seat in the moonlight,
the cool night breeze fanning her face, while a gentle hand supported
her head,--the same hand that had been so masterfully strong a moment
earlier. A face she knew and did not dread, though it was unlike other
faces, was just at the same height with her own, though the man was
standing beside her and she was seated; and the moonlight made very soft
shadows in the ill-drawn features of the dwarf, so that his thin and
twisted lips were kind and his deep-set eyes were overflowing with human
sympathy. When he understood that she saw him and was not fainting, he
gently drew away his hand and let her head rest against the stone

She was dazed still, and the tears veiled her sight. He stood before
her, as if guarding her, ready in case she should move and try to leave
him. His long arms hung by his sides, but not quite motionless, so that
he could have caught her instantly had she attempted to spring past him;
and he was wise and guessed rightly what she would do. Her eyes
brightened suddenly, and she half rose before he held her again.

"No, no!" she said desperately. "I must go to him--let me go--let me go

But his hands were on her shoulders in an instant, and she was in a
vise, forced back to her seat.

"How dare you touch me!" she cried, in the furious anger of a woman
beside herself with grief. "How dare you lay hands on me!" she repeated
in a rising key, but struggling in vain against his greater strength.

"You would have died, if I had left you there," answered the jester.
"And besides, the people will come soon, and they would have found you
there, lying on his body, and your good name would have gone forever."

"My name! What does a name matter? Or anything? Oh, let me go! No one
must touch him--no hands that do not love him must come near him--let me
get up--let me go in again!"

She tried to force the dwarf from her--she would have struck him,
crushed him, thrown him from the terrace, if she could. She was strong,
too, in her grief; but his vast arms were like iron bars, growing from
his misshapen body. His face was very grave and kind, and his eyes more
tender than they had ever been in his life.

"No," he said gently. "You must not go. By and by you shall see him
again, but not now. Do not try, for I am much stronger than you, and I
will not let you go back into the room."

Then her strength relaxed, and she turned to the stone parapet, burying
her face in her crossed arms, and her tears came again. For this the
jester was glad, knowing that tears quench the first white heat of such
sorrows as can burn out the soul and drive the brain raving mad, when
life can bear the torture. He stood still before her, watching her and
guarding her, but he felt that the worst was past, and that before very
long he could lead her away to a place of greater safety. He had indeed
taken her as far as he could from Don John's door, and out of sight of
it, where the long terrace turned to the westward, and where it was not
likely that any one should pass at that hour. It had been the impulse of
the moment, and he himself had not recovered from the shock of finding
Don John's body lifeless on the floor. He had known nothing of what had
happened, but lurking in a corner to see the King pass on his way back
from his brother's quarters, he had made sure that Don John was alone,
and had gone to his apartment to find out, if he could, how matters had
fared, and whether he himself were in further danger or not. He meant to
escape from the palace, or to take his own life, rather than be put to
the torture, if the King suspected him of being involved in a
conspiracy. He was not a common coward, but he feared bodily pain as
only such sensitive organizations can, and the vision of the rack and
the boot had been before him since he had seen Philip's face at supper.
Don John was kind, and would have warned him if he were in danger, and
so all might have been well, and by flight or death he might have
escaped being torn limb from limb. So he had gone boldly in, and had
found the door ajar and had entered the bedchamber, and when he had seen
what was there, he would have fled at once, for his own safety, not only
because Don John's murder was sure to produce terrible trouble, and many
enquiries and trials, in the course of which he was almost sure to be
lost, but also for the more immediate reason that if he were seen near
the body when it was discovered, he should certainly be put to the
question ordinary and extraordinary for his evidence.

But he was not a common coward, and in spite of his own pardonable
terror, he thought first of the innocent girl whose name and fame would
be gone if she were found lying upon her murdered lover's body, and so
far as he could, he saved her before he thought of saving himself,
though with infinite difficulty and against her will.

Half paralyzed by her immeasurable grief, she lay against the parapet,
and the great sobs came evenly, as if they were counted, shaking her
from her head to her waist, and just leaving her a breathing space
between each one and the next. The jester felt that he could do nothing.
So long as she had seemed unconscious, he had tried to help her a little
by supporting her head with his hand and arm, as tenderly as if she had
been his own child. So long as she did not know what he was doing, she
was only a human being in distress, and a woman, and deep down in the
jester's nature there was a marvellous depth of pity for all things that
suffered--the deeper and truer because his own sufferings in the world
were great. But it was quite different now that she knew where she was
and recognized him. She was no longer a woman now, but a high-born lady,
one of the Queen's maids of honour, a being infinitely far removed above
his sphere, and whose hand he was not worthy to touch. He would have
dared to be much more familiar with the King himself than with this
young girl whom fate had placed in his keeping for a moment. In the
moonlight he watched her, and as he gazed upon her graceful figure and
small head and slender, bending arms, it seemed to him that she had come
down from an altar to suffer in life, and that it had been almost
sacrilege to lay his hands upon her shoulders and keep her from doing
her own will. He almost wondered how he had found courage to be so rough
and commanding. He was gentle of heart, though it was his trade to make
sharp speeches, and there were wonderful delicacies of thought and
feeling far down in his suffering cripple's nature.

"Come," he said softly, when he had waited a long time, and when he
thought she was growing more quiet. "You must let me take you away, Doña
Maria Dolores, for we cannot stay here."

"Take me back to him," she answered. "Let me go back to him!"

"No--to your father--I cannot take you to him. You will be safe there."

Dolores sprang to her feet before the dwarf could prevent her.

"To my father? oh, no, no, no! Never, as long as I live! I will go
anywhere, but not to him! Take your hands from me--do not touch me! I am
not strong, but I shall kill you if you try to take me to my father!"

Her small hands grasped the dwarfs wrists and wrung them with desperate
energy, and she tried to push him away, so that she might pass him. But
he resisted her quietly, planting himself in a position of resistance on
his short bowed legs, and opposing the whole strength of his great arms
to her girlish violence. Her hands relaxed suddenly in despair.

"Not to my father!" she pleaded, in a broken voice. "Oh, please,
please--not to my father!"

The jester did not fully understand, but he yielded, for he could not
carry her to Mendoza's apartments by force.

"But what can I do to put you in a place of safety?" he asked, in
growing distress. "You cannot stay here."

While he was speaking a light figure glided out from the shadows, with
outstretched hands, and a low voice called Dolores' name, trembling with
terror and emotion. Dolores broke from the dwarf and clasped her sister
in her arms.

"Is it true?" moaned Inez. "Is it true? Is he dead?" And her voice

       *       *       *       *       *


The courtiers had assembled again in the great throne room after supper,
and the stately dancing, for which the court of Spain was even then
famous throughout Europe, had begun. The orchestra was placed under the
great arch of the central window on a small raised platform draped with
velvets and brocades that hung from a railing, high enough to conceal
the musicians as they sat, though some of the instruments and the moving
bows of the violins could be seen above it.

The masked dancing, if it were dancing at all, which had been general in
the days of the Emperor Maximilian, and which had not yet gone out of
fashion altogether at the imperial court of Vienna, had long been
relegated to the past in Spain, and the beautiful "pavane" dances, of
which awkward travesties survive in our day, had been introduced
instead. As now, the older ladies of the court withdrew to the sides of
the hall, leaving the polished floor free for those who danced, and sets
formed themselves in the order of their rank from the foot of the throne
dais to the lower end. As now, too, the older and graver men congregated
together in outer rooms; and there gaming-tables were set out, and the
nobles lost vast sums at games now long forgotten, by the express
authorization of the pious Philip, who saw that everything which could
injure the fortunes of the grandees must consolidate his own, by
depriving them of some of that immense wealth which was an ever-ready
element of revolution. He did everything in his power to promote the
ruin of the most powerful grandees in the kingdom by encouraging gaming
and all imaginable forms of extravagance, and he looked with suspicion
and displeasure upon those more prudent men who guarded their riches
carefully, as their fathers had done before them. But these were few,
for it was a part of a noble's dignity to lose enormous sums of money
without the slightest outward sign of emotion or annoyance.

It had been announced that the King and Queen would not return after
supper, and the magnificent gravity of the most formal court in the
world was a little relaxed when this was known. Between the strains of
music, the voices of the courtiers rose in unbroken conversation, and
now and then there was a ripple of fresh young laughter that echoed
sweetly under the high Moorish vault, and died away just as it rose
again from below.

Yet the dancing was a matter of state, and solemn enough, though it was
very graceful. Magnificent young nobles in scarlet, in pale green, in
straw colour, in tender shades of blue, all satin and silk and velvet
and embroidery, led lovely women slowly forward with long and gliding
steps that kept perfect time to the music, and turned and went back, and
wound mazy figures with the rest, under the waxen light of the waxen
torches, and returned to their places with deep curtsies on the one
side, and sweeping obeisance on the other. The dresses of the women were
richer by far with gold and silver, and pearls and other jewels, than
those of the men, but were generally darker in tone, for that was the
fashion then. Their skirts were straight and barely touched the floor,
being made for a time when dancing was a part of court life, and when
every one within certain limits of age was expected to dance well. There
was no exaggeration of the ruffle then, nor had the awkward hoop skirt
been introduced in Spain. Those were the earlier days of Queen
Elizabeth's reign, before Queen Mary was imprisoned; it was the time,
indeed, when the rough Bothwell had lately carried her off and married
her, after a fashion, with so little ceremony that Philip paid no
attention to the marriage at all, and deliberately proposed to make her
Don John's wife. The matter was freely talked of on that night by the
noble ladies of elder years who gossiped while they watched the dancing.

That was indeed such a court as had not been seen before, nor was ever
seen again, whether one count beauty first, or riches and magnificence,
or the marvel of splendid ceremony and the faultless grace of studied
manners, or even the cool recklessness of great lords and ladies who
could lose a fortune at play, as if they were throwing a handful of coin
to a beggar in the street.

The Princess of Eboli stood a little apart from the rest, having just
returned to the ball-room, and her eyes searched for Dolores in the
crowd, though she scarcely expected to see her there. It would have been
almost impossible for the girl to put on a court dress in so short a
time, though since her father had allowed her to leave her room, she
could have gone back to dress if she had chosen. The Princess had rarely
been at a loss in her evil life, and had seldom been baffled in anything
she had undertaken, since that memorable occasion on which her husband,
soon after her marriage, had forcibly shut her up in a convent for
several months, in the vain hope of cooling her indomitable temper. But
now she was nervous and uncertain of herself. Not only had Dolores
escaped her, but Don John had disappeared also, and the Princess had not
the least doubt but that the two were somewhere together, and she was
very far from being sure that they had not already left the palace.
Antonio Perez had informed her that the King had promised not to see Don
John that night, and for once she was foolish enough to believe the
King's word. Perez came up to her as she was debating what she should
do. She told him her thoughts, laughing gaily from time to time, as if
she were telling him some very witty story, for she did not wish those
who watched them to guess that the conversation was serious. Perez
laughed, too, and answered in low tones, with many gestures meant to
deceive the court.

"The King did not take my advice," he said. "I had scarcely left him,
when he went to Don John's apartments."

"How do you know that?" asked the Princess, with some anxiety.

"He found the door of an inner room locked, and he sent Mendoza to find
the key. Fortunately for the old man's feelings it could not be found!
He would have had an unpleasant surprise."


"Because his daughter was in the room that was locked," laughed Perez.

"When? How? How long ago was that?"

"Half an hour--not more."

"That is impossible. Half an hour ago Dolores de Mendoza was with me."

"Then there was another lady in the room." Perez laughed again. "Better
two than one," he added.

"You are wrong," said the Princess, and her face darkened. "Don John has
not so much as deigned to look at any other woman these two years."

"You should know that best," returned the Secretary, with a little
malice in his smile.

It was well known in the court that two or three years earlier, during
the horrible intrigue that ended in the death of Don Carlos, the
Princess of Eboli had done her best to bring Don John of Austria to her
feet, and had failed notoriously, because he was already in love with
Dolores. She was angry now, and the rich colour came into her handsome
dark face.

"Don Antonio Perez," she said, "take care! I have made you. I can also
unmake you."

Perez assumed an air of simple and innocent surprise, as if he were
quite sure that he had said nothing to annoy her, still less to wound
her deeply. He believed that she really loved him and that he could play
with her as if his own intelligence far surpassed hers. In the first
matter he was right, but he was very much mistaken in the second.

"I do not understand," he said. "If I have done anything to offend you,
pray forgive my ignorance, and believe in the unchanging devotion of
your most faithful slave."

His dark eyes became very expressive as he bowed a little, with a
graceful gesture of deprecation. The Princess laughed lightly, but there
was still a spark of annoyance in her look.

"Why does Don John not come?" she asked impatiently. "We should have
danced together. Something must have happened--can you not find out?"

Others were asking the same question in surprise, for it had been
expected that Don John would enter immediately after the supper. His
name was heard from end to end of the hall, in every conversation,
wherever two or three persons were talking together. It was in the air,
like his popularity, everywhere and in everything, and the expectation
of his coming produced a sort of tension that was felt by every one. The
men grew more witty, the younger women's eyes brightened, though they
constantly glanced towards the door of the state apartments by which Don
John should enter, and as the men's conversation became more brilliant
the women paid less attention to it, for there was hardly one of them
who did not hope that Don John might notice her before the evening was
over,--there was not one who did not fancy herself a little in love with
him, as there was hardly a man there who would not have drawn his sword
for him and fought for him with all his heart. Many, though they dared
not say so, secretly wished that some evil might befall Philip, and that
he might soon die childless, since he had destroyed his only son and
only heir, and that Don John might be King in his stead. The Princess of
Eboli and Perez knew well enough that their plan would be popular, if
they could ever bring it to maturity.

The music swelled and softened, and rose again in those swaying strains
that inspire an irresistible bodily longing for rhythmical motion, and
which have infinite power to call up all manner of thoughts, passionate,
gentle, hopeful, regretful, by turns. In the middle of the hall, more
than a hundred dancers moved, swayed, and glided in time with the sound,
changed places, and touched hands in the measure, tripped forward and
back and sideways, and met and parted again without pause, the colours
of their dresses mingling to rich unknown hues in the soft candlelight,
as the figure brought many together, and separating into a hundred
elements again, when the next steps scattered them again; the jewels in
the women's hair, the clasps of diamonds and precious stones at throat,
and shoulder, and waist, all moved with an intricate motion, in orbits
that crossed and recrossed in the tinted sea of silk, and flashed all at
once, as the returning burden of the music brought the dancers to stand
and turn at the same beat of the measure. Yet it was all unlike the
square dancing of these days, which is either no dancing at all, but a
disorderly walk, or else is so stiffly regular and awkward that it makes
one think of a squad of recruits exercising on the drill ground. There
was not a motion, then, that lacked grace, or ease, or a certain purpose
of beauty, nor any, perhaps, that was not a phrase in the allegory of
love, from which all dancing is, and was, and always must be, drawn.
Swift, slow, by turns, now languorous, now passionate, now full of
delicious regret, singing love's triumph, breathing love's fire, sighing
in love's despair, the dance and its music were one, so was sight
intermingled with sound, and motion a part of both. And at each pause,
lips parted and glance sought glance in the light, while hearts found
words in the music that answered the language of love. Men laugh at
dancing and love it, and women, too, and no one can tell where its charm
is, but few have not felt it, or longed to feel it, and its beginnings
are very far away in primeval humanity, beyond the reach of theory,
unless instinct may explain all simply, as it well may. For light and
grace and sweet sound are things of beauty which last for ever, and love
is the source of the future and the explanation of the past; and that
which can bring into itself both love and melody, and grace and light,
must needs be a spell to charm men and women.

There was more than that in the air on that night, for Don John's return
had set free that most intoxicating essence of victory, which turns to a
mad fire in the veins of a rejoicing people, making the least man of
them feel himself a soldier, and a conqueror, and a sharer in undying
fame. They had loved him from a child, they had seen him outgrow them in
beauty, and skill, and courage, and they had loved him still the more
for being the better man; and now he had done a great deed, and had
fulfilled and overfilled their greatest expectations, and in an instant
he leapt from the favourite's place in their hearts to the hero's height
on the altar of their wonder, to be the young god of a nation that loved
him. Not a man, on that night, but would have sworn that Don John was
braver than Alexander, wiser than Charlemagne, greater than Cæsar
himself; not a man but would have drawn his sword to prove it on the
body of any who should dare to contradict him,--not a mother was there,
who did not pray that her sons might be but ever so little like him, no
girl of Spain but dreamt she heard his soft voice speaking low in her
ear. Not often in the world's story has a man so young done such great
things as he had done and was to do before his short life was ended;
never, perhaps, was any man so honoured by his own people, so trusted,
and so loved.

They could talk only of him, wondering more and more that he stayed away
from them on such a night, yet sure that he would come, and join the
dancing, for as he fought with a skill beyond that of other swordsmen,
so he danced with the most surpassing grace. They longed to see him, to
look into his face, to hear his voice, perhaps to touch his hand; for he
was free of manner and gentle to all, and if he came he would go from
one to another, and remember each with royal memory, and find kind words
for every one. They wanted him among them, they felt a sort of tense
desire to see him again, and even to shout for him again, as the vulgar
herd did in the streets,--as they themselves had done but an hour ago
when he had stood out beside the throne. And still the dancers danced
through the endless measures, laughing and talking at each pause, and
repeating his name till it was impossible not to hear it, wherever one
might be in the hall, and there was no one, old or young, who did not
speak it at least once in every five minutes. There was a sort of
intoxication in its very sound, and the more they heard it, the more
they wished to hear it, coupled with every word of praise that the
language possessed. From admiration they rose to enthusiasm, from
enthusiasm to a generous patriotic passion in which Spain was the world
and Don John was Spain, and all the rest of everything was but a dull
and lifeless blank which could have no possible interest for natural

Young men, darkly flushed from dancing, swore that whenever Don John
should be next sent with an army, they would go, too, and win his
battles and share in his immortal glory; and grand, grey men who wore
the Golden Fleece, men who had seen great battles in the Emperor's day,
stood together and talked of him, and praised God that Spain had another
hero of the Austrian house, to strike terror to the heart of France, to
humble England at last, and to grasp what little of the world was not
already gathered in the hollow of Spain's vast hand.

Antonio Perez and the Princess of Eboli parted and went among the
courtiers, listening to all that was to be heard and feeding the fire of
enthusiasm, and met again to exchange glances of satisfaction, for they
were well pleased with the direction matters were taking, and the talk
grew more free from minute to minute, till many, carried away by a force
they could not understand and did not seek to question, were openly
talking of the succession to the throne, of Philip's apparent ill
health, and of the chance that they might before long be doing service
to his Majesty King John.

The music ceased again, and the couples dispersed about the hall, to
collect again in groups. There was a momentary lull in the talk, too, as
often happens when a dance is just over, and at that moment the great
door beside the throne was opened, with a noise that attracted the
attention of all; and all believed that Don John was returning, while
all eyes were fixed upon the entrance to catch the first glimpse of him,
and every one pronounced his name at once in short, glad tones of

"Don John is coming! It is Don John of Austria! Don John is there!"

It was almost a universal cry of welcome. An instant later a dead
silence followed as a chamberlain's clear voice announced the royal
presence, and King Philip advanced upon the platform of the throne. For
several seconds not a sound broke the stillness, and he came slowly
forward followed by half a dozen nobles in immediate attendance upon
him. But though he must have heard his brother's name in the general
chorus of voices as soon as the door had been thrown open, he seemed by
no means disconcerted; on the contrary, he smiled almost affably, and
his eyes were less fixed than usual, as he looked about him with
something like an air of satisfaction. As soon as it was clear that he
meant to descend the steps to the floor of the hall, the chief courtiers
came forward, Ruy Gomez de Silva, Prince of Eboli, Alvarez de Toledo,
the terrible Duke of Alva, the Dukes of Medina Sidonia and of Infantado,
Don Antonio Perez the chief Secretary, the Ambassadors of Queen
Elizabeth of England and of France, and a dozen others, bowing so low
that the plumes of their hats literally touched the floor beside them.

"Why is there no dancing?" asked Philip, addressing Ruy Gomez, with a

The Minister explained that one of the dances was but just over.

"Let there be more at once," answered the King. "Let there be dancing
and music without end to-night. We have good reason to keep the day with
rejoicing, since the war is over, and Don John of Austria has come back
in triumph."

The command was obeyed instantly, as Ruy Gomez made a sign to the leader
of the musicians, who was watching him intently in expectation of the
order. The King smiled again as the long strain broke the silence and
the conversation began again all through the hall, though in a far more
subdued tone than before, and with much more caution. Philip turned to
the English Ambassador.

"It is a pity," he said, "that my sister of England cannot be here with
us on such a night as this. We saw no such sights in London in my day,
my lord."

"There have been changes since then, Sire," answered the Ambassador.
"The Queen is very much inclined to magnificence and to great
entertainments, and does not hesitate to dance herself, being of a very
vital and pleasant temper. Nevertheless, your Majesty's court is by far
the most splendid in the world."

"There you are right, my lord!" exclaimed the King. "And for that
matter, we have beauty also, such as is found nowhere else."

The Princess of Eboli was close by, waiting for him to speak to her, and
his eyes fixed themselves upon her face with a sort of cold and
snakelike admiration, to which she was well accustomed, but which even
now made her nervous. The Ambassador was not slow to take up the cue of
flattery, for Englishmen still knew how to flatter in Elizabeth's day.

"The inheritance of universal conquest," he said, bowing and smiling to
the Princess. "Even the victories of Don John of Austria must yield to

The Princess laughed carelessly. Had Perez spoken the words, she would
have frowned, but the King's eyes were watching her.

"His Highness has fled from the field without striking a blow," she
said. "We have not seen him this evening." As she spoke she met the
King's gaze with a look of enquiry.

"Don John will be here presently, no doubt," he said, as if answering a
question. "Has he not been here at all since supper?"

"No, Sire; though every one expected him to come at once."

"That is strange," said Philip, with perfect self-possession. "He is
fond of dancing, too--no one can dance better than he. Have you ever
known a man so roundly gifted as my brother, my lord?"

"A most admirable prince," answered the Ambassador, gravely and without
enthusiasm, for he feared that the King was about to speak of his
brother's possible marriage with Queen Mary of Scots.

"And a most affectionate and gentle nature," said Philip, musing. "I
remember from the time when he was a boy that every one loved him and
praised him, and yet he is not spoiled. He is always the same. He is my
brother--how often have I wished for such a son! Well, he may yet be
King. Who should, if not he, when I am gone?"

"Your Majesty need not anticipate such a frightful calamity!" cried the
Princess fervently, though she was at that moment weighing the
comparative advantage of several mortal diseases by which, in appearance
at least, his exit from the world might be accelerated.

"Life is very uncertain, Princess," observed the King. "My lord," he
turned to the English Ambassador again, "do you consider melons
indigestible in England? I have lately heard much against them."

"A melon is a poor thing, of a watery constitution, your Majesty,"
replied the Ambassador glibly. "There can be but little sustenance in a
hollow piece of water that is sucked from a marsh and enclosed in a
green rind. To tell the truth, I hear it ill spoken of by our
physicians, but I cannot well speak of the matter, for I never ate one
in my life, and please God I never will!"

"Why not!" enquired the King, who took an extraordinary interest in the
subject. "You fear them, then! Yet you seem to be exceedingly strong and

"Sire, I have sometimes drunk a little water for my stomach's sake, but
I will not eat it."

The King smiled pleasantly.

"How wise the English are!" he said. "We may yet learn much of them."

Philip turned away from the Ambassador and watched the dance in silence.
The courtiers now stood in a wide half circle to the right and left of
him as he faced the hall, and the dancers passed backwards and forwards
across the open space. His slow eyes followed one figure without seeing
the rest. In the set nearest to him a beautiful girl was dancing with
one of Don John's officers. She was of the rarest type of Andalusian
beauty, tall, pliant, and slenderly strong, with raven's-wing hair and
splendidly languorous eyes, her creamy cheek as smooth as velvet, and a
mouth like a small ripe fruit. As she moved she bent from the waist as
easily and naturally as a child, and every movement followed a new curve
of beauty from her white throat to the small arched foot that darted
into sight as she stepped forward now and then, to disappear instantly
under the shadow of the gold-embroidered skirt. As she glanced towards
the King, her shadowy lids half hid her eyes and the long black lashes
almost brushed her cheek. Philip could not look away from her.

But suddenly there was a stir among the courtiers, and a shadow came
between the King and the vision he was watching. He started a little,
annoyed by the interruption and at being rudely reminded of what had
happened half an hour earlier, for the shadow was cast by Mendoza, tall
and grim in his armour, his face as grey as his grey beard, and his eyes
hard and fixed. Without bending, like a soldier on parade, he stood
there, waiting by force of habit until Philip should speak to him. The
King's brows bent together, and he almost unconsciously raised one hand
to signify that the music should cease. It stopped in the midst of a
bar, leaving the dancers at a standstill in their measure, and all the
moving sea of light and colour and gleaming jewels was arrested
instantly in its motion, while every look was turned towards the King.
The change from sound to silence, from motion to immobility, was so
sudden that every one was startled, as if some frightful accident had
happened, or as if an earthquake had shaken the Alcazar to its deep

Mendoza's harsh voice spoke out alone in accents that were heard to the
end of the hall.

"Don John of Austria is dead! I, Mendoza, have killed him unarmed."

It was long before a sound was heard, before any man or woman in the
hall had breath to utter a word. Philip's voice was heard first.

"The man is mad," he said, with undisturbed coolness. "See to him,

"No, no!" cried Mendoza. "I am not mad. I have killed Don John. You
shall find him in his room as he fell, with the wound in his breast."

One moment more the silence lasted, while Philip's stony face never
moved. A single woman's shriek rang out first, long, ear-piercing,
agonized, and then, without warning, a cry went up such as the old hall
had never heard before. It was a bad cry to hear, for it clamoured for
blood to be shed for blood, and though it was not for him, Philip turned
livid and shrank back a step. But Mendoza stood like a rock, waiting to
be taken.

In another moment furious confusion filled the hall. From every side at
once rose women's cries, and the deep shouts of angry men, and high,
clear yells of rage and hate. The men pushed past the ladies of the
court to the front, and some came singly, but a serried rank moved up
from behind, pushing the others before them.

"Kill him! Kill him at the King's feet! Kill him where he stands!"

And suddenly something made blue flashes of light high over the heads of
all; a rapier was out and wheeled in quick circles from a pliant wrist.
An officer of Mendoza's guard had drawn it, and a dozen more were in the
air in an instant, and then daggers by scores, keen, short, and strong,
held high at arm's length, each shaking with the fury of the hand that
held it.

"Sangre! Sangre!"

Some one had screamed out the wild cry of the Spanish soldiers--'Blood!
Blood!'--and the young men took it up in a mad yell, as they pushed
forwards furiously, while the few who stood in front tried to keep a
space open round the King and Mendoza.

The old man never winced, and disdained to turn his head, though he
heard the cry of death behind him, and the quick, soft sound of daggers
drawn from leathern sheaths, and the pressing of men who would be upon
him in another moment to tear him limb from limb with their knives.

Tall old Ruy Gomez had stepped forwards to stem the tide of death, and
beside him the English Ambassador, quietly determined to see fair play
or to be hurt himself in preventing murder.

"Back!" thundered Ruy Gomez, in a voice that was heard. "Back, I say!
Are you gentlemen of Spain, or are you executioners yourselves that you
would take this man's blood? Stand back!"

"Sangre! Sangre!" echoed the hall.

"Then take mine first!" shouted the brave old Prince, spreading his
short cloak out behind him with his hands to cover Mendoza more

But still the crowd of splendid young nobles surged up to him, and back
a little, out of sheer respect for his station and his old age, and
forwards again, dagger in hand, with blazing eyes.

"Sangre! Sangre! Sangre!" they cried, blind with fury.

But meanwhile, the guards filed in, for the prudent Perez had hastened
to throw wide the doors and summon them. Weapons in hand and ready, they
formed a square round the King and Mendoza and Ruy Gomez, and at the
sight of their steel caps and breastplates and long-tasselled halberds,
the yells of the courtiers subsided a little and turned to deep curses
and execrations and oaths of vengeance. A high voice pierced the low
roar, keen and cutting as a knife, but no one knew whose it was, and
Philip almost reeled as he heard the words.

"Remember Don Carlos! Don John of Austria is gone to join Don Carlos and
Queen Isabel!"

Again a deadly silence fell upon the multitude, and the King leaned on
Perez' arm. Some woman's hate had bared the truth in a flash, and there
were hundreds of hands in the hall that were ready to take his life
instead of Mendoza's; and he knew it, and was afraid.

       *       *       *       *       *


The agonized cry that had been first heard in the hall had come from
Inez's lips. When she had fled from her father, she had regained her
hiding-place in the gallery above the throne room. She would not go to
her own room, for she felt that rest was out of the question while
Dolores was in such danger; and yet there would have been no object in
going to Don John's door again, to risk being caught by her father or
met by the King himself. She had therefore determined to let an hour
pass before attempting another move. So she slipped into the gallery
again, and sat upon the little wooden bench that had been made for the
Moorish women in old times; and she listened to the music and the sound
of the dancers' feet far below, and to the hum of voices, in which she
often distinguished the name of Don John. She had heard all,--the cries
when it was thought that he was coming, the chamberlain's voice
announcing the King, and then the change of key in the sounds that had
followed. Lastly, she had heard plainly every syllable of her father's
speech, so that when she realized what it meant, she had shrieked aloud,
and had fled from the gallery to find her sister if she could, to find
Don John's body most certainly where it lay on the marble floor, with
the death wound at the breast. Her instinct--she could not have reasoned
then--told her that her father must have found the lovers together, and
that in sudden rage he had stabbed Don John, defenceless.

Dolores' tears answered her sister's question well enough when the two
girls were clasped in one another's arms at last. There was not a doubt
left in the mind of either. Inez spoke first. She said that she had
hidden in the gallery.

"Our father must have come in some time after the King," she said, in
broken sentences, and almost choking. "Suddenly the music stopped. I
could hear every word. He said that he had done it,--that he had
murdered Don John,--and then I ran here, for I was afraid he had killed
you, too."

"Would God he had!" cried Dolores. "Would to Heaven that I were dead
beside the man I love!"

"And I!" moaned Inez pitifully, and she began to sob wildly, as Dolores
had sobbed at first.

But Dolores was silent now, as if she had shed all her tears at once,
and had none left. She held her sister in her arms, and soothed her
almost unconsciously, as if she had been a little child. But her own
thoughts were taking shape quickly, for she was strong; and after the
first paroxysm of her grief, she saw the immediate future as clearly as
the present. When she spoke again she had the mastery of her voice, and
it was clear and low.

"You say that our father confessed before the whole court that he had
murdered Don John?" she said, with a question. "What happened then? Did
the King speak? Was our father arrested? Can you remember?"

"I only heard loud cries," sobbed Inez. "I came to you--as quickly as I
could--I was afraid."

"We shall never see our father again--unless we see him on the morning
when he is to die."

"Dolores! They will not kill him, too?" In sudden and greater fear than
before, Inez ceased sobbing.

"He will die on the scaffold," answered Dolores, in the same clear tone,
as if she were speaking in a dream, or of things that did not come near
her. "There is no pardon possible. He will die to-morrow or the next

The present truth stood out in all its frightful distinctness. Whoever
had done the murder--since Mendoza had confessed it, he would be made to
die for it,--of that she was sure. She could not have guessed what had
really happened; and though the evidence of the sounds she had heard
through the door would have gone to show that Philip had done the deed
himself, yet there had been no doubt about Mendoza's words, spoken to
the King alone over Don John's dead body, and repeated before the great
assembly in the ball-room. If she guessed at an explanation, it was that
her father, entering the bedchamber during the quarrel, and supposing
from what he saw that Don John was about to attack the King, had drawn
and killed the Prince without hesitation. The only thing quite clear was
that Mendoza was to suffer, and seemed strangely determined to suffer,
for what he had or had not done. The dark shadow of the scaffold rose
before Dolores' eyes.

It had seemed impossible that she could be made to bear more than she
had borne that night, when she had fallen upon Don John's body to weep
her heart out for her dead love. But she saw that there was more to
bear, and dimly she guessed that there might be something for her to do.
There was Inez first, and she must be cared for and placed in safety,
for she was beside herself with grief. It was only on that afternoon by
the window that Dolores had guessed the blind girl's secret, which Inez
herself hardly suspected even now, though she was half mad with grief
and utterly broken-hearted.

Dolores felt almost helpless, but she understood that she and her sister
were henceforth to be more really alone in what remained of life than if
they had been orphans from their earliest childhood. The vision of the
convent, that had been unbearable but an hour since, held all her hope
of peace and safety now, unless her father could be saved from his fate
by some miracle of heaven. But that was impossible. He had given himself
up as if he were determined to die. He had been out of his mind, beside
himself, stark mad, in his fear that Don John might bring harm upon his
daughter. That was why he had killed him--there could be no other
reason, unless he had guessed that she was in the locked room, and had
judged her then and at once, and forever. The thought had not crossed
her mind till then, and it was a new torture now, so that she shrank
under it as under a bodily blow; and her grasp tightened violently upon
her sister's arm, rousing the half-fainting girl again to the full
consciousness of pain.

It was no wonder that Mendoza should have done such a deed, since he had
believed her ruined and lost to honour beyond salvation. That explained
all. He had guessed that she had been long with Don John, who had locked
her hastily into the inner room to hide her from the King. Had the King
been Don John, had she loved Philip as she loved his brother, her father
would have killed his sovereign as unhesitatingly, and would have
suffered any death without flinching. She believed that, and there was
enough of his nature in herself to understand it.

She was as innocent as the blind girl who lay in her arms, but suddenly
it flashed upon her that no one would believe it, since her own father
would not, and that her maiden honour and good name were gone for ever,
gone with her dead lover, who alone could have cleared her before the
world. She cared little for the court now, but she cared tenfold more
earnestly for her father's thought of her, and she knew him and the
terrible tenacity of his conviction when he believed himself to be
right. He had proved that by what he had done. Since she understood all,
she no longer doubted that he had killed Don John with the fullest
intention, to avenge her, and almost knowing that she was within
hearing, as indeed she had been. He had taken a royal life in atonement
for her honour, but he was to give his own, and was to die a shameful
death on the scaffold, within a few hours, or, at the latest, within a
few days, for her sake.

Then she remembered how on that afternoon she had seen tears in his
eyes, and had heard the tremor in his voice when he had said that she
was everything to him, that she had been all his life since her mother
had died--he had proved that, too; and though he had killed the man she
loved, she shrank from herself again as she thought what he must have
suffered in her dishonour. For it was nothing else. There was neither
man nor woman nor girl in Spain who would believe her innocent against
such evidence. The world might have believed Don John, if he had lived,
because the world had loved him and trusted him, and could never have
heard falsehood in his voice; but it would not believe her though she
were dying, and though she should swear upon the most sacred and true
things. The world would turn from her with an unbelieving laugh, and she
was to be left alone in her dishonour, and people would judge that she
was not even a fit companion for her blind sister in their solitude. The
King would send her to Las Huelgas, or to some other distant convent of
a severe order, that she might wear out her useless life in grief and
silence and penance as quickly as possible. She bowed her head. It was
too hard to bear.

Inez was more quiet now, and the two sat side by side in mournful
silence, leaning against the parapet. They had forgotten the dwarf, and
he had disappeared, waiting, perhaps, in the shadow at a distance, in
case he might be of use to them. But if he was within hearing, they did
not see him. At last Inez spoke, almost in a whisper, as if she were in
the presence of the dead.

"Were you there, dear?" she asked. "Did you see?"

"I was in the next room," Dolores answered. "I could not see, but I
heard. I heard him fall," she added almost inaudibly, and choking.

Inez shuddered and pressed nearer to her sister, leaning against her,
but she did not begin to sob again. She was thinking.

"Can we not help our father, at least?" she asked presently. "Is there
nothing we can say, or do? We ought to help him if we can,
Dolores--though he did it."

"I would save him with my life, if I could. God knows, I would! He was
mad when he struck the blow. He did it for my sake, because he thought
Don John had ruined my good name. And we should have been married the
day after to-morrow! God of heaven, have mercy!"

Her grief took hold of her again, like a material power, shaking her
from head to foot, and bowing her down upon herself and wringing her
hands together, so that Inez, calmer than she, touched her gently and
tried to comfort her without any words, for there were none to say,
since nothing mattered now, and life was over at its very beginning.
Little by little the sharp agony subsided to dull pain once more, and
Dolores sat upright. But Inez was thinking still, and even in her sorrow
and fright she was gathering all her innocent ingenuity to her aid.

"Is there no way?" she asked, speaking more to herself than to her
sister. "Could we not say that we were there, that it was not our father
but some one else? Perhaps some one would believe us. If we told the
judges that we were quite, quite sure that he did not do it, do you not
think--but then," she checked herself--"then it could only have been the

"Only the King himself," echoed Dolores, half unconsciously, and in a
dreamy tone.

"That would be terrible," said Inez. "But we could say that the King was
not there, you know--that it was some one else, some one we did not

Dolores rose abruptly from the seat and laid her hand upon the parapet
steadily, as if an unnatural strength had suddenly grown up in her. Inez
went on speaking, confusing herself in the details she was trying to put
together to make a plan, and losing the thread of her idea as she
attempted to build up falsehoods, for she was truthful as their father
was. But Dolores did not hear her.

"You can do nothing, child," she said at last, in a firm tone. "But I
may. You have made me think of something that I may do--it is just
possible--it may help a little. Let me think."

Inez waited in silence for her to go on, and Dolores stood as motionless
as a statue, contemplating in thought the step she meant to take if it
offered the slightest hope of saving her father. The thought was worthy
of her, but the sacrifice was great even then. She had not believed that
the world still held anything with which she would not willingly part,
but there was one thing yet. It might be taken from her, though her
father had slain Don John of Austria to save it, and was to die for it
himself. She could give it before she could be robbed of it, perhaps,
and it might buy his life. She could still forfeit her good name of her
own free will, and call herself what she was not. In words she could
give her honour to the dead man, and the dead could not rise up and deny
her nor refuse the gift. And it seemed to her that when the people
should hear her, they would believe her, seeing that it was her shame, a
shame such as no maiden who had honour left would bear before the world.
But it was hard to do. For honour was her last and only possession now
that all was taken from her.

It was not the so-called honour of society, either, based on
long-forgotten traditions, and depending on convention for its
being--not the sort of honour within which a man may ruin an honest
woman and suffer no retribution, but which decrees that he must take his
own life if he cannot pay a debt of play made on his promise to a
friend, which allows him to lie like a cheat, but ordains that he must
give or require satisfaction of blood for the imaginary insult of a
hasty word--the honour which is to chivalry what black superstition is
to the true Christian faith, which compares with real courage and truth
and honesty, as an ape compares with a man. It was not that, and Dolores
knew it, as every maiden knows it; for the honour of woman is the fact
on which the whole world turns, and has turned and will turn to the end
of things; but what is called the honour of society has been a fiction
these many centuries, and though it came first of a high parentage, of
honest thought wedded to brave deed, and though there are honourable men
yet, these are for the most part the few who talk least loudly about
honour's code, and the belief they hold has come to be a secret and a
persecuted faith, at which the common gentleman thinks fit to laugh lest
some one should presume to measure him by it and should find him

Dolores did not mean to hesitate, after she had decided what to do. But
she could not avoid the struggle, and it was long and hard, though she
saw the end plainly before her and did not waver. Inez did not
understand and kept silence while it lasted.

It was only a word to say, but it was the word which would be repeated
against her as long as she lived, and which nothing she could ever say
or do afterwards could take back when it had once been spoken--it would
leave the mark that a lifetime could not efface. But she meant to speak
it. She could not see what her father would see, that he would rather
die, justly or unjustly, than let his daughter be dishonoured before the
world. That was a part of a man's code, perhaps, but it should not
hinder her from saving her father's life, or trying to, at whatever
cost. What she was fighting against was something much harder to
understand in herself. What could it matter now, that the world should
think her fallen from her maiden estate? The world was nothing to her,
surely. It held nothing, it meant nothing, it was nothing. Her world had
been her lover, and he lay dead in his room. In heaven, he knew that she
was innocent, as he was himself, and he would see that she was going to
accuse herself that she might save her father. In heaven, he had
forgiven his murderer, and he would understand. As for the world and
what it said, she knew that she must leave it instantly, and go from the
confession she was about to make to the convent where she was to die,
and whence her spotless soul would soon be wafted away to join her true
lover beyond the earth. There was no reason why she should find it hard
to do, and yet it was harder than anything she had ever dreamed of
doing. But she was fighting the deepest and strongest instinct of
woman's nature, and the fight went hard.

She fancied the scene, the court, the grey-haired nobles, the fair and
honourable women, the brave young soldiers, the thoughtless courtiers,
the whole throng she was about to face, for she meant to speak before
them all, and to her own shame. She was as white as marble, but when she
thought of what was coming the blood sprang to her face and tingled in
her forehead, and she felt her eyes fall and her proud head bend, as the
storm of humiliation descended upon her. She could hear beforehand the
sounds that would follow her words, the sharp, short laugh of jealous
women who hated her, the murmur of surprise among the men. Then the sea
of faces would seem to rise and fall before her in waves, the lights
would dance, her cheeks would burn like flames, and she would grow
dizzy. That would be the end. Afterwards she could go out alone. Perhaps
the women would shrink from her, no man would be brave enough to lead
her kindly from the room. Yet all that she would bear, for the mere hope
of saving her father. The worst, by far the worst and hardest to endure,
would be something within herself, for which she had neither words nor
true understanding, but which was more real than anything she could
define, for it was in the very core of her heart and in the secret of
her soul, a sort of despairing shame of herself and a desolate longing
for something she could never recover.

She closed her tired eyes and pressed her hand heavily upon the stone
coping of the parapet. It was the supreme effort, and when she looked
down at Inez again she knew that she should live to the end of the
ordeal without wavering.

"I am going down to the throne room," she said, very quietly and gently.
"You had better go to our apartment, dear, and wait for me there. I am
going to try and save our father's life--do not ask me how. It will not
take long to say what I have to say, and then I will come to you."

Inez had risen now, and was standing beside her, laying a hand upon her

"Let me come, too," she said. "I can help you, I am sure I can help

"No," answered Dolores, with authority. "You cannot help me, dearest,
and it would hurt you, and you must not come."

"Then I will stay here," said Inez sorrowfully. "I shall be nearer to
him," she added under her breath.

"Stay here--yes. I will come back to you, and then--then we will go in
together, and say a prayer--his soul can hear us still--we will go and
say good-by to him--together."

Her voice was almost firm, and Inez could not see the agony in her white
face. Then Dolores clasped her in her arms and kissed her forehead and
her blind eyes very lovingly, and pressed her head to her own shoulders
and patted it and smoothed the girl's dark hair.

"I will come back," she said, "and, Inez--you know the truth, my
darling. Whatever evil they may say of me after to-night, remember that
I have said it of myself for our father's sake, and that it is not

"No one will believe it," answered Inez. "They will not believe anything
bad of you."

"Then our father must die."

Dolores kissed her once more and made her sit down, then turned and went
away. She walked quickly along the corridors and descended the second
staircase, to enter the throne room by the side door reserved for the
officers of the household and the maids of honour. She walked swiftly,
her head erect, one hand holding the folds of her cloak pressed to her
bosom, and the other, nervously clenched, and hanging down, as if she
were expecting to strike a blow.

She reached the door, and for a moment her heart stopped beating, and
her eyes closed. She heard many loud voices within, and she knew that
most of the court must still be assembled. It was better that all the
world should hear her--even the King, if he were still there. She pushed
the door open and went in by the familiar way, letting the dark cloak
that covered her court dress fall to the ground as she passed the
threshold. Half a dozen young nobles, grouped near the entrance, made
way for her to pass.

When they recognized her, their voices dropped suddenly, and they stared
after her in astonishment that she should appear at such a time. She was
doubtless in ignorance of what had happened, they thought. As for the
throng in the hall, there was no restraint upon their talk now, and
words were spoken freely which would have been high treason half an hour
earlier. There was the noise, the tension, the ceaseless talking, the
excited air, that belong to great palace revolutions.

The press was closer near the steps of the throne, where the King and
Mendoza had stood, for after they had left the hall, surrounded and
protected by the guards, the courtiers had crowded upon one another, and
those near the further door and outside it in the outer apartments had
pressed in till there was scarcely standing room on the floor of the
hall. Dolores found it hard to advance. Some made way for her with low
exclamations of surprise, but others, not looking to see who she was,
offered a passive resistance to her movements.

"Will you kindly let me pass?" she asked at last, in a gentle tone, "I
am Dolores de Mendoza."

At the name the group that barred her passage started and made way, and
going through she came upon the Prince of Eboli, not far from the steps
of the throne. The English Ambassador, who meant to stay as long as
there was anything for him to observe, was still by the Prince's side.
Dolores addressed the latter without hesitation.

"Don Ruy Gomez," she said, "I ask your help. My father is innocent, and
I can prove it. But the court must hear me--every one must hear the
truth. Will you help me? Can you make them listen?"

Ruy Gomez looked down at Dolores' pale and determined features in
courteous astonishment.

"I am at your service," he answered. "But what are you going to say? The
court is in a dangerous mood to-night."

"I must speak to all," said Dolores. "I am not afraid. What I have to
say cannot be said twice--not even if I had the strength. I can save my

"Why not go to the King at once?" argued the Prince, who feared trouble.

"For the love of God, help me to do as I wish!" Dolores grasped his arm,
and spoke with an effort. "Let me tell them all, how I know that my
father is not guilty of the murder. After that take me to the King if
you will."

She spoke very earnestly, and he no longer opposed her. He knew the
temper of the court well enough, and was sure that whatever proved
Mendoza innocent would be welcome just then, and though he was far too
loyal to wish the suspicion of the deed to be fixed upon the King, he
was too just not to desire Mendoza to be exculpated if he were innocent.

"Come with me," he said briefly, and he took Dolores by the hand, and
led her up the first three steps of the platform, so that she could see
over the heads of all present.

It was no time to think of court ceremonies or customs, for there was
danger in the air. Ruy Gomez did not stop to make any long ceremony.
Drawing himself up to his commanding height, he held up his white gloves
at arm's length to attract the attention of the courtiers, and in a few
moments there was silence. They seemed an hour of torture to Dolores.
Ruy Gomez raised his voice.

"Grandees! The daughter of Don Diego de Mendoza stands here at my side
to prove to you that he is innocent of Don John of Austria's death!"

The words had hardly left his lips when a shout went up, like a ringing
cheer. But again he raised his hand.

"Hear Doña Maria Dolores de Mendoza!" he cried.

Then he stepped a little away from Dolores, and looked towards her. She
was dead white, and her lips trembled. There was an almost glassy look
in her eyes, and still she pressed one hand to her bosom, and the other
hung by her side, the fingers twitching nervously against the folds of
her skirt. A few seconds passed before she could speak.

"Grandees of Spain!" she began, and at the first words she found
strength in her voice so that it reached the ends of the hall, clear and
vibrating. The silence was intense, as she proceeded.

"My father has accused himself of a fearful crime. He is innocent. He
would no more have raised his hand against Don John of Austria than
against the King's own person. I cannot tell why he wishes to sacrifice
his life by taking upon himself the guilt. But this I know. He did not
do the deed. You ask me how I know that, how I can prove it? I was
there, I, Dolores de Mendoza, his daughter, was there unseen in my
lover's chamber when he was murdered. While he was alive I gave him all,
my heart, my soul, my maiden honour; and I was there to-night, and had
been with him long. But now that he is dead, I will pay for my father's
life with my dishonour. He must not die, for he is innocent. Grandees of
Spain, as you are men of honour, he must not die, for he is one of you,
and this foul deed was not his."

She ceased, her lids drooped till her eyes were half closed and she
swayed a little as she stood. Roy Gomez made one long stride and held
her, for he thought she was fainting. But she bit her lips, and forced
her eyes to open and face the crowd again.

"That is all," she said in a low voice, but distinctly, "It is done. I
am a ruined woman. Help me to go out."

The old Prince gently led her down the steps. The silence had lasted
long after she had spoken, but people were beginning to talk again in
lower tones. It was as she had foreseen it. She heard a scornful woman's
laugh, and as she passed along, she saw how the older ladies shrank from
her and how the young ones eyed her with a look of hard curiosity, as if
she were some wild creature, dangerous to approach, though worth seeing
from a distance.

But the men pressed close to her as she passed, and she heard them tell
each other that she was a brave woman who could dare to save her father
by such means, and there were quick applauding words as she passed, and
one said audibly that he could die for a girl who had such a true heart,
and another answered that he would marry her if she could forget Don
John. And they did not speak without respect, but in earnest, and out of
the fulness of their admiration.

At last she was at the door, and she paused to speak before going out.

"Have I saved his life?" she asked, looking up to the old Prince's kind
face. "Will they believe me?"

"They believe you," he answered. "But your father's life is in the
King's hands. You should go to his Majesty without wasting time. Shall I
go with you? He will see you, I think, if I ask it."

"Why should I tell the King?" asked Dolores. "He was there--he saw it
all--he knows the truth."

She hardly realized what she was saying.

       *       *       *       *       *


Ruy Gomez was as loyal, in his way, as Mendoza himself, but his loyalty
was of a very different sort, for it was tempered by a diplomatic spirit
which made it more serviceable on ordinary occasions, and its object was
altogether a principle rather than a person. Mendoza could not conceive
of monarchy, in its abstract, without a concrete individuality
represented by King Philip; but Ruy Gomez could not imagine the world
without the Spanish monarchy, though he was well able to gauge his
sovereign's weaknesses and to deplore his crimes. He himself was
somewhat easily deceived, as good men often are, and it was he who had
given the King his new secretary, Antonio Perez; yet from the moment
when Mendoza had announced Don John's death, he had been convinced that
the deed had either been done by Philip himself or by his orders, and
that Mendoza had bravely sacrificed himself to shield his master. What
Dolores had said only confirmed his previous opinion, so far as her
father's innocence was at stake. As for her own confession, he believed
it, and in spite of himself he could not help admiring the girl's heroic
courage. Dolores might have been in reality ten times worse than she had
chosen to represent herself; she would still have been a model of all
virtue compared with his own wife, though he did not know half of the
Princess's doings, and was certainly ignorant of her relations with the

He was not at all surprised when Dolores told him at the door that
Philip knew the truth about the supposed murder, but he saw how
dangerous it might be for Dolores to say as much to others of the court.
She wished to go away alone, as she had come, but he insisted on going
with her.

"You must see his Majesty," he said authoritatively. "I will try to
arrange it at once. And I entreat you to be discreet, my dear, for your
father's sake, if not for any other reason. You have said too much
already. It was not wise of you, though it showed amazing courage. You
are your father's own daughter in that--he is one of the bravest men I
ever knew in my life."

"It is easy to be brave when one is dead already!" said Dolores, in low

"Courage, my dear, courage!" answered the old Prince, in a fatherly
tone, as they went along. "You are not as brave as you think, since you
talk of death. Your life is not over yet."

"There is little left of it. I wish it were ended already."

She could hardly speak, for an inevitable and overwhelming reaction had
followed on the great effort she had made. She put out her hand and
caught her companion's arm for support. He led her quickly to the small
entrance of the King's apartments, by which it was his privilege to pass
in. They reached a small waiting-room where there were a few chairs and
a marble table, on which two big wax candles were burning. Dolores sank
into a seat, and leaned back, closing her eyes, while Ruy Gomez went
into the antechamber beyond and exchanged a few words with the
chamberlain on duty. He came back almost immediately.

"Your father is alone with the King," he said. "We must wait."

Dolores scarcely heard what he said, and did not change her position nor
open her eyes. The old man looked at her, sighed, and sat down near a
brazier of wood coals, over which he slowly warmed his transparent
hands, from time to time turning his rings slowly on his fingers, as if
to warm them, too. Outside, the chamberlain in attendance walked slowly
up and down, again and again passing the open door, through which he
glanced at Dolores' face. The antechamber was little more than a short,
broad corridor, and led to the King's study. This corridor had other
doors, however, and it was through it that the King's private rooms
communicated with the hall of the royal apartments.

As Ruy Gomez had learned, Mendoza was with Philip, but not alone. The
old officer was standing on one side of the room, erect and grave, and
King Philip sat opposite him, in a huge chair, his still eyes staring at
the fire that blazed in the vast chimney, and sent sudden flashes of
yellow through the calm atmosphere of light shed by a score of tall
candles. At a table on one side sat Antonio Perez, the Secretary. He was
provided with writing-materials and appeared to be taking down the
conversation as it proceeded. Philip asked a question from time to time,
which Mendoza answered in a strange voice unlike his own, and between
the questions there were long intervals of silence.

"You say that you had long entertained feelings of resentment against
his Highness," said the King, "You admit that, do you?"

"I beg your Majesty's pardon. I did not say resentment. I said that I
had long looked upon his Highness's passion for my daughter with great

"Is that what he said, Perez?" asked Philip, speaking to the Secretary
without looking at him. "Read that."

"He said: I have long resented his Highness's admiration for my
daughter," answered Perez, reading from his notes.

"You see," said the King. "You resented it. That is resentment. I was
right. Be careful, Mendoza, for your words may be used against you
to-morrow. Say precisely what you mean, and nothing but what you mean."

Mendoza inclined his head rather proudly, for he detested Antonio Perez,
and it appeared to him that the King was playing a sort of comedy for
the Secretary's benefit. It seemed an unworthy interlude in what was
really a solemn tragedy.

"Why did you resent his Highness's courtship of your daughter?" enquired
Philip presently, continuing his cross-examination.

"Because I never believed that there could be a real marriage," answered
Mendoza boldly. "I believed that my child must become the toy and
plaything of Don John of Austria, or else that if his Highness married
her, the marriage would soon be declared void, in order that he might
marry a more important personage."

"Set that down," said the King to Perez, in a sharp tone. "Set that down
exactly. It is important." He waited till the Secretary's pen stopped
before he went on. His next question came suddenly.

"How could a marriage consecrated by our holy religion ever be declared
null and void?"

"Easily enough, if your Majesty wished it," answered Mendoza
unguardedly, for his temper was slowly heating.

"Write down that answer, Perez. In other words, Mendoza, you think that
I have no respect for the sacrament of marriage, which I would at any
time cause to be revoked to suit my political purposes. Is that what you

"I did not say that, Sire. I said that even if Don John married my

"I know quite well what you said," interrupted the King suavely. "Perez
has got every word of it on paper."

The Secretary's bad black eyes looked up from his writing, and he slowly
nodded as he looked at Mendoza. He understood the situation perfectly,
though the soldier was far too honourable to suspect the truth.

"I have confessed publicly that I killed Don John defenceless," he said,
in rough tones. "Is not that enough?"

"Oh, no!" Philip almost smiled, "That is not enough. We must also know
why you committed such on abominable crime. You do not seem to
understand that in taking your evidence here myself, I am sparing you
the indignity of an examination before a tribunal, and under torture--in
all probability. You ought to be very grateful, my dear Mendoza."

"I thank your Majesty," said the brave old soldier coldly.

"That is right. So we know that your hatred of his Highness was of long
standing, and you had probably determined some time ago that you would
murder him on his return." The King paused a moment and then continued.
"Do you deny that on this very afternoon you swore that if Don John
attempted to see your daughter, you would kill him at once?"

Mendoza was taken by surprise, and his haggard eyes opened wide as he
stared at Philip.

"You said that, did you not?" asked the King, insisting upon the point.
"On your honour, did you say it?"

"Yes, I said that," answered Mendoza at last. "But how did your Majesty
know that I did?"

The King's enormous under lip thrust itself forward, and two ugly lines
of amusement were drawn in his colourless cheeks. His jaw moved slowly,
as if he were biting something of which he found the taste agreeable.

"I know everything," he said slowly. "I am well served in my own house.
Perez, be careful. Write down everything. We also know, I think, that
your daughter met his Highness this evening. You no doubt found that out
as others did. The girl is imprudent. Do you confess to knowing that the
two had met this evening?"

Mendoza ground his teeth as if he were suffering bodily torture. His
brows contracted, and as Perez looked up, he faced him with such a look
of hatred and anger that the Secretary could hot meet his eyes. The King
was a sacred and semi-divine personage, privileged to ask any question
he chose and theoretically incapable of doing wrong, but it was
unbearable that this sleek black fox should have the right to hear Diego
de Mendoza confess his daughter's dishonour. Antonio Perez was not an
adventurer of low birth, as many have gratuitously supposed, for his
father had held an honourable post at court before him; but he was very
far from being the equal of one who, though poor and far removed from
the head of his own family, bore one of the most noble names in Spain.

"Let your Majesty dismiss Don Antonio Perez," said Mendoza boldly. "I
will then tell your Majesty all I know."

Perez smiled as he bent over his notes, for he knew what the answer
would be to such a demand. It came sharply.

"It is not the privilege of a man convicted of murder to choose his
hearers. Answer my questions or be silent. Do you confess that you knew
of your daughter's meeting with Don John this evening?"

Mendoza's lips set themselves tightly under his grey beard, and he
uttered no sound. He interpreted the King's words literally.

"Well, what have you to say?"

"Nothing, Sire, since I have your Majesty's permission to be silent."

"It does not matter," said Philip indifferently. "Note that he refuses
to answer the question, Perez. Note that this is equivalent to
confessing the fact, since he would otherwise deny it. His silence is &
reason, however, for allowing the case to go to the tribunal to be
examined in the usual way--the usual way," he repeated, looking hard at
Mendoza and emphasizing the words strongly.

"Since I do not deny the deed, I entreat your Majesty to let me suffer
for it quickly. I am ready to die, God knows. Let it be to-morrow
morning or to-night. Your Majesty need only sign the warrant for my
execution, which Don Antonio Perez has, no doubt, already prepared."

"Not at all, not at all," answered the King, with horrible coolness. "I
mean that you shall have a fair and open trial and every possible
opportunity of justifying yourself. There must be nothing secret about
this. So horrible a crime must be treated in the most public manner.
Though it is very painful to me to refer to such a matter, you must
remember that after it had pleased Heaven, in its infinite justice, to
bereave me of my unfortunate son, Don Carlos, the heir to the throne,
there were not wanting ill-disposed and wicked persons who actually said
that I had caused his life to be shortened by various inhuman cruelties.
No, no! we cannot have too much publicity. Consider how terrible a thing
it would be if any one should dare to suppose that my own brother had
been murdered with my consent! You should love your country too much not
to fear such a result; for though you have murdered my brother in cold
blood, I am too just to forget that you have proved your patriotism
through a long and hitherto honourable career. It is my duty to see that
the causes of your atrocious action are perfectly clear to my subjects,
so that no doubt may exist even in the most prejudiced minds. Do you
understand? I repeat that if I have condescended to examine you alone, I
have done so only out of a merciful desire to spare an old soldier the
suffering and mortification of an examination by the tribunal that is to
judge you. Understand that."

"I understand that and much more besides," answered Mendoza, in low and
savage tones.

"It is not necessary that you should understand or think that you
understand anything more than what I say," returned the King coldly. "At
what time did you go to his Highness's apartments this evening?"

"Your Majesty knows."

"I know nothing of it," said the King, with the utmost calm. "You were
on duty after supper. You escorted me to my apartments afterwards. I had
already sent for Perez, who came at once, and we remained here, busy
with affairs, until I returned to the throne room, five minutes before
you came and confessed the murder; did we not, Perez?"

"Most certainly, Sire," answered the Secretary gravely. "Your Majesty
must have been at work with me an hour, at least, before returning to
the throne room."

"And your Majesty did not go with me by the private staircase to Don
John of Austria's apartment?" asked Mendoza, thunderstruck by the
enormous falsehood.

"With you?" cried the King, in admirably feigned astonishment. "What
madness is this? Do not write that down, Perez. I really believe the man
is beside himself!"

Mendoza groaned aloud, for he saw that he had been frightfully deceived.
In his magnificent generosity, he had assumed the guilt of the crime,
being ready and willing to die for it quickly to save the King from
blame and to put an end to his own miserable existence. But he had
expected death quickly, mercifully, within a few hours. Had he suspected
what Philip had meant to do,--that he was to be publicly tried for a
murder he had not committed, and held up to public hatred and ignominy
for days and perhaps weeks together, while a slow tribunal dragged out
its endless procedure,--neither his loyalty nor his desire for death
could have had power to bring his pride to such a sacrifice. And now he
saw that he was caught in a vise, and that no accusation he could bring
against the King could save him, even if he were willing to resort to
such a measure and so take back his word. There was no witness for him
but himself. Don John was dead, and the infamous Perez was ready to
swear that Philip had not left the room in which they had been closeted
together. There was not a living being to prove that Mendoza had not
gone alone to Don John's apartments with the deliberate intention of
killing him. He had, indeed, been to the chief steward's office in
search of a key, saying that the King desired to have it and was
waiting; but it would be said that he had used the King's authority to
try and get the key for himself because he knew that his daughter was
hidden in the locked room. He had foolishly fancied that the King would
send for him and see him alone before he died, that his sovereign would
thank him for the service that was costing his life, would embrace him
and send him to his death for the good of Spain and the divine right of
monarchy. Truly, he had been most bitterly deceived.

"You said," continued Philip mercilessly, "that you killed his Highness
when he was unarmed. Is that true?"

"His Highness was unarmed," said Mendoza, almost through his closed
teeth, for he was suffering beyond words.

"Unarmed," repeated the King, nodding to Perez, who wrote rapidly. "You
might have given him a chance for his life. It would have been more
soldier-like. Had you any words before you drew upon him? Was there any

"None. We did not speak to each other." Mendoza tried to make Philip
meet his eyes, but the King would not look at him.

"There was no altercation," said the King, looking at Perez. "That
proves that the murder was premeditated. Put it down--it is very
important. You could hardly have stabbed him in the back, I suppose. He
must have turned when he heard you enter. Where was the wound?"

"The wound that killed his Highness will be found near the heart."

"Cruel!" Philip looked down at his own hands, and he shook his head very
sadly. "Cruel, most cruel," he repeated in a low tone.

"I admit that it was a very cruel deed," said Mendoza, looking at him
fixedly. "In that, your Majesty is right."

"Did you see your daughter before or after you had committed the
murder?" asked the King calmly.

"I have not seen my daughter since the murder was committed."

"But you saw her before? Be careful, Perez. Write down every word. You
say that you saw your daughter before you did it."

"I did not say that," answered Mendoza firmly.

"It makes very little difference," said the King, "If you had seen her
with his Highness, the murder would have seemed less cold-blooded, that
is all. There would then have been something like a natural provocation
for it."

There was a low sound, as of some one scratching at the door. That was
the usual way of asking admittance to the King's room on very urgent
matters. Perez rose instantly, the King nodded to him, and he went to
the door. On opening, someone handed him a folded paper on a gold
salver. He brought it to Philip, dropped on one knee very ceremoniously,
and presented it. Philip took the note and opened it, and Perez returned
to his seat at once.

The King unfolded the small sheet carefully. The room was so full of
light that he could read it when he sat, without moving. His eyes
followed the lines quickly to the end, and returned to the beginning,
and he read the missive again more carefully. Not the slightest change
of expression was visible in his face, as he folded the paper neatly
again in the exact shape in which he had received it. Then he remained
silent a few moments. Perez held his pen ready to write, moving it
mechanically now and then as if he were writing in the air, and staring
at the fire, absorbed in his own thoughts, though his ear was on the

"You refuse to admit that you found your daughter and Don John together,
then?" The King spoke with an interrogation.

"I did not find them together," answered Mendoza. "I have said so." He
was becoming exasperated under the protracted cross-examination.

"You have not said so. My memory is very good, but if it should fail we
have everything written down. I believe you merely refused to answer
when I asked if you knew of their meeting--which meant that you did know
of it. Is that it, Perez?"

"Exactly so, Sire." The Secretary had already found the place among his

"Do you persistently refuse to admit that you had positive evidence of
your daughter's guilt before the murder?"

"I will not admit that, Sire, for it would not be true."

"Your daughter has given her evidence since," said the King, holding up
the folded note, and fixing his eyes at last on his victim's face. If it
were possible, Mendoza turned more ashy pale than before, and he started
perceptibly at the King's words.

"I shall never believe that!" he cried in a voice which nevertheless
betrayed his terror for his child.

"A few moments before this note was written," said Philip calmly, "your
daughter entered the throne room, and addressed the court, standing upon
the steps of the throne--a very improper proceeding and one which Ruy
Gomez should not have allowed. Your daughter Dolores--is that the girl's
name? Yes. Your daughter Dolores, amidst the most profound silence,
confessed that she--it is so monstrous that I can hardly bring myself to
say it--that she had yielded to the importunities of his late Highness,
that she was with him in his room a long time this evening, and that, in
fact, she was actually in his bedchamber when he was murdered."

"It is a lie!" cried Mendoza vehemently. "It is an abominable lie--she
was not in the room!"

"She has said that she was," answered Philip. "You can hardly suppose a
girl capable of inventing such damning evidence against herself, even
for the sake of saving her own father. She added that his Highness was
not killed by you. But that is puerile. She evidently saw you do it, and
has boldly confessed that she was in the room--hidden somewhere,
perhaps, since you absolutely refuse to admit that you saw her there. It
is quite clear that you found the two together and that you killed his
Highness before your daughter's eyes. Why not admit that, Mendoza? It
makes you seem a little less cold-blooded. The provocation was great--"

"She was not there," protested Mendoza, interrupting the King, for he
hardly knew what he was doing.

"She was there, since she confesses to have been in the room. I do not
tolerate interruption when I am speaking. She was there, and her
evidence will be considered. Even if you did not see her, how can you be
sure that your daughter was not there? Did you search the room? Did you
look behind the curtains?"

"I did not." The stern old man seemed to shrink bodily under the
frightful humiliation to which he was subjected.

"Very well, then you cannot swear that she was not in the room. But you
did not see her there. Then I am sorry to say that there can have been
no extenuating circumstances. You entered his Highness's bedchamber, you
did not even speak to him, you drew your sword and you killed him. All
this shows that you went there fully determined to commit the crime. But
with regard to its motive, this strange confession of your daughter's
makes that quite clear. She had been extremely imprudent with Don John,
you were aware of the fact, and you revenged yourself in the most brutal
way. Such vengeance never can produce any but the most fatal results.
You yourself must die, in the first place, a degrading and painful death
on the scaffold, and you die leaving behind you a ruined girl, who must
bury herself in a convent and never be seen by her worldly equals again.
And besides that, you have deprived your King of a beloved brother, and
Spain of her most brilliant general. Could anything be worse?"

"Yes. There are worse things than that, your Majesty, and worse things
have been done. It would have been a thousand times worse if I had done
the deed and cast the blame of it on a man so devoted to me that he
would bear the guilt in my stead, and a hundred thousand times worse if
I had then held up that man to the execration of mankind, and tortured
him with every distortion of evidence which great falsehoods can put
upon a little truth. That would indeed have been far worse than anything
I have done. God may find forgiveness for murderers, but there is only
hell for traitors, and the hell of hells is the place of men who betray
their friends."

"His mind is unsettled, I fear," said the King, speaking to Perez.
"These are signs of madness."

"Indeed I fear so, Sire," answered the smooth Secretary, shaking his
head solemnly. "He does not know what he says."

"I am not mad, and I know what I am saying, for I am a man under the
hand of death." Mendoza's eyes glared at the King savagely as he spoke,
and then at Perez, but neither could look at him, for neither dared to
meet his gaze. "As for this confession my daughter has made, I do not
believe in it. But if she has said these things, you might have let me
die without the bitterness of knowing them, since that was in your
power. And God knows that I have staked my life freely for your Majesty
and for Spain these many years, and would again if I had it to lose
instead of having thrown it away. And God knows, too, that for what I
have done, be it good or bad, I will bear whatsoever your Majesty shall
choose to say to me alone in the way of reproach. But as I am a dying
man I will not forgive that scribbler there for having seen a Spanish
gentleman's honour torn to rags, and an old soldier's last humiliation,
and I pray Heaven with my dying breath, that he may some day be
tormented as he has seen me tormented, and worse, till he shall cry out
for mercy--as I will not!"

The cruelly injured man's prayer was answered eight years from that day,
and even now Perez turned slowly pale as he heard the words, for they
were spoken with all the vehemence of a dying man's curse. But Philip
was unmoved. He was probably not making Mendoza suffer merely for the
pleasure of watching his pain, though others' suffering seems always to
have caused him a sort of morbid satisfaction. What he desired most was
to establish a logical reason for which Mendoza might have committed the
crime, lest in the absence of sound evidence he himself should be
suspected of having instigated it. He had no intention whatever of
allowing Mendoza to be subjected to torture during the trial that was to
ensue. On the contrary, he intended to prepare all the evidence for the
judges and to prevent Mendoza from saying anything in self-defence. To
that end it was necessary that the facts elicited should be clearly
connected from first cause to final effect, and by the skill of Antonio
Perez in writing down only the words which contributed to that end, the
King's purpose was now accomplished. He heard every word of Mendoza's
imprecation and thought it proper to rebuke him for speaking so freely.

"You forget yourself, sir," he said coldly. "Don Antonio Perez is my
private Secretary, and you must respect him. While you belonged to the
court his position was higher and more important than your own; now that
you stand convicted of an outrageous murder in cold blood, you need not
forget that he is an innocent man. I have done, Mendoza. You will not
see me again, for you will be kept in confinement until your trial,
which can only have one issue. Come here."

He sat upright in his chair and held out his hand, while Mendoza
approached with unsteady steps, and knelt upon one knee, as was the

"I am not unforgiving," said the King. "Forgiveness is a very beautiful
Christian virtue, which we are taught to exercise from our earliest
childhood. You have cut off my dearly loved brother in the flower of his
youth, but you shall not die believing that I bear you any malice. So
far as I am able, I freely forgive you for what you have done, and in
token I give you my hand, that you may have that comfort at the last."

With incredible calmness Philip took Mendoza's hand as he spoke, held it
for a moment in his, and pressed it almost warmly at the last words. The
old man's loyalty to his sovereign had been a devotion almost amounting
to real adoration, and bitterly as he had suffered throughout the
terrible interview, he well-nigh forgot every suffering as he felt the
pressure of the royal fingers. In an instant he had told himself that it
had all been but a play, necessary to deceive Perez, and to clear the
King from suspicion before the world, and that in this sense the
unbearable agony he had borne had served his sovereign. He forgot all
for a moment, and bending his iron-grey head, he kissed the thin and
yellow hand fervently, and looked up to Philip's cold face and felt that
there were tears of gratitude in his own eyes, of gratitude at being
allowed to leave the world he hated with the certainty that his death
was to serve his sovereign idol.

"I shall be faithful to your Majesty until the end," he said simply, as
the King withdrew his fingers, and he rose to his feet.

The King nodded slowly, and his stony look watched Mendoza with a sort
of fixed curiosity. Even he had not known that such men lived.

"Call the guards to the door, Perez," he said coldly. "Tell the officer
to take Don Diego Mendoza to the west tower for to-night, and to treat
him with every consideration."

Perez obeyed. A detachment of halberdiers with an officer were stationed
in the short, broad corridor that led to the room where Dolores was
waiting. Perez gave the lieutenant his orders.

Mendoza walked backwards to the door from the King's presence, making
three low bows as he went. At the door he turned, taking no notice of
the Secretary, marched out with head erect, and gave himself up to the

       *       *       *       *       *


The halberdiers closed round their old chief, but did not press upon
him. Three went before him, three behind, and one walked on each side,
and the lieutenant led the little detachment. The men were too much
accustomed to seeing courtiers in the extremes of favour and disfavour
to be much surprised at the arrest of Mendoza, and they felt no great
sympathy for him. He had always been too rigidly exacting for their
taste, and they longed for a younger commander who should devote more
time to his own pleasure and less to inspecting uniforms and finding
fault with details. Yet Mendoza had been a very just man, and he
possessed the eminently military bearing and temper which always impose
themselves on soldiers. At the present moment, too, they were more
inclined to pity him than to treat him roughly, for if they did not
guess what had really taken place, they were quite sure that Don John of
Austria had been murdered by the King's orders, like Don Carlos and
Queen Isabel and a fair number of other unfortunate persons; and if the
King had chosen Mendoza to do the deed, the soldiers thought that he was
probably not meant to suffer for it in the end, and that before long he
would be restored to his command. It would, therefore, be the better for
them, later, if they showed him a certain deference in his misfortune.
Besides, they had heard Antonio Perez tell their officer that Mendoza
was to be treated with every consideration.

They marched in time, with heavy tread and the swinging gait to right
and left that is natural to a soldier who carries for a weapon a long
halberd with a very heavy head. Mendoza was as tall as any of them, and
kept their step, holding his head high. He was bareheaded, but was
otherwise still in the complete uniform he wore when on duty on state

The corridor, which seemed short on account of its breadth and in
comparison with the great size of the halls in the palace, was some
thirty paces long and lighted by a number of chandeliers that hung from
the painted vault. The party reached the door of the waiting room and
halted a moment, while one of the King's footmen opened the doors wide.
Don Ruy Gomez and Dolores were waiting within. The servant passed
rapidly through to open the doors beyond. Ruy Gomez stood up and drew
his chair aside, somewhat surprised at the entrance of the soldiers, who
rarely passed that way. Dolores opened her eyes at the sound of
marching, but in the uncertain light of the candles she did not at first
see Mendoza, half hidden as he was by the men who guarded him. She paid
little attention, for she was accustomed to seeing such detachments of
halberdiers marching through the corridors when the sentries were
relieved, and as she had never been in the King's apartments she was not
surprised by the sudden appearance of the soldiers, as her companion
was. But as the latter made way for them he lifted his hat, which as a
Grandee he wore even in the King's presence, and he bent his head
courteously as Mendoza went by. He hoped that Dolores would not see her
father, but his own recognition of the prisoner had attracted her
attention. She sprang to her feet with a cry. Mendoza turned his head
and saw her before she could reach him, for she was moving forward. He
stood still, and the soldiers halted instinctively and parted before
her, for they all knew their commander's daughter.

"Father!" she cried, and she tried to take his hand.

But he pushed her away and turned his face resolutely towards the door
before him.

"Close up! Forward--march!" he said, in his harsh tone of command.

The men obeyed, gently forcing Dolores aside. They made two steps
forward, but Ruy Gomez stopped them by a gesture, standing in their way
and raising one hand, while he laid the other on the young lieutenant's
shoulder. Ruy Gomez was one of the greatest personages in Spain; he was
the majorduomo of the palace, and had almost unlimited authority. But
the officer had his orders directly from the King and felt bound to
carry them out to the letter.

"His Majesty has directed me to convey Don Diego de Mendoza to the west
tower without delay," he said. "I beg your Excellency to let us

Ruy Gomez still held him by the shoulder with a gentle pressure.

"That I will not," he said firmly; "and if you are blamed for being slow
in the execution of your duty, say that Ruy Gomez de Silva hindered you,
and fear nothing. It is not right that father and daughter should part
as these two are parting."

"I have nothing to say to my daughter," said Mendoza harshly; but the
words seemed to hurt him.

"Don Diego," answered Ruy Gomez, "the deed of which you have accused
yourself is as much worse than anything your child has done as hatred is
worse than love. By the right of mere humanity I take upon myself to say
that you shall be left here a while with your daughter, that you may
take leave of one another." He turned to the officer. "Withdraw your
men, sir," he said. "Wait at the door. You have my word for the security
of your prisoner, and my authority for what you do. I will call you when
it is time."

He spoke in a tone that admitted of no refusal, and he was obeyed. The
officers and the men filed out, and Ruy Gomez closed the door after
them. He himself recrossed the room and went out by the other way into
the broad corridor. He meant to wait there. His orders had been carried
out so quickly that Mendoza found himself alone with Dolores, almost as
by a surprise. In his desperate mood he resented what Ruy Gomez had
done, as an interference in his family affairs, and he bent his bushy
brows together as he stood facing Dolores, with folded arms. Four hours
had not passed since they had last spoken together alone in his own
dwelling; there was a lifetime of tragedy between that moment and this.

Dolores had not spoken since he had pushed her away. She stood beside a
chair, resting one hand upon it, dead white, with the dark shadow of
pain under her eyes, her lips almost colourless, but firm, and evenly
closed. There were lines of suffering in her young face that looked as
if they never could be effaced. It seemed to her that the worst conflict
of all was raging in her heart as she watched her father's face, waiting
for the sound of his voice; and as for him, he would rather have gone
back to the King's presence to be tormented under the eyes of Antonio
Perez than stand there, forced to see her and speak to her. In his eyes,
in the light of what he had been told, she was a ruined and shameless
woman, who had deceived him day in, day out, for more than two years.
And to her, so far as she could understand, he was the condemned
murderer of the man she had so innocently and truly loved. But yet, she
had a doubt, and for that possibility, she had cast her good name to the
winds in the hope of saving his life. At one moment, in a vision of
dread, she saw his armed hand striking at her lover--at the next she
felt that he could never have struck the blow, and that there was an
unsolved mystery behind it all. Never were two innocent human beings so
utterly deceived, each about the other.

"Father," she said, at last, in a trembling tone, "can you not speak to
me, if I can find heart to hear you?"

"What can we two say to each other?" he asked sternly. "Why did you stop
me? I am ready to die for killing the man who ruined you. I am glad. Why
should I say anything to you, and what words can you have for me? I hope
your end may come quickly, with such peace as you can find from your
shame at the last. That is what I wish for you, and it is a good wish,
for you have made death on the scaffold look easy to me, so that I long
for it. Do you understand?"

"Condemned to death!" she cried out, almost incoherently, before he had
finished speaking. "But they cannot condemn you--I have told them that I
was there--that it was not you--they must believe me--O God of mercy!"

"They believe you--yes. They believe that I found you together and
killed him. I shall be tried by judges, but I am condemned beforehand,
and I must die." He spoke calmly enough. "Your mad confession before the
court only made my conviction more certain," he said. "It gave the
reason for the deed--and it burned away the last doubt I had. If they
are slow in trying me, you will have been before the executioner, for he
will find me dead--by your hand. You might have spared me that--and
spared yourself. You still had the remnant of a good name, and your
lover being dead, you might have worn the rag of your honour still. You
have chosen to throw it away, and let me know my full disgrace before I
die a disgraceful death. And yet you wish to speak to me. Do you expect
my blessing?"

Dolores had lost the power of speech. Passing her hand now and then
across her forehead, as though trying to brush away a material veil, she
stood half paralyzed, staring wildly at him while he spoke. But when she
saw him turn away from her towards the door, as if he would go out and
leave her there, her strength was loosed from the spell, and she sprang
before him and caught his wrists with her hands.

"I am as innocent as when my mother bore me," she said, and her low
voice rang with the truth. "I told the lie to save your life. Do you
believe me now?"

He gazed at her with haggard eyes for many moments before he spoke.

"How can it be true?" he asked, but his voice shook in his throat. "You
were there--I saw you leave his room--"

"No, that you never saw!" she cried, well knowing how impossible it was,
since she had been locked in till after he had gone away.

"I saw your dress--not this one--what you wore this afternoon."

"Not this one? I put on this court dress before I got out of the room in
which you had locked me up. Inez helped me--I pretended that I was she,
and wore her cloak, and slipped away, and I have not been back again.
You did not see me."

Mendoza passed his hand over his eyes and drew back from her. If what
she said were true, the strongest link was gone from the chain of facts
by which he had argued so much sorrow and shame. Forgetting himself and
his own near fate, he looked at the court dress she wore, and a mere
glance convinced him that it was not the one he had seen.

"But--" he was suddenly confused--"but why did you need to disguise
yourself? I left the Princess of Eboli with you, and I gave her
permission to take you away to stay with her. You needed no disguise."

"I never saw her. She must have found Inez in the room. I was gone long
before that."

"Gone--where?" Mendoza was fast losing the thread of it all--in his
confusion of ideas he grasped the clue of his chief sorrow, which was
far beyond any thought for himself. "But if you are innocent--pray God
you may be, as you say--how is it possible--oh, no! I cannot believe
it--I cannot! No woman could do that--no innocent girl could stand out
before a multitude of men and women, and say what you said--"

"I hoped to save your life. I had the strength. I did it."

Her clear grey eyes looked into his, and his doubt began to break away
before the truth.

"Make me believe it!" he cried, his voice breaking. "Oh, God! Make me
believe it before I die!"

"It is true," she cried, in a low, strong voice that carried belief to
his breast in spite of such reasoning as still had some power over him.
"It is true, and you shall believe it; and if you will not, the man you
have killed, the man I loved and trusted, the dead man who knows the
whole truth as I know it, will come back from the dead to prove it
true--for I swear it upon his soul in heaven, and upon yours and mine
that will not be long on earth--as I will swear it in the hour of your
death and mine, since we must die!"

He could not take his eyes from hers that held him, and suddenly in the
pure depths he seemed to see her soul facing him without fear, and he
knew that what she said was true, and his tortured heart leapt up at the
good certainty.

"I believe you, my child," he said at last, and then his grey lids half
closed over his eyes and he bent down to her, and put his arm round her.

But she shuddered at the touch of his right hand, and though she knew
that he was a condemned man, and that she might never see him again, she
could not bear to receive his parting kiss upon her forehead.

"Oh, father, why did you kill him?" she asked, turning her head away and
moving to escape from his hold.

But Mendoza did not answer. His arm dropped by his side, and his face
grew white and stony. She was asking him to give up the King's secret,
to keep which he was giving his life. He felt that it would be treason
to tell even her. And besides, she would not keep the secret--what woman
could, what daughter would? It must go out of the world with him, if it
was to be safe. He glanced at her and saw her face ravaged by an hour's
grief. Yet she would not mourn Don John the less if she knew whose hand
had done the deed. It could make but a little difference to her, though
to himself that difference would be great, if she knew that he died

And then began a struggle fierce and grim, that tore his soul and
wounded his heart as no death agony could have hurt him. Since he had
judged her unjustly, since it had all been a hideous dream, since she
was still the child that had been all in all to him throughout her life,
since all was changed, he did not wish to die, he bore the dead man no
hatred, it was no soothing satisfaction to his outraged heart to know
him dead of a sword wound in the breast, far away in the room where they
had left him, there was no fierce regret that he had not driven the
thrust himself. The man was as innocent as the innocent girl, and he
himself, as innocent as both, was to be led out to die to shield the
King--no more. His life was to be taken for that only, and he no longer
set its value at naught nor wished it over. He was the mere scapegoat,
to suffer for his master's crime, since crime it was and nothing better.
And since he was willing to bear the punishment, or since there was now
no escape from it, had he not at least the human right to proclaim his
innocence to the only being he really loved? It would be monstrous to
deny it. What could she do, after all, even if she knew the truth?
Nothing. No one would dare to believe her if she accused the King. She
would be shut up in a convent as a mad woman, but in any case, she would
certainly disappear to end her life in some religious house as soon as
he was dead. Poor girl--she had loved Don John with all her heart--what
could the world hold for her, even if the disgrace of her father's death
were not to shut her out of the world altogether, as it inevitably must.
She would not live long, but she would live in the profoundest sorrow.
It would be an alleviation, almost the greatest possible, to know that
her father's hand was not stained by such a deed.

The temptation to speak out was overwhelming, and he knew that the time
was short. At any moment Ruy Gomez might open the door, and bid him part
from her, and there would be small chance for him of seeing her again.
He stood uncertain, with bent head and folded arms, and she watched him,
trying to bring herself to touch his hand again and bear his kiss.

His loyalty to the King, that was like a sort of madness, stood between
him and the words he longed to say. It was the habit of his long
soldier's life, unbending as the corslet he wore and enclosing his soul
as the steel encased his body, proof against every cruelty, every
unkindness, every insult. It was better to die a traitor's death for the
King's secret than to live for his own honour. So it had always seemed
to him, since he had been a boy and had learned to fight under the great
Emperor. But now he knew that he wavered as he had never done in the
most desperate charge, when life was but a missile to be flung in the
enemy's face, and found or not, when the fray was over. There was no
intoxication of fury now, there was no far ring of glory in the air,
there was no victory to be won. The hard and hideous fact stared him in
the face, that he was to die like a malefactor by the hangman's hand,
and that the sovereign who had graciously deigned to accept the
sacrifice had tortured him for nearly half an hour without mercy in the
presence of an inferior, in order to get a few facts on paper which
might help his own royal credit. And as if that were not enough, his own
daughter was to live after him, believing that he had cruelly murdered
the man she most dearly loved. It was more than humanity could bear.

His brow unbent, his arms unfolded themselves, and he held them out to
Dolores with a smile almost gentle.

"There is no blood on these hands, my little girl," he said tenderly. "I
did not do it, child. Let me hold you in my arms once, and kiss you
before I go. We are both innocent--we can bless one another before we
part for ever."

The pure, grey eyes opened wide in amazement. Dolores could hardly
believe her ears, as she made a step towards him, and then stopped,
shrinking, and then made one step more. Her lips moved and wondering
words came to him, so low that he could hardly understand, save that she
questioned him.

"You did not do it!" she breathed. "You did not kill him after all? But

Still she hesitated, though she came slowly nearer, and a faint light
warmed her sorrowful face.

"You must try to guess who and why," he said, in a tone as low as her
own. "I must not tell you that."

"I cannot guess," she answered; but she was close to him now, and she
had taken one of his hands softly in both her own, while she gazed into
his eyes. "How can I understand unless you tell me? Is it so great a
secret that you must die for it, and never tell it? Oh, father, father!
Are you sure--quite sure?"

"He was dead already when I came into the room," Mendoza answered. "I
did not even see him hurt."

"But then--yes--then"--her voice sank to a whisper--"then it was the

He saw the words on her lips rather than heard them, and she saw in his
face that she was right. She dropped his hand and threw her arms round
his neck, pressing her bosom to his breastplate; and suddenly her love
for him awoke, and she began to know how she might have loved him if she
had known him through all the years that were gone.

"It cannot be that he will let you die!" she cried softly. "You shall
not die!" she cried again, with sudden strength, and her light frame
shook his as if she would wrench him back from inevitable fate.

"My little girl," he answered, most tenderly clasping her to him, and
most thoughtfully, lest his armour should hurt her, "I can die happy
now, for I have found all of you again."

"You shall not die! You shall not die!" she cried. "I will not let you
go--they must take me, too--"

"No power can save me now, my darling," he answered. "But it does not
matter, since you know. It will be easy now."

She could only hold him with her small hands, and say over and over
again that she would not let him go.

"Ah! why have you never loved me before in all these years?" he cried.
"It was my fault--all my fault."

"I love you now with all my heart," she answered, "and I will save you,
even from the King; and you and I and Inez will go far away, and you two
shall comfort me and love me till I go to him."

Mendoza shook his head sadly, looking over her shoulder as he held her,
for he knew that there was no hope now. Had he known, or half guessed,
but an hour or two ago, he would have turned on his heel from the door
of Don John's chamber, and he would have left the King to bear the blame
or shift it as he could.

"It is too late, Dolores. God bless you, my dear, dear child! It will
soon be over--two days at most, for the people will cry out for the
blood of Don John's murderer; and when they see mine they will be
satisfied. It is too late now. Good-by, my little girl, good-by! The
blessing of all heaven be on your dear head!"

Dolores nestled against him, as she had never done before, with the
feeling that she had found something that had been wanting in her life,
at the very moment when the world, with all it held for her, was
slipping over the edge of eternity.

"I will not leave you," she cried again. "They shall take me to your
prison, and I will stay with you and take care of you, and never leave
you; and at last I shall save your life, and then--"

The door of the corridor opened, and she saw Ruy Gomez standing in the
entrance, as if he were waiting. His face was calm and grave as usual,
but she saw a profound pity in his eyes.

"No, no!" she cried to him, "not yet--one moment more!"

But Mendoza turned his head at her words, looking over his shoulder, and
he saw the Prince also.

"I am ready," he said briefly, and he tried to take Dolores' hands from
his neck. "It is time," he said to her. "Be brave, my darling! We have
found each other at last. It will not be long before we are together for

He kissed her tenderly once more, and loosed her hold, putting her two
hands together and kissing them also.

"I will not say good-by," she said. "It is not good-by--it shall not be.
I shall be with you soon."

His eyes lingered upon hers for a moment, and then he broke away,
setting his teeth lest he should choke and break down. He opened the
door and presented himself to the halberdiers. Dolores heard his
familiar voice give the words of command.

"Close up! Forward, march!"

The heavy tramp she knew so well began at once, and echoed along the
outer entries, growing slowly less distinct till it was only a distant
and rumbling echo, and then died away altogether. Her hand was still on
the open door, and Ruy Gomez was standing beside her. He gently drew her
away, and closed the door again. She let him lead her to a chair, and
sat down where she had sat before. But this time she did not lean back
exhausted, with half-closed eyes,--she rested her elbow on her knee and
her chin in her hand, and she tried to think connectedly to a
conclusion. She remembered all the details of the past hours one by one,
and she felt that the determination to save her father had given her
strength to live.

"Don Ruy Gomez," she said at last, looking up to the tall old nobleman,
who stood by the brazier warming his hands again, "can I see the King

"That is more than I can promise," answered the Prince. "I have asked an
audience for you, and the chamberlain will bring word presently whether
his Majesty is willing to see you. But if you are admitted, I cannot
tell whether Perez will be there or not. He generally is. His presence
need make no difference to you. He is an excellent young man, full of
heart. I have great confidence in him,--so much so that I recommended
him to his Majesty as Secretary. I am sure that he will do all he can to
be of use to you."

Dolores looked up incredulously, and with a certain wonder at the
Prince's extreme simplicity. Yet he had been married ten years to the
clever woman who ruled him and Perez and King Philip, and made each one
believe that she was devoted to him only, body and soul. Of the three,
Perez alone may have guessed the truth, but though it was degrading
enough, he would not let it stand in the way of his advancement; and in
the end it was he who escaped, leaving her to perish, the victim of the
King's implacable anger, Dolores could not help shaking her head in
answer to the Prince of Eboli's speech.

"People are very unjust to Perez," he said. "But the King trusts him. If
he is there, try to conciliate him, for he has much influence with his

Dolores said nothing, and resuming her attitude, returned to her sad
meditations, and to the study of some immediate plan. But she could
think of no way. Her only fixed intention was to see the King himself.
Ruy Gomez could do no more to help her than he had done already, and
that indeed was not little, since it was to his kindly impulse that she
owed her meeting with her father.

"And if Perez is not inclined to help Don Diego," said the Prince, after
a long pause which had not interrupted the slow progression of, his
kindly thought, "I will request my wife to speak to him. I have often
noticed that the Princess can make Perez do almost anything she wishes.
Women are far cleverer than men, my dear--they have ways we do not
understand. Yes, I will interest my wife in the affair. It would be a
sad thing if your father--"

The old man stopped short, and Dolores wondered vaguely what he had been
going to say. Ruy Gomez was a very strange compound of almost childlike
and most honourable simplicity, and of the experienced wisdom with
regard to the truth of matters in which he was not concerned, which
sometimes belongs to very honourable and simple men.

"You do not believe that my father is guilty," said Dolores, boldly
asserting what she suspected.

"My dear child," answered Ruy Gomez, twisting his rings on his fingers
as he spread his hands above the coals in the brazier, "I have lived in
this court for fifty years, and I have learned in that time that where
great matters are at stake those who do not know the whole truth are
often greatly deceived by appearances. I know nothing of the real matter
now, but it would not surprise me if a great change took place before
to-morrow night. A man who has committed a crime so horrible as the one
your father confessed before us all rarely finds it expedient to make
such a confession, and a young girl, my dear, who has really been a
little too imprudently in love with a royal Prince, would be a great
deal too wise to make a dramatic statement of her fault to the assembled
Grandees of Spain."

He looked across at Dolores and smiled gently. But she only shook her
head gravely in answer, though she wondered at what he said, and
wondered, too, whether there might not be a great many persons in the
court who thought as he did. She was silent, too, because it hurt her to
talk when she could not draw breath without remembering that what she
had lived for was lying dead in that dim room on the upper story.

The door opened, and a chamberlain entered the room.

"His Majesty is pleased to receive Doña Dolores de Mendoza, in private
audience," he said.

Ruy Gomez rose and led Dolores out into the corridor.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dolores had prepared no speech with which to appeal to the King, and she
had not counted upon her own feelings towards him when she found herself
in the room where Mendoza had been questioned, and heard the door closed
behind her by the chamberlain who had announced her coming. She stood
still a moment, dazzled by the brilliant lights after having been so
long in the dimmer waiting room. She had never before been in the King's
study, and she had fancied it very different from what it really was
when she had tried to picture to herself the coming interview. She had
supposed the room small, sombre, littered with books and papers, and
cold; it was, on the contrary, so spacious as to be almost a hall, it
was brightly illuminated and warmed by the big wood fire. Magnificent
tapestries covered the walls with glowing colour, and upon one of these,
in barbaric bad taste, was hung a single great picture by Titian,
Philip's favourite master. Dolores blushed as she recognized in the face
of the insolent Venus the features of the Princess of Eboli. Prom his
accustomed chair, the King could see this painting. Everywhere in the
room there were rich objects that caught and reflected the light, things
of gold and silver, of jade and lapis lazuli, in a sort of tasteless
profusion that detracted from the beauty of each, and made Dolores feel
that she had been suddenly transported out of her own element into
another that was hard to breathe and in which it was bad to live. It
oppressed her, and though her courage was undiminished, the air of the
place seemed to stifle her thought and speech.

As she entered she saw the King in profile, seated in his great chair at
some distance from the fire, but looking at it steadily. He did not
notice her presence at first. Antonio Perez sat at the table, busily
writing, and he only glanced at Dolores sideways when he heard the door
close after her. She sank almost to the ground as she made the first
court curtsey before advancing, and she came forward into the light. As
her skirt swept the ground a second time, Philip looked slowly round,
and his dull stare followed her as she came round in a quarter of a wide
circle and curtsied a third time immediately in front of him.

She was very beautiful, as she stood waiting for him to speak, and
meeting his gaze fearlessly with a look of cold contempt in her white
face such as no living person had ever dared to turn to him, while the
light of anger burned in her deep grey eyes. But for the presence of the
Secretary, she would have spoken first, regardless of court ceremony.
Philip looked at her attentively, mentally comparing her with his young
Queen's placidly dull personality and with the Princess of Eboli's fast
disappearing and somewhat coarse beauty. For the Princess had changed
much since Titian had painted his very flattering picture, and though
she was only thirty years of age, she was already the mother of many
children. Philip stared steadily at the beautiful girl who stood waiting
before him, and he wondered why she had never seemed so lovely to him
before. There was a half morbid, half bitter savour in what he felt,
too,--he had just condemned the beauty's father to death, and she must
therefore hate him with all her heart. It pleased him to think of that;
she was beautiful and he stared at her long.

"Be seated, Doña Dolores," he said at last, in a muffled voice that was
not harsh. "I am glad that you have come, for I have much to say to

Without lifting his wrist from the arm of the chair on which it rested,
the King moved his hand, and his long forefinger pointed to a low
cushioned stool that was placed near him. Dolores came forward
unwillingly and sat down. Perez watched the two thoughtfully, and forgot
his writing. He did not remember that any one excepting the Princess of
Eboli had been allowed to be seated in the King's study. The Queen never
came there. Perez' work exempted him in private, of course, from much of
the tedious ceremonial upon which Philip insisted. Dolores sat upon the
edge of the stool, very erect, with her hands folded on her knees.

"Doña Dolores is pale," observed the King. "Bring a cordial, Perez, or a
glass of Oporto wine."

"I thank your Majesty," said the young girl quickly. "I need nothing."

"I will be your physician," answered Philip, very suavely. "I shall
insist upon your taking the medicine I prescribe."

He did not turn his eyes from her as Perez brought a gold salver and
offered Dolores the glass. It was impossible to refuse, so she lifted it
to her lips and sipped a little.

"I thank your Majesty," she said again. "I thank you, sir," she said
gravely to Perez as she set down the glass, but she did not raise her
eyes to his face as she spoke any more than she would have done if he
had been a footman.

"I have much to say to you, and some questions to ask of you," the King
began, speaking very slowly, but with extreme suavity.

He paused, and coughed a little, but Dolores said nothing. Then he began
to look at her again, and while he spoke he steadily examined every
detail of her appearance till his inscrutable gaze had travelled from
her headdress to the points of her velvet slippers, and finally remained
fixed upon her mouth in a way that disturbed her even more than the
speech he made. Perez had resumed his seat.

"In my life," he began, speaking of himself quite without formality, "I
have suffered more than most men, in being bereaved of the persons to
whom I have been most sincerely attached. The most fortunate and
successful sovereign in the world has been and is the most unhappy man
in his kingdom. One after another, those I have loved have been taken
from me, until I am almost alone in the world that is so largely mine. I
suppose you cannot understand that, my dear, for my sorrows began before
you were born. But they have reached their crown and culmination to-day
in the death of my dear brother."

He paused, watching her mouth, and he saw that she was making a
superhuman effort to control herself, pressing the beautiful lips
together, though they moved gainfully in spite of her, and visibly lost

"Perez," he said after a moment, "you may go and take some rest. I will
send for you when I need you."

The Secretary rose, bowed low, and left the room by a small masked door
in a corner. The King waited till he saw it close before he spoke again.
His tone changed a little then and his words came quickly, as if he felt
here constraint.

"I feel," he said, "that we are united by a common calamity, my dear. I
intend to take you under my most particular care and protection from
this very hour. Yes, I know!" he held up his hand o deprecate any
interruption, for Dolores seemed about to speak. "I know why you come to
me, you wish to intercede for your father. That is natural, and you are
right to come to me yourself, for I would rather hear your voice than
that of another speaking for you, and I would rather grant any mercy in
my power to you directly than to some personage of the court who would
be seeking his own interest as much as yours."

"I ask justice, not mercy, Sire," said Dolores, in a firm, low voice,
and the fire lightened in her eyes.

"Your father shall have both," answered Philip, "for they are

"He needs no mercy," returned the young girl, "for he has done no harm.
Your Majesty knows that as well as I."

"If I knew that, my dear, your father would not be under arrest. I
cannot guess what you know or do not know--"

"I know the truth." She spoke so confidently that the King's expression
changed a little.

"I wish I did," he answered, with as much suavity as ever. "But tell me
what you think you know about this matter. You may help me to sift it,
and then I shall be the better able to help you, if such a thing be
possible. What do you know?"

Dolores leaned forward toward him from her seat, almost rising as she
lowered her voice to a whisper, her eyes fixed on his face.

"I was close behind the door your Majesty wished to open," she said. "I
heard every word; I heard your sword drawn and I heard Don John
fall--and then it was some time before I heard my father's voice, taking
the blame upon himself, lest it should be said that the King had
murdered his own brother in his room, unarmed. Is that the truth, or

While she was speaking, a greenish hue overspread Philip's face, ghastly
in the candlelight. He sat upright in his chair, his hands straining on
its arms and pushing, as if he would have got farther back if he could.
He had foreseen everything except that Dolores had been in the next
room, for his secret spies had informed him through Perez that her
father had kept her a prisoner during the early part of the evening and
until after supper.

"When you were both gone," Dolores continued, holding him under her
terrible eyes, "I came in, and I found him dead, with the wound in his
left breast, and he was unarmed, murdered without a chance for his life.
There is blood upon my dress where it touched his--the blood of the man
I loved, shed by you. Ah, he was right to call you coward, and he died
for me, because you said things of me that no loving man would bear. He
was right to call you coward--it was well said--it was the last word he
spoke, and I shall not forget it. He had borne everything you heaped
upon himself, your insults, your scorn of his mother, but he would not
let you cast a slur upon my name, and if you had not killed him out of
sheer cowardice, he would have struck you in the face. He was a man! And
then my father took the blame to save you from the monstrous accusation,
and that all might believe him guilty he told the lie that saved you
before them all. Do I know the truth? Is one word of that not true?"

She had quite risen now and stood before him like an accusing angel. And
he, who was seldom taken unawares, and was very hard to hurt, leaned
back and suffered, slowly turning his head from side to side against the
back of the high carved chair.

"Confess that it is true!" she cried, in concentrated tones. "Can you
not even find courage for that? You are not the King now, you are your
brother's murderer, and the murderer of the man I loved, whose wife I
should have been to-morrow. Look at me, and confess that I have told the
truth. I am a Spanish woman, and I would not see my country branded
before the world with the shame of your royal murders, and if you will
confess and save my father, I will keep your secret for my country's
sake. But if not--then you must either kill me here, as you slew him, or
by the God that made you and the mother that bore you, I will tell all
Spain what you are, and the men who loved Don John of Austria shall rise
and take your blood for his blood, though it be blood royal, and you
shall die, as you killed, like the coward you are!"

The King's eyes were closed, and still his great pale head moved slowly
from side to side; for he was suffering, and the torture of mind he had
made Mendoza bear was avenged already. But he was silent.

"Will you not speak?" asked the young girl, with blazing eyes. "Then
find some weapon and kill me here before I go, for I shall not wait till
you find many words."

She was silent, and she stood upright in the act to go. He made no
sound, and she moved towards the door, stood still, then moved again and
then again, pausing for his answer at each step. He heard her, but could
not bring himself to speak the words she demanded of him. She began to
walk quickly. Her hand was almost on the door when he raised himself by
the arms of his chair, and cried out to her in a frightened voice:--

"No, no! Stay here--you must not go--what do you want me to say?"

She advanced a step again, and once more stood still and met his scared
eyes as he turned his face towards her.

"Say, 'You have spoken the truth,'" she answered, dictating to him as if
she were the sovereign and he a guilty subject.

She waited a moment and then moved as if she would go out.

"Stay--yes--it is true--I did it--for God's mercy do not betray me!"

He almost screamed the words out to her, half rising, his body bent, his
face livid in his extreme fear. She came slowly back towards him,
keeping her eyes upon him as if he were some dangerous wild animal that
she controlled by her look alone.

"That is not all," she said. "That was for me, that I might hear the
words from your own lips. There is something more."

"What more do you want of me?" asked Philip, in thick tones, leaning
back exhausted in his chair.

"My father's freedom and safety," answered Dolores. "I must have an
order for his instant release. He can hardly have reached his prison
yet. Send for him. Let him come here at once, as a free man."

"That is impossible," replied Philip. "He has confessed the deed before
the whole court--he cannot possibly be set at liberty without a trial.
You forget what you are asking--indeed you forget yourself altogether
too much."

He was gathering his dignity again, by force of habit, as his terror
subsided, but Dolores was too strong for him.

"I am not asking anything of your Majesty; I am dictating terms to my
lover's murderer," she said proudly.

"This is past bearing, girl!" cried Philip hoarsely. "You are out of
your mind--I shall call servants to take you away to a place of safety.
We shall see what you will do then. You shall not impose your insolence
upon me any longer."

Dolores reflected that it was probably in his power to carry out the
threat, and to have her carried off by the private door through which
Perez had gone out. She saw in a flash how great her danger was, for she
was the only witness against him, and if he could put her out of the way
in a place of silence, he could send her father to trial and execution
without risk to himself, as he had certainly intended to do. On the
other hand, she had been able to terrify him to submission a few moments
earlier. In the instant working of her woman's mind, she recollected how
his fright had increased as she had approached the door by which she had
entered. His only chance of accomplishing her disappearance lay in
having her taken away by some secret passage, where no open scandal
could be possible.

Before she answered his last angry speech, she had almost reached the
main entrance again.

"Call whom you will," she said contemptuously. "You cannot save
yourself. Don Ruy Gomez is on the other side of that door, and there are
chamberlains and guards there, too. I shall have told them all the truth
before your men can lay hands on me. If you will not write the order to
release my father, I shall go out at once. In ten minutes there will be
a revolution in the palace, and to-morrow all Spain will be on fire to
avenge your brother. Spain has not forgotten Don Carlos yet! There are
those alive who saw you give Queen Isabel the draught that killed
her--with your own hand. Are you mad enough to think that no one knows
those things, that your spies, who spy on others, do not spy on you,
that you alone, of all mankind, can commit every crime with impunity?"

"Take care, girl! Take care!"

"Beware--Don Philip of Austria, King of Spain and half the world, lest a
girl's voice be heard above yours, and a girl's hand loosen the
foundation of your throne, lest all mankind rise up to-morrow and take
your life for the lives you have destroyed! Outside this door here,
there are men who guess the truth already, who hate you as they hate
Satan, and who loved your brother as every living being loved
him--except you. One moment more--order my father to be set free, or I
will open and speak. One moment! You will not? It is too late--you are

Her hand went out to open, but Philip was already on his feet, and with
quick, clumsy steps he reached the writing-table, seized the pen Perez
had thrown down, and began to scrawl words rapidly in his great angular
handwriting. He threw sand upon it to dry the ink, and then poured the
grains back into the silver sandbox, glanced at the paper and held it
out to Dolores without a word. His other hand slipped along the table to
a silver bell, used for calling his private attendants, but the girl saw
the movement and instinctively suspected his treachery. He meant her to
come to the table, when he would ring the bell and then catch her and
hold her by main force till help came. Her faculties were furiously
awake under the strain she bore, and outran his slow cunning.

"If you ring that bell, I will open," she said imperiously. "I must have
the paper here, where I am safe, and I must read it myself before I
shall be satisfied."

"You are a terrible woman," said the King, but she did not like his
smile as he came towards her, holding out the document.

She took it from his hand, keeping her eyes on his, for something told
her that he would try to seize her and draw her from the door while she
was reading it. For some seconds they faced each other in silence, and
she knew by his determined attitude that she was right, and that it
would not be safe to look down. She wondered why he did not catch her in
his arms as she stood, and then she realized that her free hand was on
the latch of the door, and that he knew it. She slowly turned the
handle, and drew the door to her, and she saw his face fall. She moved
to one side so that she could have sprung out if he had tried violence,
and then at last she allowed her eyes to glance at the paper. It was in
order and would be obeyed; she saw that, at a glance, for it said that
Don Diego de Mendoza was to be set at liberty instantly and

"I humbly thank your Majesty, and take my leave," she said, throwing the
door wide open and curtseying low.

A chamberlain who had seen the door move on its hinges stepped in to
shut it, for it opened inward. The King beckoned him in, and closed it,
but before it was quite shut, he heard Dolores' voice.

"Don Ruy Gomez," she was saying, "this is an order to set my father at
liberty unconditionally and at once. I do not know to whom it should be
given. Will you take it for me and see to it?"

"I will go to the west tower myself," he said, beginning to walk with
her. "Such good news is even better when a friend brings it."

"Thank you. Tell him from me that he is safe, for his Majesty has told
me that he knows the whole truth. Will you do that? You have been very
kind to me to-night, Prince--let me thank you with all my heart now, for
we may not meet again. You will not see me at court after this, and I
trust my father will take us back to Valladolid and live with us."

"That would be wise," answered Ruy Gomez. "As for any help I have given
you, it has been little enough and freely given. I will not keep your
father waiting for his liberty. Good-night, Doña Dolores."

       *       *       *       *       *


All that had happened from the time when Don John had fallen in his room
to the moment when Dolores left her sister on the terrace had occupied
little more than half an hour, during which the King had descended to
the hall, Mendoza had claimed the guilt of Don John's murder, and the
two had gone out under the protection of the guards. As soon as Dolores
was out of hearing, Inez rose and crept along the terrace to Don John's
door. In the confusion that had ensued upon the announcement of his
death no one had thought of going to him; every one took it for granted
that some one else had done what was necessary, and that his apartments
were filled with physicians and servants. It was not the first time in
history that a royal personage had thus been left alone an hour, either
dead or dying, because no one was immediately responsible, and such
things have happened since.

Inez stole along the terrace and found the outer door open, as the dwarf
had left it when he had carried Dolores out in his arms. She remembered
that the voices she had heard earlier had come from rooms on the left of
the door, and she felt her way to the entrance of the bedchamber, and
then went in without hesitation. Bending very low, so that her hands
touched the floor from time to time, she crept along, feeling for the
body she expected to find. Suddenly she started and stood upright in an
instant. She had heard a deep sigh in the room, not far off.

She listened intently, but even her ears could detect no sound after
that. She was a little frightened, not with any supernatural fear, for
the blind, who live in the dark for ever, are generally singularly
exempt from such terrors, but because she had thought herself alone with
the dead man, and did not wish to be discovered.

"Who is here?" she asked quickly, but there was no answer out of the
dead stillness.

She stood quite still a few seconds and then crept forward again,
bending down and feeling before her along the floor. A moment later her
hand touched velvet, and she knew that she had found what she sought.
With a low moan she fell upon her knees and felt for the cold hand that
lay stretched out upon the marble pavement beyond the thick carpet. Her
hand followed the arm, reached the shoulder and then the face. Her
fingers fluttered lightly upon the features, while her own heart almost
stood still She felt no horror of death, though she had never been near
a dead person before; and those who were fond of her had allowed her to
feel their features with her gentle hands, and she knew beauty through
her touch, by its shape. Though her heart was breaking, she had felt
that once, before it was too late, she must know the face she had long
loved in dreams. Her longing satisfied, her grief broke out again, and
she let herself fall her length upon the floor beside Don John, one arm
across his chest, her head resting against the motionless shoulder, her
face almost hidden against the gathered velvet and silk of his doublet.
Once or twice she sobbed convulsively, and then she lay quite still,
trying with all her might to die there, on his arm, before any one came
to disturb her. It seemed very simple, just to stop living and stay with
him for ever.

Again she heard a sound of deep-drawn breath--but it was close to her
now, and her own arm moved with it on his chest--the dead man had moved,
he had sighed. She started up wildly, with a sharp cry, half of
paralyzing fear, and half of mad delight in a hope altogether
impossible. Then, he drew his breath again, and it issued from his lips
with a low groan. He was not quite dead yet, he might speak to her
still, he could hear her voice, perhaps, before he really died. She
could never have found courage to kiss him, even then she could have
blushed scarlet at the thought, but she bent down to his face, very
close to it, till her cheek almost touched his as she spoke in a very
trembling, low voice.

"Not yet--not yet--come back for one moment, only for one little moment!
Oh, let it be God's miracle for me!"

She hardly knew what she said, but the miracle was there, for she heard
his breath come again and again, and as she stared into her everlasting
night, strange flashes, like light, shot through her brain, her bosom
trembled, and her hands stiffened in the spasm of a delirious joy.

"Come back!" she cried again. "Come back!" Her hands shook as they felt
his body move.

His voice came again, not in a word yet, but yet not in a groan of pain.
His eyes, that had been half open and staring, closed with a look of
rest, and colour rose slowly in his cheeks. Then he felt her breath, and
his strength returned for an instant, his arms contracted and clasped
her to him violently.

"Dolores!" he cried, and in a moment his lips rained kisses on her face,
while his eyes were still closed.

Then he sank back again exhausted, and her arm kept his head from
striking the marble floor. The girl's cheek flushed a deep red, as she
tried to speak, and her words came broken and indistinct.

"I am not Dolores," she managed to say. "I am Inez--"

But he did not hear, for he was swooning again, and the painful blush
sank down again, as she realized that he was once more unconscious. She
wondered whether the room were dark or whether there were lights, or
whether he had not opened his eyes when he had kissed her. His head was
very heavy on her arm. With her other hand she drew off the hood she
wore and rolled it together, and lifting him a little she made a pillow
of it so that he rested easily. He had not recognized her, and she
believed he was dying, he had kissed her, and all eternity could not
take from her the memory of that moment. In the wild confusion of her
thoughts she was almost content that he should die now, for she had felt
what she had never dared to feel in sweetest dreams, and it had been
true, and no one could steal it away now, nor should any one ever know
it, not even Dolores herself. The jealous thought was there, in the
whirlwind of her brain, with all the rest, sudden, fierce, and strong,
as if Don John had been hers in life, and as if the sister she loved so
dearly had tried to win him from her. He was hers in death, and should
be hers for ever, and no one should ever know. It did not matter that he
had taken her for another, his kisses were her own. Once only had a
man's lips, not her father's, touched her cheek, and they had been the
lips of the fairest, and best, and bravest man in the world, her idol
and her earthly god. He might die now, and she would follow him, and in
the world beyond God would make it right somehow, and he, and she, and
her sister would all be but one loving soul for ever and ever. There was
no reasoning in all that--it was but the flash of wild thoughts that all
seemed certainties.

But Don John of Austria was neither dead nor dying. His brother's sword
had pierced his doublet and run through the outer flesh beneath his left
arm, as he stood sideways with his right thrust forward. The wound was a
mere scratch, as soldiers count wounds, and though the young blood had
followed quickly, it had now ceased to flow. It was the fall that had
hurt him, not the stab. The carpet had slipped from under his feet, and
he had fallen backwards to his full length, as a man falls on ice, and
his head had struck the marble floor so violently that he had lain half
an hour almost in a swoon, like a dead man at first, with neither breath
nor beating of the heart to give a sign of life, till after Dolores had
left him; and then he had sighed back to consciousness by very slow
degrees, because no one was there to help him, to raise his head a few
inches from the floor, to dash a little cold water into his face.

He stirred uneasily now, and moved his hands again, and his eyes opened
wide. Inez felt the slight motion and heard his regular breathing, and
an instinct told her that he was conscious, and not in a dream as he had
been when he had kissed her.

"I am Inez," she said, almost mechanically, and not knowing why she had
feared that he should take her for her sister. "I found your Highness
here--they all think that you are dead."

"Dead?" There was surprise in his voice, and his eyes looked at her and
about the room as he spoke, though he did not yet lift his head from the
hood on which it lay. "Dead?" he repeated, dazed still. "No--I must have
fallen. My head hurts me."

He uttered a sharp sound as he moved again, more of annoyance than of
suffering, as strong men do who unexpectedly find themselves hurt or
helpless, or both. Then, as his eyes fell upon the open door of the
inner room, he forgot his pain instantly and raised himself upon his
hand with startled eyes.

"Where is Dolores?" he cried, in utmost anxiety. "Where have they taken
her? Did she get out by the window?"

"She is safe," answered Inez, hardly knowing what she said, for he
turned pale instantly and had barely heard her answer, when he reeled as
he half sat and almost fell against her.

She held him as well as she could, but the position was strained and she
was not very strong. Half mad now, between fear lest he should die in
her arms and the instinctive belief that he was to live, she wished with
all her heart that some one would come and help her, or send for a
physician. He might die for lack of some simple aid she did not know how
to give him. But he had only been dizzy with the unconscious effort he
had made, and presently he rested on his own hand again.

"Thank God Dolores is safe!" he said, in a weak voice. "Can you help me
to get to a chair, my dear child? I must have been badly stunned. I
wonder how long I have been here. I remember--"

He paused and passed one hand over his eyes. The first instinct of
strong persons who have been unconscious is to think aloud, and to try
and recall every detail of the accident that left them unconscious.

"I remember--the King was here--we talked and we quarrelled--oh!"

The short exclamation ended his speech, as complete recollection
returned, and he knew that the secret must be kept, for his brother's
sake. He laid one head on the slight girl's shoulder to steady himself,
and with his other he helped himself to kneel on one knee.

"I am very dizzy," he said. "Try and help me to a chair, Inez."

She rose swiftly, holding his hand, and then putting one arm round him
under his own. He struggled to his feet and leaned his weight upon her,
and breathed hard. The effort hurt him where the flesh was torn.

"I am wounded, too," he said quietly, as he glanced at the blood on his
vest. "But it is nothing serious, I think."

With the instinct of the soldier hurt in the chest, he brushed his lips
with the small lace ruffle of his sleeve, and looked at it, expecting to
see the bright red stains that might mean death. There was nothing.

"It is only a scratch," he said, with an accent of indifference. "Help
me to the chair, my dear."

"Where?" she asked. "I do not know the room."

"One forgets that you are blind," he answered, with a smile, and leaning
heavily upon her, he led her by his weight, till he could touch the
chair in which he had sat reading Dolores' letter when the King had
entered an hour earlier.

He sat down with a sigh of relief, and stretched first one leg and then
the other, and leaned back with half-closed eyes.

"Where is Dolores?" he asked at last. "Why did she go away?"

"The jester took her away, I think," answered Inez. "I found them
together on the terrace. She was trying to come back to you, but he
prevented her. They thought you were dead."

"That was wise of him." He spoke faintly still, and when he opened his
eyes, the room swam with him. "And then?"

"Then I told her what had happened at court; I had heard everything from
the gallery. And Dolores went down alone. I could not understand what
she was going to do, but she is trying to save our father."

"Your father!" Don John looked at her in surprise, forgetting his hurt,
but it was as if some one had struck his head again, and he closed his
eyes. "What has happened?" he asked faintly. "Try and tell me. I do not

"My father thought he had killed you," answered Inez, in surprise. "He
came into the great hall when the King was there, and he cried out in a
loud voice that he had killed you, unarmed."

"Your father?" He forgot his suffering altogether now. "Your father was
not even in the room when--when I fell! And did the King say nothing?
Tell me quickly!"

"There was a great uproar, and I ran away to find Dolores. I do not know
what happened afterwards."

Don John turned painfully in his chair and lifted his hand to the back
of his head. But he said nothing at first, for he was beginning to
understand, and he would not betray the secret of his accident even to

"I knew he could not have done it! I thought he was mad--he most have
been! But I also thought your Highness was dead."

"Dear child!" Don John's voice was very kind. "You brought me to life.
Your father was not here. It was some one else who hurt me. Do you think
you could find Dolores or send some one to tell her--to tell every one
that I am alive? Say that I had a bad fall and was stunned for a while.
Never mind the scratch--it is nothing--do not speak of it. If you could
find Adonis, he could go."

He groaned now, for the pain of speaking was almost intolerable. Inez
put out her hand towards him.

"Does it hurt very much?" she asked, with a sort of pathetic, childlike

"Yes, my head hurts, but I shall not faint. There is something to drink
by the bed, I think--on this side. If you could only find it. I cannot
walk there yet, I am so giddy."

"Some one is coming!" exclaimed Inez, instead of answering him. "I hear
some one on the terrace. Hark!" she listened with bent head. "It is
Adonis. I know his step. There he is!"

Almost as she spoke the last words the dwarf was in the doorway. He
stood still, transfixed with astonishment.

"Mercy of heaven!" he exclaimed devoutly. "His Highness is alive after

"Yes," said Inez, in a glad tone. "The Prince was only stunned by the
fall. Go and tell Dolores--go out and tell every one--bring every one
here to me!"

"No!" cried Don John. "Try and bring Doña Dolores alone, and let no one
else know. The rest can wait."

"But your Highness needs a physician," protested the dwarf, not yet
recovered from his astonishment. "Your Highness is wounded, and must
therefore be bled at once. I will call the Doctor Galdos--"

"I tell you it is nothing," interrupted Don John. "Do as I order you,
and bring Doña Dolores. Give me that drink there, first--from the little
table. In a quarter of an hour I shall be quite well again. I have been
as badly stunned before when my horse has fallen with me at a barrier."

The jester swung quickly to the table, in his awkward, bow-legged gait,
and brought the beaker that stood there. Don John drank eagerly, for his
lips were parched with pain.

"Go!" he said imperatively. "And come back quickly."

"I will go," said Adonis. "But I may not come back quickly, for I
believe that Doña Dolores is with his Majesty at this moment, or with
her father, unless the three are together. Since it has pleased your
Highness not to remain dead, it would have been much simpler not to die
at all, for your Highness's premature death has caused trouble which
your Highness's premature resurrection may not quickly set right."

"The sooner you bring Doña Dolores, the sooner the tremble will be
over," said Don John. "Go at once, and do your best."

Adonis rolled away, shaking his head and almost touching the floor with
his hands as he walked.

"So the Last Trumpet is not merely another of those priests' tales!" he
muttered. "I shall meet Don Carlos on the terrace, and the Emperor in
the corridor, no doubt! They might give a man time to confess his sins.
It was unnecessary that the end of the world should come so suddenly!"

The last words of his jest were spoken to himself, for he was already
outside when he uttered them, and he had no intention of wasting time in
bearing the good news to Dolores. The difficulty was to find her. He had
been a witness of the scene in the hall from the balcony, and he guessed
that when she left the hall with Ruy Gomez she would go either to her
father or the King. It would not be an easy matter to see her, and it
was by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that he might be
altogether hindered from doing so, unless he at once announced to every
one he met the astounding fact that Don John was alive after all. He was
strongly tempted to do that, without waiting, for it seemed by far the
most sensible thing to do in the disturbed state of the court; but it
was his business to serve and amuse many masters, and his office, if not
his life, depended upon obeying each in turn and finding the right jest
for each. He placed the King highest, of course, among those he had to
please, and before he had gone far in the corridor he slackened his pace
to give himself time to think over the situation. Either the King had
meant to kill Don John himself, or he had ordered Mendoza to do so. That
much was clear to any one who had known the secret of Don Carlos' death,
and the dwarf had been one of the last who had talked with the
unfortunate Prince before that dark tragedy. And on this present night
he had seen everything, and knew more of the thoughts of each of the
actors in the drama than any one else, so that he had no doubt as to his
conclusions. If, then, the King had wished to get rid of Don John, he
would be very much displeased to learn that the latter was alive after
all. It would not be good to be the bearer of that news, and it was more
than likely that Philip would let Mendoza go to the scaffold for the
attempt, as he long afterwards condemned Antonio Perez to death for the
murder of Escobedo, Don John's secretary, though he himself had ordered
Perez to do that deed; as he had already allowed the ecclesiastic Doctor
Cazalla to be burned alive, though innocent, rather than displease the
judges who had condemned him. The dwarf well knew that there was no
crime, however monstrous, of which Philip was not capable, and of the
righteous necessity of which he could not persuade himself if he chose.
Nothing could possibly be more dangerous than to stand between him and
the perpetration of any evil he considered politically necessary, except
perhaps to hinder him in the pursuit of his gloomy and secret pleasures.
Adonis decided at once that he would not be the means of enlightening
the King on the present occasion. He most go to some one else. The
second person in command of his life, and whom he dreaded most after
Philip himself, was the Princess of Eboli.

He knew her secret, too, as he had formerly known how she had forged the
letters that brought about the deaths of Don Carlos and of Queen Isabel;
for the Princess ruled him by fear, and knew that she could trust him as
long as he stood in terror of her. He knew, therefore, that she had not
only forgiven Don John for not yielding to her charm in former days, but
that she now hoped that he might ascend the throne in Philip's stead, by
fair means or foul, and that the news of his death must have been a
destructive blow to her hopes. He made up his mind to tell her first
that he was alive, unless he could get speech with Dolores alone, which
seemed improbable. Having decided this, he hastened his walk again.

Before he reached the lower story of the palace he composed his face to
an expression of solemnity, not to say mourning, for he remembered that
as no one knew the truth but himself, he must not go about with too gay
a look. In the great vestibule of the hall he found a throng of
courtiers, talking excitedly in low tones, but neither Dolores nor Ruy
Gomez was there. He sidled up to a tall officer of the guards who was
standing alone, looking on.

"Could you inform me, sir," he asked, "what became of Doña Dolores de
Mendoza when she left the hall with the Prince of Eboli?"

The officer looked down at the dwarf, with whom he had never spoken
before, but who, in his way, was considered to be a personage of
importance by the less exalted members of the royal household. Indeed,
Adonis was by no means given to making acquaintance at haphazard with
all those who wished to know him in the hope that he might say a good
word for them when the King was in a pleasant humour.

"I do not know, Master Adonis," answered the magnificent lieutenant,
very politely. "But if you wish it, I will enquire."

"You are most kind and courteous, sir," answered the dwarf
ceremoniously. "I have a message for the lady."

The officer turned away and went towards the King's apartments, leaving
the jester in the corner. Adonis knew that he might wait some time
before his informant returned, and he shrank into the shadow to avoid
attracting attention. That was easy enough, so long as the crowd was
moving and did not diminish, but before long he heard some one speaking
within the hall, as if addressing a number of persons at once, and the
others began to leave the vestibule in order to hear what was passing.
Though the light did not fall upon him directly, the dwarf, in his
scarlet dress, became a conspicuous object. Yet he did not dare to go
away, for fear of missing the officer when the latter should return. His
anxiety to escape observation was not without cause, since he really
wished to give Don John's message to Dolores before any one else knew
the truth. In a few moments he saw the Princess of Eboli coming towards
him, leaning on the arm of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. She came from the
hall as if she had been listening to the person who was still speaking
near the door, and her handsome face wore a look of profound dejection
and disappointment. She had evidently seen the dwarf, for she walked
directly towards him, and at half a dozen paces she stopped and
dismissed her companion, who bowed low, kissed the tips of her fingers,
and withdrew.

Adonis drew down the corners of his mouth, bent his head still lower,
and tried to look as unhappy as possible, in imitation of the Princess's
expression. She stood still before him, and spoke briefly in imperious

"What is the meaning of all this?" she asked. "Tell me the truth at
once. It will be the better for you."

"Madam," answered Adonis, with all the assurance he could muster, "I
think your Excellency knows the truth much better than I."

The Princess bent her black brows and her eyes began to gleam angrily.
Titian would not have recognized in her stern face the smiling features
of his portrait of her--of the insolently beautiful Venus painted by
order of King Philip when the Princess was in the height of his favour.

"My friend," she said, in a mocking tone, "I know nothing, and you know
everything. At the present moment your disappearance from the court will
not attract even the smallest attention compared with the things that
are happening. If you do not tell me what you know, you will not be here
to-morrow, and I will see that you are burned alive for a sorcerer next
week. Do you understand? Now tell me who killed Don John of Austria, and
why. Be quick, I have no time to lose."

Adonis made up his mind very suddenly that it would be better to disobey
Don John than the angry woman who was speaking to him.

"Nobody killed him," he answered bluntly.

The Princess was naturally violent, especially with her inferiors, and
when she was angry she easily lost all dignity. She seized the dwarf by
the arm and shook him.

"No jesting!" she cried. "He did not kill himself--who did it?"

"Nobody," repeated Adonis doggedly, and quite without fear, for he knew
how glad she would be to know the truth. "His Highness is not dead at

"You little hound!" The Princess shook him furiously again and
threatened to strike him with her other hand.

He only laughed.

"Before heaven, Madam," he said, "the Prince is alive and recovered, and
is sitting in his chair. I have just been talking with him. Will you go
with me to his Highness's apartment? If he is not there, and safe, burn
me for a heretic to-morrow."

The Princess's hands dropped by her sides in sheer amazement, for she
saw that the jester was in earnest.

"He had a scratch in the scuffle," he continued, "but it was the fall
that killed him, his resurrection followed soon afterwards--and I trust
that his ascension may be no further distant than your Excellency

He laughed at his blasphemous jest, and the Princess laughed too, a
little wildly, for she could hardly control her joy.

"And who wounded him?" she asked suddenly. "You know everything, you
must know that also."

"Madam," said the dwarf, fixing his eyes on hers, "we both know the name
of the person who wounded Don John, very well indeed, I regret that I
should not be able to recall it at this moment. His Highness has
forgotten it too, I am sure."

The Princess's expression did not change, but she returned his gaze
steadily during several seconds, and then nodded slowly to show that she
understood. Then she looked away and was silent for a moment.

"I am sorry I was rough with you, Adonis," she said at last,
thoughtfully. "It was hard to believe you at first, and if the Prince
had been dead, as we all believed, your jesting would have been
abominable. There,"--she unclasped a diamond brooch from her
bodice--"take that, Adonis--you can turn it into money."

The Princess's financial troubles were notorious, and she hardly ever
possessed any ready gold.

"I shall keep it as the most precious of my possessions," answered the
dwarf readily.

"No," she said quickly. "Sell it. The King--I mean--some one may see it
if you keep it."

"It shall be sold to-morrow, then," replied the jester, bending his head
to hide his smile, for he understood what she meant.

"One thing more," she said; "Don John did not send you down to tell this
news to the court without warning. He meant that I should know it before
any one else. You have told me--now go away and do not tell others."

Adonis hesitated a moment. He wished to do Don John's bidding if he
could, but he knew his danger, and that he should be forgiven if, to
save his own head, he did not execute the commission. The Princess
wished an immediate answer, and she had no difficulty in guessing the

"His Highness sent you to find Doña Dolores," she said. "Is that not

"It is true," replied Adonis. "But," he added, anticipating her wish out
of fear, "it is not easy to find Doña Dolores."

"It is impossible. Did you expect to find her by waiting in this corner!
Adonis, it is safer for you to serve me than Don John, and in serving me
you will help his interests. You know that. Listen to me--Doña Dolores
must believe him dead till to-morrow morning. She must on no account
find out that he is alive."

At that moment the officer who had offered to get information for the
dwarf returned. Seeing the latter in conversation with such a great
personage, he waited at a little distance.

"If you have found out where Doña Dolores de Mendoza is at this moment,
my dear sir," said Adonis, "pray tell the Princess of Eboli, who is very
anxious to know."

The officer bowed and came nearer.

"Doña Dolores de Mendoza is in his Majesty's inner apartment," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dolores and Ruy Gomez had passed through the outer vestibule, and he
left her to pursue his way towards the western end of the Alcazar, which
was at a considerable distance from the royal apartments. Dolores went
down the corridor till she came to the niche and the picture before
which Don John had paused to read the Princess of Eboli's letter after
supper. She stopped a moment, for she suddenly felt that her strength
was exhausted and that she must rest or break down altogether. She
leaned her weight against the elaborately carved railing that shut off
the niche like a shrine, and looked at the painting, which was one of
Raphael's smaller masterpieces, a Holy Family so smoothly and delicately
painted that it jarred upon her at that moment as something untrue and
out of all keeping with possibility. Though most perfectly drawn and
coloured, the spotlessly neat figures with their airs of complacent
satisfaction seemed horribly out of place in the world of suffering she
was condemned to dwell in, and she fancied, somewhat irreverently and
resentfully, that they would look as much out of keeping with their
surroundings in a heaven that must be won by the endurance of pain.
Their complacent smiles seemed meant for her anguish, and she turned
from the picture in displeasure, and went on.

She was going back to her sister on the terrace, and she was going to
kneel once more beside the dear head of the man she had loved, and to
say one last prayer before his face was covered for ever. At the thought
she felt that she needed no rest again, for the vision drew her to the
sorrowful presence of its reality, and she could not have stopped again
if she had wished to. She must go straight on, on to the staircase, up
the long flight of steps, through the lonely corridors, and out at hist
to the moonlit terrace where Inez was waiting. She went forward in a
dream, without pausing. Since she had freed her father she had a right
to go back to her grief. But as she went along, lightly and quickly, it
seemed beyond her own belief that she should have found strength for
what she had done that night. For the strength of youth is elastic and
far beyond its own knowledge. Dolores had reached the last passage that
led out upon the terrace, when she heard hurrying footsteps behind her,
and a woman in a cloak slipped beside her, walking very easily and
smoothly. It was the Princess of Eboli. She had left the dwarf, after
frightening him into giving up his search for Dolores, and she was
hastening to Don John's rooms to make sure that the jester had not
deceived her or been himself deceived in some way she could not

Dolores had lost her cloak in the hall, and was bareheaded, in her court
dress. The Princess recognized her in the gloom and stopped her.

"I have looked for you everywhere," she said. "Why did you run away from
me before?"

"It was my blind sister who was with you," answered Dolores, who knew
her voice at once and had understood from her father what had happened.
"Where are you going now?" she asked, without giving the Princess time
to put a question.

"I was looking for you. I wish you to come and stay with me to-night--"

"I will stay with my father. I thank you for your kindness, but I would
not on any account leave him now."

"Your father is in prison--in the west tower--he has just been sent
there. How can you stay with him?"

"You are well informed," said Dolores quietly. "But your husband is just
now gone to release him. I gave Don Ruy Gomez the order which his
Majesty had himself placed in my hands, and the Prince was kind enough
to take it to the west tower himself. My father is unconditionally

The Princess looked fixedly at Dolores while the girl was speaking, but
it was very dark in the corridor and the lamp was flickering to go out
in the night breeze. The only explanation of Mendoza's release lay in
the fact that the King was already aware that Don John was alive and in
no danger. In that case Dolores knew it, too. It was no great matter,
though she had hoped to keep the girl out of the way of hearing the news
for a day or two. Dolores' mournful face might have told her that she
was mistaken, if there had been more light; but it was far too dark to
see shades of colour or expression.

"So your father is free!" she said. "Of course, that was to be expected,
but I am glad that he has been set at liberty at once."

"I do not think it was exactly to be expected," answered Dolores, in
some surprise, and wondering whether there could have been any simpler
way of getting what she had obtained by such extraordinary means.

"He might have been kept under arrest until to-morrow morning, I
suppose," said the Princess quietly. "But the King is of course anxious
to destroy the unpleasant impression produced by this absurd affair, as
soon as possible."

"Absurd!" Dolores' anger rose and overflowed at the word. "Do you dare
to use such a word to me to-night?"

"My dear Dolores, why do you lose your temper about such a thing?" asked
the Princess, in a conciliatory tone. "Of course if it had all ended as
we expected it would, I never should use such a word--if Don John had

"What do you mean?" Dolores held her by the wrist in an instant and the
maddest excitement was in her voice.

"What I mean? Why--" the Princess stopped short, realizing that Dolores
might not know the truth after all. "What did I say?" she asked, to gain
time. "Why do you hold my hand like that?"

"You called the murder of Don John an absurd affair, and then you said,
'if Don John had died'--as if he were not lying there dead in his room,
twenty paces from where you stand! Are you mad? Are you playing some
heartless comedy with me? What does it all mean?"

The Princess was very worldly wise, and she saw at a glance that she
must tell Dolores the truth. If she did not, the girl would soon learn
it from some one else, but if she did, Dolores would always remember who
had told her the good news.

"My dear," she said very gently, "let my wrist go and let me take your
arm. We do not understand each other, or you would not be so angry with
me. Something has happened of which you do not know--"

"Oh, no! I know the whole truth!" Dolores interrupted her, and resisted
being led along in a slow walk. "Let me go to him!" she cried. "I only
wish to see him once more--"

"But, dearest child, listen to me--if I do not tell you everything at
once, it is because the shock might hurt you. There is some hope that he
may not die--"

"Hope! Oh no, no, no! I saw him lying dead--"

"He had fainted, dear. He was not dead--"

"Not dead?" Dolores' voice broke. "Tell me--tell me quickly." She
pressed her hand to her side.

"No. He came to himself after you had left him--he is alive. No--listen
to me--yes, dear, he is alive and not much hurt. The wound was a
scratch, and he was only stunned--he is well--to-morrow he will be as
well as ever--ah, dear, I told you so!"

Dolores had borne grief, shame, torment of mind that night, as bravely
as ever a woman bore all three, but the joy of the truth that he lived
almost ended her life then and there. She fell back upon the Princess's
arm and threw out her hands wildly, as if she were fighting for breath,
and the lids of her eyes quivered violently and then were quite still,
and she uttered a short, unnatural sound that was more like a groan of
pain than a cry of happiness.

The Princess was very strong, and held her, steadying herself against
the wall, thinking anything better than to let her slip to the floor and
lie swooning on the stone pavement. But the girl was not unconscious,
and in a moment her own strength returned.

"Let me go!" she cried wildly. "Let me go to him, or I shall die!"

"Go, child--go," said the Princess, with an accent of womanly kindness
that was rare in her voice. But Dolores did not hear it, for she was
already gone.

Dolores saw nothing in the room, as she entered, but the eyes of the man
she loved, though Inez was still beside him. Dolores threw herself
wildly into his arms and hid her face, crying out incoherent words
between little showers of happy tears; and her hands softly beat upon
his shoulders and against his neck, and stole up wondering to his cheeks
and touched his hair, as she drew back her head and held him still to
look at him and see that he was whole. She had no speech left, for it
was altogether beyond the belief of any sense but touch itself that a
man should rise unhurt from the dead, to go on living as if nothing not
common had happened in his life, to have his strength at once, to look
into her eyes and rain kisses on the lids still dark with grief for his
death. Sight could not believe the sight, hearing could not but doubt
the sound, yet her hands held him and touched him, and it was he, unhurt
saving for a scratch and a bruise. In her overwhelming happiness, she
had no questions, and the first syllables that her lips could shape made
broken words of love, and of thanks to Heaven that he had been saved
alive for her, while her hands still fluttered to his face and beat
gently and quickly on his shoulders and his arms, as if fearing lest he
should turn to incorporeal light, without substance under her touch, and
vanish then in air, as happiness does in a dream, leaving only pain

But at last she threw back her head and let him go, and her hands
brushed away the last tears from her grey eyes, and she looked into his
face and smiled with parted lips, drinking the sight of him with her
breath and eyes and heart. One moment so, and then they kissed as only
man and woman can when there has been death between them and it is gone
not to come back again.

Then memory returned, though very slowly and broken in many places, for
it seemed to her as if she had not been separated from him a moment, and
as if he must know all she had done without hearing her story in words.
The time had been so short since she had kissed him last, in the little
room beyond: there had been the minutes of waiting until the King had
come, and then the trying of the door, and then the quarrel, that had
lasted a short ten minutes to end in Don John's fall; then the half hour
during which he had lain unconscious and alone till Inez had come at the
moment when Dolores had gone down to the throne room; and after that the
short few minutes in which she had met her father, and then her
interview with the King, which had not lasted long, and now she was with
him again; and it was not two hours since they had parted--a lifetime of
two hours.

"I cannot believe it!" she cried, and now she laughed at last. "I
cannot, I cannot! It is impossible!"

"We are both alive," he answered. "We are both flesh and blood, and
breathing. I feel as if I had been in an illness or in a sleep that had
lasted very long."

"And I in an awful dream." Her face grew grave as she thought of what
was but just passed. "You must know it all--surely you know it
already--oh, yes! I need not tell it all."

"Something Inez has told me," he replied, "and some things I guess, but
I do not know everything. You must try and tell me--but you should not
be here--it is late. When my servants know that I am living, they will
come back, and my gentlemen and my officers. They would have left me
here all night, if I had been really dead, lest being seen near my body
should send them to trial for my death." He laughed. "They were wise
enough in their way. But you cannot stay here."

"If the whole court found me here, it would not matter," answered
Dolores. "Their tongues can take nothing from my name which my own words
have not given them to feed on."

"I do not understand," he said, suddenly anxious. "What have you said?
What have you done?"

Inez came near them from the window, by which she had been standing. She
laid a hand on Dolores' arm.

"I will watch," she said. "If I hear anything, I will warn you, and you
can go into the small room again."

She went out almost before either of them could thank her. They had,
indeed, forgotten her presence in the room, being accustomed to her
being near them; but she could no longer bear to stay, listening to
their loving words that made her loneliness so very dark. And now, too,
she had memories of her own, which she would keep secret to the end of
her life,--beautiful and happy recollections of that sweet moment when
the man that seemed dead had breathed and had clasped her in his arms,
taking her for the other, and had kissed her as he would have kissed the
one he loved. She knew at last what a kiss might be, and that was much;
but she knew also what it was to kneel by her dead love and to feel his
life come back, breath by breath and beat by beat, till he was all
alive; and few women have felt that or can guess how great it is to
feel. It was better to go out into the dark and listen, lest any one
should disturb the two, than to let her memories of short happiness be
marred by hearing words that were not meant for her.

"She found you?" asked Dolores, when she was gone.

"Yes, she found me. You had gone down, she said, to try and save your
father. He is safe now!" he laughed.

"She found you alive." Dolores lingered on the words. "I never envied
her before, I think; and it is not because if I had stayed I should have
suffered less, dear." She put up her hands upon his shoulders again. "It
is not for that, but to have thought you dead and to have seen you grow
alive again, to have watched your face, to have seen your eyes wake and
the colour come back to your cheeks and the warmth to your dear hands! I
would have given anything for that, and you would rather that I should
have been there, would you not?" She laughed low and kissed away the
answer from his lips. "If I had stayed beside you, it would have been
sooner, love. You would have felt me there even in your dream of death,
and you would have put out your hand to come back to me. Say that you
would! You could not have let me lie there many minutes longer breaking
my heart over you and wanting to die, too, so that we might be buried
together. Surely my kisses would have brought you back!"

"I dreamed they did, as mine would you."

"Sit down beside me," she said presently. "It will be very hard to
tell--and it cannot be very long before they come. Oh, they may find me
here! It cannot matter now, for I told them all that I had been long in
your room to-night."

"Told them all? Told whom? The King? What did you say?" His face was
grave again.

"The King, the court, the whole world. But it is harder to tell you."
She blushed and looked away. "It was the King that wounded you--I heard
you fall."

"Scratched me. I was only stunned for a while."

"He drew his sword, for I heard it. You know the sound a sword makes
when it is drawn from a leathern sheath? Of course--you are a soldier! I
have often watched my father draw his, and I know the soft, long pull.
The King drew quickly, and I knew you were unarmed, and besides--you had
promised me that you would not raise your hand against him."

"I remember that my sword was on the table in its scabbard. I got it
into my hand, sheathed as it was, to guard myself. Where is it? I had
forgotten that. It must be somewhere on the floor."

"Never mind--your men will find it. You fell, and then there was
silence, and presently I heard my father's voice saying that he had
killed you defenceless. They went away. I was half dead myself when I
fell there beside you on the floor. There--do you see? You lay with your
head towards the door and one arm out. I shall see you so till I die,
whenever I think of it. Then--I forget. Adonis must have found me there,
and he carried me away, and Inez met me on the terrace and she had heard
my father tell the King that he had murdered you--and it was the King
who had done it! Do you understand?"

"I see, yes. Go on!" Don John was listening breathlessly, forgetting the
pain he still suffered from time to time.

"And then I went down, and I made Don Ruy Gomez stand beside me on the
steps, and the whole court was there--the Grandees and the great
dukes--Alva, Medina Sidonia, Medina Cali, Infantado, the Princess of
Eboli--the Ambassadors, everyone, all the maids of honour, hundreds and
hundreds--an ocean of faces, and they knew me, almost all of them."

"What did you say?" asked Don John very anxiously. "What did you tell
them all? That you had been here?"

"Yes--more than that, much more. It was not true, but I hoped they would
believe it I said--" the colour filled her face and she caught her
breath. "Oh, how can I tell you? Can you not guess what I said?"

"That we were married already, secretly?" he asked. "You might have said

"No. Not that--no one would have believed me. I told them," she paused
and gathered her strength, and then the words came quickly, ashamed of
being heard--"I told them that I knew my father had no share in the
crime, because I had been here long to-night, in this room, and even
when you were killed, and that I was here because I had given you all,
my life, my soul, my honour, everything."

"Great God!" exclaimed Don John starting. "And you did that to save your

She had covered her face with her hands for a moment. Then suddenly she
rose and turned away from him, and paced the floor.

"Yes. I did that. What was there for me to do? It was better that I
should be ruined and end in a convent than that my father should die on
the scaffold. What would have become of Inez?"

"What would have become of you?" Don John's eyes followed her in loving

"It would not have mattered. But I had thrown away my name for nothing.
They believed me, I think, but the King, to spare himself, was
determined that my father should die. We met as he was led away to
prison. Then I went to the King himself--and when I came away I had my
father's release in my hand. Oh, I wish I had that to do again! I wish
you had been there, for you would have been proud of me, then. I told
him he had killed you, I heard him confess it, I threatened to tell the
court, the world, all Spain, if he would not set my father free. But the
other--can you forgive me, dear?"

She stood before him now, and the colour was fainter in her cheeks, for
she trusted him with all her heart, and she put out her hands.

"Forgive you? What? For doing the bravest thing a woman ever did?"

"I thought you would know it in heaven and understand," she said. "It is
better that you know it on earth--but it was hard to tell."

He held her hands together and pressed them to his lips. He had no words
to tell her what he thought. Again and again he silently kissed the firm
white fingers folded in his own.

"It was magnificent," he said at last. "But it will be hard to undo,
very hard."

"What will it ever matter, since we know it is not true?" she asked.
"Let the world think what it will, say what it likes--"

"The world shall never say a slighting word of you," he interrupted. "Do
you think that I will let the world say openly what I would not hear
from the King alone between these four walls? There is no fear of that,
love. I will die sooner."

"Oh, no!" she cried, in sudden fear. "Oh, do not speak of death again
to-night! I cannot bear the word!"

"Of life, then, of life together,--of all our lives in peace and love!
But first this must be set right. It is late, but this must be done
now--at once. There is only one way, there is only one thing to be

He was silent for a moment, and his eyes looked quickly to the door and
back to Dolores' face.

"I cannot go away," she cried, nestling to him. "You will not make me
go? What does it matter?"

"It matters much. It will matter much more hereafter." He was on his
feet, and all his energy and graceful strength came back as if he had
received no hurt. "There is little time left, but what there is, is
ours. Inez!" He was at the door. "Is no one there upon the terrace? Is
there no servant, no sentry? Ho, there! Who are you? Come here, man! Let
me see your face! Adonis?"

Inez and the dwarf were in the door. Dolores was behind him, looking
out, not knowing what he meant to do. He had his hand on the dwarf's arm
in his haste. The crooked creature looked up, half in fear.

"Quick! Go!" cried Don John. "Get me a priest, a monk, a
bishop,--anything that wears a frock and can speak Latin. Bring him
here. Threaten his life, in my name, if you like. Tell him Don John of
Austria is in extreme need, and must have a priest. Quick, man! Fly!
Your life and fortune are in your legs! Off, man! Off!"

Adonis was already gone, rolling through the gloom with swinging arms,
more like a huge bat than anything human, and at a rate of speed none
would have guessed latent in his little twisted legs. Don John drew back
within the door.

"Stay within," he said to Dolores, gently pressing her backwards into
the room. "I will let no one pass till the priest comes; and then the
world may come, too, and welcome,--and the court and the King, and the
devil and all his angels!" He laughed aloud in his excitement.

"You have not told me," Dolores began, but her eyes laughed in his.

"But you know without words," he answered. "When that is done which a
priest can do in an instant, and no one else, the world is ours, with
all it holds, in spite of men and women and Kings!"

"It is ours already," she cried happily. "But is this wise, love? Are
you not too quick?"

"Would you have me slow when you and your name and my honour are all at
stake on one quick throw? Can we play too quickly at such a game with
fate? There will be time, just time, no more. For when the news is
known, it will spread like fire. I wonder that no one comes yet."

He listened, and Inez' hearing was ten times more sensitive than his,
but there was no sound. For besides Dolores and Inez only the dwarf and
the Princess of Eboli knew that Don John was living; and the Princess
had imposed silence on the jester and was in no haste to tell the news
until she should decide who was to know it first and how her own
advantage could be secured. So there was time, and Adonis swung himself
along the dim corridor and up winding stairs that be knew, and roused
the little wizened priest who lived in the west tower all alone, and
whose duty it was to say a mass each morning for any prisoner who
chanced to be locked up there; and when there was no one in confinement
he said his mass for himself in the small chapel which was divided from
the prison only by a heavy iron grating. The jester sometimes visited
him in his lonely dwelling and shocked and delighted him with alternate
tales of the court's wickedness and with harmless jokes that made his
wizened cheeks pucker and wrinkle into unaccustomed smiles. And he had
some hopes of converting the poor jester to a pious life. So they were
friends. But when the old priest heard that Don John of Austria was
suddenly dying in his room and that there was no one to shrive him,--for
that was the tale Adonis told,--he trembled from head to foot like a
paralytic, and the buttons of his cassock became as drops of quicksilver
and slipped from his weak fingers everywhere except into the
buttonholes, so that the dwarf had to fasten them for him in a furious
hurry, and find his stole, and set his hat upon his head, and polish
away the tears of excitement from his cheeks with his own silk
handkerchief. Yet it was well done, though so quickly, and he had a kind
old face and was a good priest.

But when Adonis had almost carried him to Don John's door, and pushed
him into the room, and when he saw that the man he supposed to be dying
was standing upright, holding a most beautiful lady by the hand, he drew
back, seeing that he had been deceived, and suspecting that he was to be
asked to do something for which he had no authority. The dwarf's long
arm was behind him, however, and he could not escape.

"This is the priest of the west tower, your Highness," said Adonis. "He
is a good priest, but he is a little frightened now."

"You need fear nothing," said Don John kindly. "I am Don John of
Austria. This lady is Doña Maria Dolores de Mendoza. Marry us without
delay. We take each other for man and wife."

"But--" the little priest hesitated--"but, your Highness--the banns--or
the bishop's license--"

"I am above banns and licenses, my good sir," answered Don John, "and if
there is anything lacking in the formalities, I take it upon myself to
set all right to-morrow. I will protect you, never fear. Make haste, for
I cannot wait. Begin, sir, lose no time, and take my word for the right
of what you do."

"The witnesses of this," faltered the old man, seeing that he must
yield, but doubtful still.

"This lady is Doña Inez de Mendoza," said Don John, "and this is Miguel
de Antona, the court jester. They are sufficient."

So it chanced that the witnesses of Don John of Austria's secret
marriage were a blind girl and the King's fool.

The aged priest cleared his throat and began to say the words in Latin,
and Don John and Dolores held their clasped hands before him, not
knowing what else to do, and each looked into the other's eyes and saw
there the whole world that had any meaning for them, while the priest
said things they but half understood, but that made the world's
difference to them, then and afterwards.

It was soon done, and he raised his trembling hand and blessed them,
saying the words very softly and clearly and without stumbling, for they
were familiar, and meant much; and having reached them, his haste was
over. The dwarf was on his knees, his rough red head bent reverently
low, and on the other side Inez knelt with joined hands, her blind eyes
turned upward to her sister's face, while she prayed that all blessings
of life and joy might be on the two she loved so well, and that they
might have for ever and unbroken the infinite happiness she had felt for
one instant that night, not meant for her, but dearer to her than all
memories or hopes.

Then as the priest's words died away in the silent room, there was a
sound of many feet and of many voices on the terrace outside, coming
nearer and nearer to the door, very quickly; and the priest looked round
in terror, not knowing what new thing was to come upon him, and wishing
with all his heart that he were safe in his tower room again and out of
all harm's way. But Don John smiled, while he still held Dolores' hand,
and the dwarf rose quickly and led the priest into the study where
Dolores had been shut up so long, and closed the door behind him.

That was hardly done when the outer door was opened wide, and a clear,
formal voice was heard speaking outside.

"His Majesty the King!" cried the chamberlain who walked before Philip.

Dolores dropped Don John's hand and stood beside him, growing a little
pale; but his face was serene and high, and he smiled quietly as he went
forward to meet his brother. The King advanced also, with outstretched
arms, and he formally embraced Don John, to exhibit his joy at such an
unexpected recovery.

Behind him came in torch-bearers and guards and many of the court who
had joined the train, and in the front rank Mendoza, grim and erect, but
no longer ashy pale, and Ruy Gomez with him, and the Princess of Eboli,
and all the chief Grandees of Spain, filling the wide bedchamber from
side to side with a flood of rich colour in which the little
constellations of their jewels shone here and there with changing

Out of respect for the King they did not speak, and yet there was a soft
sound of rejoicing in the room, and their very breathing was like a
murmur of deep satisfaction. Then the King spoke, and all at once the
silence was profound.

"I wished to be the first to welcome my dear brother back to life," he
said. "The court has been in mourning for you these two hours, and none
has mourned you more deeply and sorrowfully than I. We would all know
the cause of your Highness's accident, the meaning of our friend
Mendoza's strange self-accusation, and of other things we cannot
understand without a word from you."

The chair in which Don John had sat to read Dolores' letter was brought
forward, and the King took his seat in it, while the chief officers of
the household grouped themselves round him. Don John remained standing,
facing him and all the rest, while Dolores drew back a little into the
shadow not far from him. The King's unmoving eyes watched him closely,
even anxiously.

"The story is short, Sire, and if it is not all clear, I shall crave
your Majesty's pardon for being silent on certain points which concern
my private life. I was alone this evening in my room here, after your
Majesty had left supper, and I was reading. A man came to visit me then
whom I have known and trusted long. We were alone, we have had
differences before, to-night sharp words passed between us. I ask your
Majesty's permission not to name that man, for I would not do him an
injury, though it should cost me my life."

His eyes were fixed on the King, who slowly nodded his assent. He had
known that he could trust his brother not to betray him, and he wondered
what was to come next. Don John smiled a little as he went on.

"There were sharp words," he said, "and being men, steel was soon out,
and I received this scratch here--a mere nothing. But as chance would
have it I fell backward and was so stunned that I seemed dead. And then,
as I learn, my friend Mendoza there came in, either while we fought, or
afterwards, and understood--and so, as I suppose, in generous fear for
my good name, lest it should be told that I had been killed in some
dishonest brawl, or for a woman's sake--my friend Mendoza, in the
madness of generosity, and because my love for his beautiful daughter
might give the tale some colour, takes all the blame upon himself, owns
himself murderer, loses his wits, and well-nigh loses his head, too. So
I understand the matter, Sire."

He paused a moment, and again the King slowly nodded, but this time he
smiled also, and seemed much pleased.

"For what remains," Don John continued, "that is soon explained. This
brave and noble lady whom you found here, you all know. I have loved her
long and faithfully, and with all my heart. Those who know me, know that
my word is good, and here before your Majesty, before man and before
Heaven, I solemnly swear upon my most sacred word that no harm has ever
come near her, by me, or by another. Yet, in the hope of saving her
father's life, believing and yet not believing that he might have hurt
me in some quarrel, she went among you, and told you the tale you know.
I ask your Majesty to say that my word and oath are good, and thereby to
give your Majesty's authority to what I say. And if there is any man
here, or in Spain, among your Majesty's subjects, who doubts the word I
give, let him say so, for this is a grave matter, and I wish to be
believed before I say more."

A third time the King nodded, and this time not ungraciously, since
matters had gone well for him.

"For myself," he said, "I would take your word against another man's
oath, and I think there is no one bold enough to question what we both

"I thank your Majesty. And moreover, I desire permission to present to
your Majesty--"

He took Dolores' hand and drew her forward, though she came a little
unwillingly, and was pale, and her deep grey eyes gazed steadily at the
King's face.

"--My wedded wife," said Don John, completing the sentence.

"Your wife!" exclaimed the King, in great surprise. "Are you married

"Wedded man and wife, Sire," answered Don John, in tones that all could

"And what does Mendoza say to this?" asked Philip, looking round at the
veteran soldier.

"That his Highness has done my house a great honour, your Majesty; and I
pray that my daughter and I be not needlessly separated hereafter."

His glance went to Dolores' triumphant eyes almost timidly, and then
rested on her face with a look she had never seen in his, save on that
evening, but which she always found there afterwards. And at the same
time the hard old man drew Inez close to him, for she had found him
among the officers, and she stood by him and rested her arm on his with
a new confidence.

Then, as the King rose, there was a sound of glad voices in the room, as
all talked at once and each told the other that an evil adventure was
well ended, and that Don John of Austria was the bravest and the
handsomest and the most honourable prince in the world, and that Maria
Dolores de Mendoza had not her equal among women for beauty and high
womanly courage and perfect devotion.

But there were a few who were ill pleased; for Antonio Perez said
nothing, and absently smoothed his black hair with his immaculate white
hand, and the Princess of Eboli was very silent, too, for it seemed to
her that Don John's sudden marriage, and his reconciliation with his
brother, had set back the beginning of her plan beyond the bounds of
possible accomplishment; and she was right in that, and the beginning of
her resentment against Don John for having succeeded in marrying Dolores
in spite of every one was the beginning of the chain that led her to her
own dark fate. For though she held the cards long in her hands after
that, and played for high stakes, as she had done before, fortune failed
her at the last, and she came to unutterable ruin.

It may be, too, that Don John's splendid destiny was measured on that
night, and cut off beforehand, though his most daring fights were not
yet fought, nor his greatest victories won. To tell more here would be
to tell too much, and much, too, that is well told elsewhere. But this
is true, that he loved Dolores with all his heart; that the marriage
remained a court secret; and that she bore him one fair daughter, and
died, and the child grew up under another reign, a holy nun, and was
abbess of the convent of Las Huelgas whither Dolores was to have gone on
the morning after that most eventful night.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Palace of the King - A Love Story of Old Madrid" ***

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