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Title: Our Lady of the Pillar
Author: Queirós, Eça de
Language: English
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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.

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                        OUR LADY OF THE PILLAR

                      [Illustration: 1843-1900

                        Sobre a nudez forte da verdade
                        o manta diáphano da phantasia
                                  EÇA DE QUEIROZ]



                               OUR LADY
                             OF THE PILLAR

                                  BY

                            EÇA DE QUEIROZ

                         DONE INTO ENGLISH BY

                            EDGAR PRESTAGE

                      OF THE LISBON ROYAL ACADEMY
                     OF SCIENCES, CHEVALIER OF THE

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                LONDON

                          ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE
                           AND COMPANY, LTD.
                                 1906



        Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty



                               DEDICATED

                           BY PERMISSION, TO

                        HER MAJESTY D. AMELIA,

                           QUEEN OF PORTUGAL



                             TO THE READER


Being in Lisbon in October last, I sauntered one evening into the
Livraria Bertrand, a recognised meeting-place of men of letters in the
Chiado, still the principal street of the Capital, and now known
officially as the Rua Garrett, though, in practice, the greater poet has
not displaced the lesser. There I found Senhor Francisco Ramos Paz,
proprietor of the _Gazeta de Noticias_ of Rio de Janeiro, and our
conversation turned on Eça de Queiroz. I happened to say that I had
recently published an English version of the _Suave Milagre_ and had
one of the _Defunto_ ready for the press, whereupon Senhor Ramos Paz
told me that the original MS. of the latter story belonged to him, it
having been written for his paper, and that Queiroz had expressed the
opinion to his publishers, MM. Lugan et Genelioux of Oporto, that it was
his best short story. Finding my own opinion unexpectedly confirmed by
so keen a self-critic as the Founder of the Realist School in Portugal,
I have the less hesitation in submitting the _Defunto_ (which I have
ventured to re-name _Our Lady of the Pillar_) to your appreciation. In
the Preface to _The Sweet Miracle_ I referred to some of the leading
works of Queiroz, and would only add that those who desire to know more
of him and of the romance in Portugal might read with advantage the
_Revista Moderna_ for November 20th, 1897, and the suggestive series of
essays by Senhor J. Pereira de Sampaio (Bruno) entitled _A Geração Nova_
(Porto, 1886).

The frontispiece of the present volume shows the monument in the Largo
do Quintella in Lisbon raised to Queiroz by the devotion of the Conde de
Arnoso and other admiring friends. The bust is generally agreed to be an
excellent likeness, though the face perhaps wears a severer expression
in marble than it did in life, and it has not therefore the
photo-*graphic accuracy of the bust by Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro, a
replica of which faces me as I write. The woman symbolises Reality, and
her attitude shows her revealing the secrets of life to Eça’s
scrutinising gaze, while the inscription at the base sums up his ideal
and achievement, and reads: 'Over the forceful nakedness of truth, the
diaphonous mantle of fantasy.’ The monument is the work of Senhor
Antonio Teixeira Lopes, the creator of those two masterpieces, the
bronze figure of History[1] erected in memory of the historian Oliveira
Martins in the Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, and the statue in wood of
St. Isabel in the Church of Santa Clara at Coimbra.

[1] Pictured in the notable study by Senhor Antonio Arroyo, _Soares dos
Reis e Teixeira Lopes_, Porto, 1899.

He learned his business at the Academia Portuense de Bellas Artes under
the well-known sculptor Soares dos Reis, and at eighteen went to the
École des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he worked under Cavelier and
Barrias, though the man who taught him most was Donatello. He exhibited
at the Salon in his first year in France, and since then has advanced
from one artistic triumph to another. His group 'A Viuva’ gained him a
gold medal at the International Exhibition in Berlin in 1896, his statue
'A Dôr’ obtained a Grand Prix at the International Exhibition in Paris
in 1900, and now, at the age of forty, he is hailed as an original
genius and as Portugal’s greatest sculptor.

CHILTERN, BOWDON.

   _March 1906._


'Erasmus was wont to affirm that, in his studies, he had not found
anything more arduous than translation, nor a thing worthy of greater
praise, if well done, nor of greater blame, if ill done.'--Damião de
Goes (the friend of Erasmus) in the dedication of his version of
Cicero’s _De Senectute_.



OUR LADY OF THE PILLAR



I


In 1474, a year abounding in divine favours for all Christendom, when
King Henry IV. reigned in Castile, there came to live in the city of
Segovia, where he had inherited a dwelling-house and garden, a youthful
knight of untainted lineage and comely appearance named Don Ruy de
Cardenas.

       *       *       *       *       *

This house, which had been bequeathed to him by his uncle, an Archdeacon
and Master of Canon Law, lay at the side and in the silent shadow of
the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar; and facing it, across the square,
where the three spouts of an ancient fountain sang their song, stood the
dark and grated palace of Don Alonso de Lara, a nobleman of great wealth
and surly manners, who, in a ripe and grey old age, had espoused a young
lady famed throughout Castile for her white skin, her hair the colour of
the sun’s rays and her neck like that of a royal heron.

Now Don Ruy, at his birth, had had Our Lady of the Pillar for Godmother,
and ever remained her devout and loyal servitor, though, as he was a man
of high spirit and gay, he loved arms, the chase, gallant regales, and
even, now and then, a noisy night in a tavern with cards and tankards of
wine. Love, and his convenient nearness to the holy place, had led him
to adopt the pious practice since his arrival in Segovia of visiting his
divine Godmother each morning at the hour of Prime and begging in three
_Ave Maria’s_ her blessing and graces. Again, as darkness came on, even
after a hard run over field and mountain with harriers or falcon, he was
wont to return and murmur sweetly a _Salve Regina_ at the Vesper
salutation; while, every Sunday, he bought of a Moorish flower-woman in
the square a spray of jonquils or pinks or simple roses, and spread them
with tenderness and gallant care in front of Our Lady’s altar.

Now to this venerated Church of the Pillar came also each Sunday Donna
Leonor, the famous and beautiful wife of the Lord of Lara, accompanied
by a surly attendant with eyes harder and wider open than those of an
owl, and by two powerful lackeys, who guarded her on either side like
towers. So jealous was Don Alonso, that he only permitted this fugitive
visit because his confessor had strictly enjoined it on him, and for
fear of offending Our Lady his neighbour, and he greedily noted their
every step and their loitering from between the iron bars of a latticed
window.

Donna Leonor spent the whole of the lingering days of the lingering week
secluded in the grated mansion of black granite; and all she had for
recreation and air, even in the summer heats, were the depths of a dark
green garden surrounded by such lofty walls that nothing could be seen
emerging from them save here and there the top of some melancholy
cypress. But this short visit of hers to Our Lady of the Pillar sufficed
for Don Ruy to fall madly in love with her on the May morning when he
saw her kneeling before the altar in a radiance of sunlight, haloed by
her golden hair, with her long lashes hanging over a _Book of Hours_,
her rosary falling from between her delicate fingers, all elegant,
gentle and white, with the whiteness of a lily blooming in the shade,
looking yet whiter amid her black lace and the black satin gown that
broke round her graceful form in hard folds over the chapel flags, the
ancient flags of burying-places. When, after a moment of confusion and
delicious wonder, he knelt, it was less to the Virgin of the Pillar, his
divine Godmother, than to that mortal apparition; her name and life he
knew not, but only that he would give his life and name for her if she
would yield herself for so uncertain a price.

Murmuring in a graceless prayer the three _Ave Maria’s_ with which he
saluted Mary each morning, he picked up his _sombrero_, lightly
descended the resounding nave, and stopped in the porch, waiting for her
among the leprous beggars who were lousing themselves in the sun. But
when, after a lapse of time, during which Don Ruy felt his heart beat
with unaccustomed anxiety and fear, Donna Leonor passed and paused to
moisten her fingers in the marble holy-water stoup, either from timidity
or inattention, she did not raise her eyes to him under her drawn veil.
With her attendant of the staring eyes glued to her side, and between
the two lackeys as between twin towers, she leisurely crossed the
square, stone by stone, enjoying, doubtless, as prisoners do, the
expanse of air and the free sun that bathed it, and Don Ruy was
astonished when she penetrated into the sombre arcade, with its stout
pillars which supported the palace, and she disappeared through a narrow
door all covered with iron-work. This then was the famous Donna Leonor,
the lovely and noble lady of Lara.... Then commenced seven drawn-out
days which he spent seated at his stone window-seat gazing at that black
door, with its thick covering of iron-work, as if it were the door of
Paradise, and an angel would issue from it to give him tidings of
Eternal Bliss. At last the lingering Sunday came, and as, bearing a
bunch of yellow carnations for his divine Godmother, he passed through
the square at the hour of Prime, when the bells were ringing, he crossed
Donna Leonor coming out, white, sweet, and pensive, from between the
pillars of the dark arcade like a moon from between clouds. The
carnations almost fell from his hands in the delightful agitation with
which his breast heaved more strongly than a sea, and his whole soul
fled from him in tumult in a look that devoured her. And she too raised
her eyes to Don Ruy, but eyes reposeful and serene, without a gleam of
curiosity or even of consciousness that they were exchanging glances
with other eyes so inflamed and darkened by desire. The young knight
abstained from entering the church from the pious fear of not giving to
his divine Godmother the attention which would, he knew, be all taken up
by her who, though only human, was already mistress of his heart and
deified there.

He waited eagerly at the door among the beggars, parching the
carnations with the heat of his trembling hands, and thinking how
long-drawn-out was the rosary she was saying, and, as soon as Donna
Leonor began to descend the nave, he felt within his soul the sweet
rustling of the thick silks she dragged over the stone slabs. The white
lady passed by, and the same absent look, heedless and calm, which she
cast over the beggars and the square, she let fall over him, either
because she did not comprehend that youth who had suddenly turned so
pale, or because she did not yet distinguish him from things and forms
which were of no account to her.

Don Ruy moved away, sighing deeply, and, once in his room, devoutly
placed before the image of the Virgin the flowers which he had not
offered at her altar in the church. His whole life then became one long
complaint at finding such coldness and cruelty in that woman, unique
amongst women, who had taken hold of his light and wandering heart and
made it serious. With a hope which he clearly foresaw would prove
deceptive, he began to pace round the lofty garden walls; or, muffled in
his cloak, leaning against a corner, spent slow hours contemplating the
bars of the lattice windows, black and thick like those of a prison. The
walls did not part asunder, nor did a single ray of hopeful light issue
from the gratings. The whole mansion was like a sepulchre where lay an
insensible creature, and behind the cold stones there was also a cold
breast. To give vent to his feelings he composed with pious care, during
watchful nights over parchment, lamentable verses which failed to
relieve him. Before the altar of Our Lady of the Pillar, on the same
slabs where he had seen her kneeling, he rested his knees and stayed
without words of prayer, in bitter-sweet musing, hoping that his heart
would be calmed and solaced under the influence of Her who calms and
solaces all. But he always rose up more miserable, and with only the
feeling of how cold and hard were the stones on which he had knelt. The
whole world seemed to him to contain nought save severity and coldness.
On other bright Sunday mornings he met Donna Leonor, and her eyes always
remained heedless, and as though unmindful; or, when they crossed his,
they were so innocent and free from all emotion that Don Ruy would have
preferred them offended and darting anger, or haughtily averted in
proud disdain. Certain it was that Donna Leonor knew him now, but she
also knew the Moorish flower-woman squatted before her basket beside the
fountain, or the poor who loused themselves in the sun before Our Lady’s
porch. Nor could Don Ruy any longer think that she was cruel and cold.
She was only royally remote, like a star that revolves and glitters high
above, unconscious that below, in a world it cannot discern, eyes it
does not suspect are contemplating it, adoring it, and intrusting it
with the government of their fortune and destiny. Then Don Ruy thought,
'She will not, I cannot; it was a dream that is ended, and may Our Lady
keep us both in her favour!’ And being a very discreet knight, as soon
as he recognised that she could not be moved from her indifference, he
neither sought her nor even raised his eyes any more to the gratings of
her windows, nor did he even enter the Church of Our Lady when,
casually, from the porch, he espied her kneeling with her graceful
golden head bent over her _Book of Hours_.



II


The old attendant, whose eyes were more wide-open and harder than those
of an owl, hastened to tell the Lord of Lara how a bold youth of comely
appearance, a new tenant in the old house of the Archdeacon, continually
crossed and re-*crossed the square, and posted himself in front of the
church to throw his heart, through his eyes, at Donna Leonor. Very
bitterly did the jealous nobleman know it already, for when, falconlike,
he watched from his window the graceful lady on her way to church, he
had observed the pauses and darted looks of that gallant youth, and had
pulled his beard with rage. Ever since then, in truth, his most intense
occupation had been to hate Don Ruy, the Canon’s impudent nephew, who
had dared to raise his low desires to the great Lady of Lara. He now had
him continually spied upon by a retainer, and knew where-*ever he went
and stayed, the friends with whom he hunted or amused himself, and even
the men who cut his doublets and furbished his sword--in fact, every
hour of his life. And he watched Donna Leonor more closely still, her
every movement, her most fugitive moods, her silences, her conversations
with her attendants, her distractions over her embroidery, her habit of
musing under the trees in the garden, her demeanour and colour when she
returned from church. But Donna Leonor showed such unaltered serenity
in the tranquillity of her heart, that not even the most fault-fancying
jealousy could discover a blemish in her snow-white purity. Thereupon
Don Alonso’s rancour was turned with redoubled asperity against the
Canon’s nephew for having coveted her purity, her bright sun-coloured
hair, and her royal heron’s neck, which were his alone and the rich
delight of his life. And when he paced the sombre gallery of his
mansion, resonant with its vaulted roof, wrapt in his fur-trimmed
jerkin, the point of his grizzled beard thrust out in front, his thick
tangled hair bristling backwards, and his fists clenched, he was always
ruminating the same gall: 'He has attempted her virtue, he has attacked
my honour, he is guilty on two counts and deserves a double death.’ But
something like terror was mixed with his rage when he learned that Don
Ruy no longer awaited Donna Leonor in the square, nor amorously watched
the walls of his great house, nor entered the church when she was
praying there on Sundays, and that he kept himself so entirely foreign
to her that, one morning, when he was standing close to the arcade, and
must distinctly have heard the door through which she was about to
appear creak and open, he had remained with his back turned, without
moving, laughing with a stout knight who was reading to him from a
parchment. Such well-affected indifference could only serve, for sure,
thought Don Alonso, to hide some very evil purpose! What was the clever
deceiver plotting now? Everything in the ill-tempered _fidalgo_ became
intensified--jealousy, rancour, vigilance, regret for his hoary and ugly
old age. In the calm of Donna Leonor he suspected art and stratagem, and
straightway forbade her visits to Our Lady of the Pillar. On the
accustomed mornings, he ran to the church to say the rosary and carry
the excuses of Donna Leonor--‘who cannot come’ (he murmured, bowed
before the altar), 'for the reason you know, most pure Virgin.’ He
carefully visited and strengthened the black bolts of every gate of his
mansion, and at night loosed two mastiffs in the shadows of the walled
garden. At the head of his great bed, next to the table which carried
his lamp, reliquary, and a cup of wine hot with cinnamon and cloves to
invigorate his forces, there always shone a long, naked sword. But with
all these precautions he scarcely slept, and at every moment raised
himself up in alarm from between the deep pillows, and clawed Donna
Leonor with rough and eager hands that bruised her neck, to hiss very
low in his torment, 'Say you love me only.’ Afterwards, when dawn came,
he perched himself up to watch, like a falcon, the windows of Don Ruy.
He never caught sight of him now, either at the church door at the hour
of Mass, or returning on horseback from the country at the ringing of
the Angelus; and perceiving that he had disappeared from his customary
haunts and turns, he suspected his presence all the more in Donna
Leonor’s heart. At length, one night, after he had trodden the gallery
flags for a long while, secretly revolving suspicion and hatred, he
cried out for his steward, and ordered packs and saddle animals to be
got ready. He would leave early at daybreak with Donna Leonor for his
property at Cabril, two leagues distant from Segovia! The departure did
not take place at dawn, like the flight of a miser who goes to hide his
treasure far away, but was carried out with solemnity and at leisure.
The litter stood waiting long hours before the arcade with its curtains
open, whilst a stable-boy led the _fidalgo’s_ white she-mule, with her
Moorish caparisons, up and down the square, and on the garden side,
under the sun and the flies, a troop of he-mules laden with trunks
fastened with iron rings kept the narrow street in wonder with the
jingling of their bells.

In this way Don Ruy learned of the journey of the Lord of Lara, and thus
the whole city learned it too. It was a great satisfaction to Donna
Leonor, who was fond of Cabril, with its rich orchards and gardens, on
to which the balconied windows of her light apartments opened without a
grating; there, at least, she had ample air, full sunlight, boxes of
flowers to water, an aviary, and such long walks of laurel and yew that
they were almost liberty. And she hoped that afterwards the country
would lighten those cares that had lately made her lord and husband so
wrinkled and taciturn. But this hope was not realised, for at the end
of a week the face of Don Alonso had not yet lost its cloud, and it was
evident that neither fresh greenery, murmurs of running waters, nor
scents scattered in the flowering rosaries could calm so bitter and deep
an agitation. As in Segovia, he restlessly paced up and down the
resounding and vaulted gallery buried in his sheepskin coat, with the
point of his beard thrust out in front, and his thick tangled hair
bristling backwards; and he had a habit of showing his teeth in a quiet
snarl, as if he were meditating evil deeds, and savouring their
bitterness in advance. And the whole interest of his life had become
concentrated on a retainer who was constantly galloping between Segovia
and Cabril, and he sometimes awaited him at the commencement of the
village near the large Cross, and stayed listening to the man, who
dismounted, out of breath, and straightway gave him his hurried news.

One night when Donna Leonor was telling her beads in her room with her
attendants by the light of a waxen torch, the Lord of Lara entered very
slowly, bearing in his hand a sheet of parchment, and a pen dipped in
his bone inkstand. With a rough sign he dismissed the attendants, who
feared him as though he were a wolf, and pushing a footstool near the
table, he turned his face towards Donna Leonor, which he had composed
into a calm and pleasant expression, as if he were only coming to ask
for something natural and easily done, and said: 'Lady, I want you to
write me here a letter that is very necessary to write.’ ... She was so
accustomed to submission that without more reflection or curiosity, and
only going to hang the beads which she had been telling at the head of
the bed, she arranged herself on the footstool; and with much
application, in order that the writing might be neat and clear, her
elegant fingers traced the first short line which the Lord of Lara
dictated, and it was: 'My knight....’ But when he dictated the next, and
longer one, in a cutting manner, Donna Leonor threw down the pen as if
it burnt her, and recoiling from the table, cried out in her affliction:
'Why must I write such things, and so false?’ In a burst of fury the
Lord of Lara tore a dagger from his girdle, and shook it close to her
face, with a dull roar: 'Either you write what I order you, and what is
needful for me, or, by God, I will pierce your heart!’ Whiter than the
waxen torch that lighted them, her flesh creeping at that glittering
blade, and in a supreme fear that accepted everything, Donna Leonor
murmured: 'By the Virgin Mary, do not harm me! Do not be angry, for I
live to obey and serve you. Now order, and I will write.’ Then,
clenching his fists on the ends of the table where he had placed the
dagger, the Lord of Lara crushed the fragile, unhappy woman under his
hard, wounding gaze, and dictated, nay, flung at her hoarsely, piece by
piece, dragged out, a letter that, when finished, and traced in a very
hesitating and trembling hand, read: 'My knight, you have very ill
understood, or very ill repay, my love for you, which I could never
discover to you openly in Segovia. Now I am here at Cabril burning to
see you, and if your desire corresponds to mine, you can very easily
realise it, because my husband is absent at another property of his, and
this of Cabril is quite easy and open. Come to-night, enter by the
garden door beside the lane, pass the fish-pond, until you reach the
terrace; there you will espy a ladder resting against one of the windows
of the house, which is the window of my room, where you will be very
sweetly welcomed by her who anxiously awaits you.’ 'Now, lady, sign your
name below, for that is necessary above all!’ As red as if she were
being stripped before a crowd, Donna Leonor slowly traced her name.
'And now'--ordered her husband more quietly through his clenched
teeth--‘address it to Don Ruy de Cardenas!’ She dared to raise her eyes,
surprised at that unknown name. 'Go on! “To Don Ruy de Cardenas,”’
shouted the churlish man, and she directed her immodest letter to Don
Ruy de Cardenas. Don Alonso put the parchment in his girdle next to the
dagger which he had sheathed, and went out in silence, his beard
pointing forward, hushing the noise of his steps on the flags of the
corridor. She remained on the footstool in a state of immeasurable
fright, her wearied hands fallen in her lap and her gaze lost in the
darkness of the still night. Death appeared to her less dark than this
dark adventure in which she felt herself involved and borne along. Who
was this Don Ruy de Cardenas of whom she had never heard, who had never
passed across her quiet life, peopled by so few memories and men? And he
certainly knew her, had met her and had followed her, at least with his
eyes, since it was a natural and consequent thing that he should receive
from her a letter of such passion and promises.... Thus did a man, a
young man, evidently well-born, perhaps handsome, penetrate rudely into
her destiny, brought there by the hand of her husband. So intimately,
even, had this man become a part of her life without preparation on her
side, that her garden gate was already open for him at night, and a
ladder propped against her window at night for him to mount. And it was
her husband who, with the greatest secrecy, set wide the door and
raised the ladder.... Why? Then, in a flash, Donna Leonor understood the
truth, the shameful truth, and it drew from her an anguished and
half-stifled cry. It was an ambush! The Lord of Lara was attracting this
Don Ruy to Cabril with a splendid promise, to get him in his power, and
certainly to kill him, defenceless and alone! And herself, her love, her
body were the shining promises set before the beguiled eyes of the
luckless youth. So her husband was using her beauty and her bed as a
golden net into which that rash prize was to fall. What greater wrong
could there be? And what imprudence too? Don Ruy de Cardenas might very
well distrust and not accept such an openly amorous invitation, and
afterwards, in laughing triumph, show all over Segovia that letter in
which the wife of Alonso de Lara offered him her bed and body. But no!
the poor fellow would hasten to Cabril and die, die miserably in the
black silence of the night, without either priest or sacraments, his
soul sunk in the sin of love! Die without doubt, for the Lord of Lara
would never permit the man who had received such a letter to live. So
that youth would die for love of her, for a love that, while it had
never brought him a single pleasure, now brought him death. Clearly for
love of her, since such hatred as that of the Lord of Lara, a hatred
that sated itself with such disloyalty and villainy, could only spring
from jealousy which obscured in his mind all the duties of a knight and
a Christian. He must have surprised glances, movements, and designs of
this Don Ruy, who had not been sufficiently on the alert, because he
was very much in love. But how? when? Dimly she remembered a youth who
had crossed her one Sunday in the square and awaited her at the church
porch with a bundle of carnations in his hands.... Was it he? He had a
noble bearing, and was very pale, with big, black, passionate eyes. She
had passed by, indifferent.... The carnations he carried were red and
yellow.... To whom was he taking them? Ah! if she could warn him very
soon, at daybreak. But how, if there was no retainer or man-*servant in
Cabril in whom she could confide? But to allow a brutal sword
traitorously to pierce that heart which was full of her, beating for
her, all in hopes of her ...!

Oh, the mad and ardent rush of Don Ruy from Segovia to Cabril, with the
promise of the enchanting garden open to him, the ladder placed against
the window, under the silence and protection of the night! Would the
Lord of Lara really order a ladder to be set against the window? Yes,
for a certainty, in order the more easily to kill him, the poor, sweet,
innocent youth, as he was mounting, ill secure on an uncertain step, his
hands employed and his sword sleeping in the scabbard.... And so, in the
coming night, facing her bed, her window would be open and a ladder
would be raised against her window waiting for a man. Ambushed in the
shade of the room, her husband would certainly kill that man....

But supposing the Lord of Lara were to wait for this Don Ruy de
Cardenas outside the walls of the _quinta_, and assail him brutally in
some bypath, and, either because he was less dexterous or strong in a
clash of arms, were himself to be pierced through and fall without the
other knowing whom he had killed? And she there, in her room, unknowing,
and all the gates open and the ladder raised, and that man appearing at
the window in the soft shade of the warm night while the husband who
ought to defend her lay dead in an obscure path.... What would she do,
Virgin Mother? Surely she would haughtily repel the bold youth. But his
surprise and anger at his baffled desire! 'I have come at your call,
lady.’ And he would carry there on his heart her letter, with her name,
which her hand had traced. How could she tell him of the ambush and the
deceit? It was such a long tale to tell in the silence and solitude of
the night whilst his moist black eyes were beseeching and piercing
her.... Miserable she, if the Lord of Lara were to die and leave her,
solitary and defenceless, in that great open house. But how miserable
also, if that youth, who was summoned by her and who loved her and who
was hurrying to her, dazzled by his love, were to meet with death in the
place of his hope which was the place of his sin, and dying in the midst
of sin, were to roll down whither all hope is at an end.... Only
twenty-five years old too--if he was the man she remembered, pallid and
so good-looking, with a jerkin of purple velvet and a bunch of
carnations in his hand at the church door in Segovia.... Two tears fell
from the tired eyes of Donna Leonor, and bending her knees and lifting
her whole soul to the heavens where the moon was beginning to rise, she
murmured, in her boundless grief and faith, 'O Holy Virgin of the
Pillar, Lady mine, watch over us both, watch over us all....’

Don Ruy was entering the fresh _patio_ of his house in the hot hour,
when a young peasant got up from a stone seat in the shade and taking
from his scrip a letter, handed it to him murmuring, 'Haste and read it,
sir, for I have to return to Cabril to the person who sent me.’... Don
Ruy opened the parchment and, dazzled by what he saw, beat it against
his breast as though to bury it in his heart.... The young peasant
anxiously insisted: 'Make haste, sir, make haste! You need not reply.
Only give me a sign that you have received the message.’ Don Ruy, very
pallid, pulled off one of his gloves embroidered with twisted silk, and
the youth rolled it up and hid it in his scrip, and was already making
off on the points of his sandals when Don Ruy detained him with a sign:
'Listen, what road are you taking to Cabril.’ 'The shortest and
loneliest for bold men, which leads past Gallows Hill.’ 'Good.’ Don Ruy
climbed the stone stairs and, once in his apartment, without even
removing his hat, again read by the lattice window that blessed
parchment in which Donna Leonor summoned him at night to her room and
the entire possession of her being. And he was not astonished by this
offer after so constant and steady an indifference on her part. Rather
he at once saw in it a love which was very astute, because very strong;
a love that, with great patience, hides itself in the face of obstacles
and perils, and silently prepares its hour of satisfaction, all the
better and more delicious because so prepared. She had always loved him,
then, since the blessed morning when their eyes had crossed in Our
Lady’s porch! And whilst he was circling those garden walls and
complaining of her coldness, which seemed to him colder than the cold
walls themselves, she had already given him her soul; and, full of
constancy, with loving sagacity, suppressing the least sigh, lulling
suspicion to sleep, she was preparing the radiant night in which she
would also give him her body. Such firmness and such shrewd
understanding in the affairs of love made her, in his eyes, all the more
beautiful and the more to be desired! How impatiently he looked then at
the sun, that lingered so that afternoon in its descent towards the
mountains! In his room, with the lattice-blinds drawn, to concentrate
his happiness the better, without resting, he lovingly made ready
everything for his triumphal journey--fine clothing, dainty laces, a
jerkin of black velvet and perfumed essences. Twice he went down to the
stable to make certain that his horse was well shod and well groomed,
and he bent and re-bent on the floor the sword-blade he was to wear at
his girdle to test it.... But his chief care was the road to Cabril,
though he knew it well, and the village clustering round the Franciscan
Monastery, and the old Roman bridge with its Calvary, and the deep lane
that led to the heritage of the Lord of Lara. In that very winter he
had passed by there as he was going out to hunt on the mountains with
two friends from Astorga, and had caught sight of the tower of the
Laras, and thought: 'There is the tower of my ungrateful one.’ How he
had deceived himself! The nights were now moonlight, and he would leave
Segovia quietly by the gate of St. Mauros. A short gallop and he would
be at Gallows Hill. He knew it well also, that place of sadness and
terror, with its four stone pillars where criminals were hanged, and
where their bodies remained, swayed to and fro by the winds and parched
by the sun, until the cords grew rotten and the skeletons fell down,
white, and cleaned of their flesh by the ravens’ beaks. Behind the hill
lay the Ladies’ Lagoon. The last time he had been by there was on the
day of the Apostle St. Matthias, when the Corregedor and the
Confraternities of Charity and Peace went in procession to give holy
burial to the skeletons which had fallen on the black earth, picked of
their flesh by the birds. From there the road ran smooth and straight to
Cabril.

Thus did Don Ruy meditate his venturesome journey whilst the afternoon
was waning. But when it grew dark, and the bats began to circle about
the church towers, and the niches of the Holy Souls were lighted up in
the corners of the square, the brave youth felt a strange fear, the fear
of that happiness which was drawing near to him, and which seemed to him
supernatural. Was it true then that this woman, famous throughout
Castile for her divine beauty, and more inaccessible than a
constellation, would in a short space be his--all his, in the silence
and security of an alcove, when these devotional lights before the
pictures of the Holy Souls had not yet been extinguished? And what had
he done to enjoy so great a good? He had trod the flags of a square, he
had waited in the porch of a church, and sought with his eyes two other
eyes which, either through indifference or want of attention, remained
lowered. Then, without grief, he had abandoned his hope.... And lo!
suddenly those absent eyes seek him, and those closed arms open to him,
wide and bare, and with her body and soul that woman cries out to him:
'O foolish man, that you did not understand me! Come! She who
discouraged you now belongs to you!’ Was there ever such fortune as
this? So great, so rare was it, that, unless human experience errs,
ill-fortune must already be in pursuit! It was so of a truth already,
since how great an ill-fortune lay in the knowledge that after such good
fortune, when, early in the morning, he left her divine embrace and
retired to Segovia, his Leonor, the supreme good of his life, and so
unexpectedly acquired for a moment, would straightway fall again under
the power of another master! What did it matter? Let troubles and
jealousies come afterwards! That night was magnificently his, the whole
world an empty vision, and the one reality that dimly-lighted room at
Cabril, where she would await him with unbound hair! Eagerly he
descended the stairs and threw himself on his horse; then, for prudence’
sake, he crossed the square very slowly, with his sombrero worn clear
of his face, as though he were making an ordinary promenade in search of
the freshness of night outside the walls. No meeting disturbed him until
he got to the gate of St. Mauros. There, a beggar, who was squatted in
the darkness of an arch monotonously playing his _sanfona_, begged with
a whine the Virgin and all the Saints to have that gentle knight in
their sweet and holy guard. Don Ruy had stopped to throw him an alms,
when he remembered that he had not been that evening to the church at
the hour of vespers to pray and beg a blessing of his divine Godmother.
He immediately leapt down from his horse, for, just close to the old
arch, a lamp flickered, lighting a picture. It was an image of the
Virgin, with her breast transfixed by seven swords. Don Ruy knelt,
rested his hat on the flags, and with raised hands said a _Salve Regina_
with passionate ardour. The yellow reflection of the light enveloped the
face of Our Lady, who, either not feeling the pain of the seven points,
or as if they only gave her ineffable joys, smiled with bright red lips.
Whilst he was praying, the small bell in the convent of St. Dominic, on
one side, began to sound the Agony. In the black shadow of the arch the
_sanfona_ ceased, and the beggar murmured, 'There lies a friar dying!’
Don Ruy said an _Ave Maria_ for the friar who was dying. The Virgin of
the seven swords smiled sweetly--the passing bell, then, was not a bad
omen! Don Ruy mounted his horse gaily and set off. Beyond the gate of
St. Mauros, after passing some potters’ hovels, the road followed a
narrow, black course between lofty aloes. Behind the low hills, at the
bottom of the dark plain, rose the first reflection, yellow and languid,
of the full moon, which was still hidden. Don Ruy rode slowly, fearing
to reach Cabril very early, before the maidservants and the men had
finished their evening work and the rosary. Why had not Donna Leonor
appointed him an hour in her clear and deliberate letter?... Then his
imagination ran on ahead, broke into the garden at Cabril, and flew up
the promised ladder, and he, too, let himself go after it in an eager
race that tore up the stones of the ill-laid road. Then he drew in his
panting horse. It was early! It was early! And he resumed his weary
pace, feeling his heart beat against his breast like an imprisoned bird
against the bars.

So he reached the Calvary, where the road split into two roads, more
closely joined than the prongs of a fork, both cutting through the pine
wood. Baring his head before the image of the Crucified, Don Ruy had a
moment of anguish, because he did not remember which of them led to
Gallows Hill. He had already plunged into the gloomier of the two, when,
from between the silent pines a light appeared dancing in the darkness.
It was an old woman in rags with long flowing tresses bent over a staff,
and carrying a lamp. 'Where does this road lead to?’ shouted Ruy. The
old woman swung her lamp higher up to observe the knight--‘To Xarama.’
The light and the old woman immediately disappeared, melting away into
the shade as if they had risen up there only to warn the knight of his
mistaken road. He had already turned back with a dash, and rounding the
Calvary, he galloped along the other and wider road, until, over the
brightness of the sky, he caught sight of the black pillars and black
beams of Gallows Hill. Then he stayed motionless, erect in his stirrups.
On a tall, bare hill without either grass or heather, connected by a low
wall, full of breaches, the four pillars of granite rose up black and
enormous in the yellow moonlight, looking like the four corners of a
ruined house. Upon the pillars rested four stout beams. From the beams
were suspended four hanged men, black and rigid, in the still, dumb
air. All around seemed dead as they. Fat birds of prey slept perched
upon the beams. Beyond, the dead water of the Ladies’ Lagoon shone
livid, and in the heavens the moon was growing large and full. Don Ruy
murmured the _Paternoster_ due from every Christian to those guilty
souls. Then he urged on his horse, and passed by--when, in the immense
silence and the immense solitude, a voice rose and resounded, a voice
that called him, supplicating and slow: 'Knight, stay you, come hither!’
Don Ruy drew rein sharply, and standing in his stirrups cast his
astonished eyes over all that ominous wilderness. All he saw was the
rough hill, the still, shining water, the beams, the dead men. He
thought it must have been an illusion of the night, or the daring of
some wandering demon, and calmly spurred his horse, without alarm or
haste, as if he were in a street in Segovia. But, behind him, the voice
came again and more urgently called him, with anxiety, almost with
affliction: 'Wait, knight; do not go on; return; come here!’... Don Ruy
pulled up again, and turning in his saddle, boldly gazed at the four
bodies suspended from the beams. The voice sounded from their direction,
and being human could only issue from a human form! One of these hanged
men, then, had called him with all that haste and anxiety. Did there
remain in any, by God’s wonderful mercy, breath and life? Or was it
that--a still greater marvel--one of those half-putrified carcasses
detained him to transmit him warnings from beyond the grave?... But
whether the voice proceeded from a living breast or a dead breast, it
would be great cowardice to go off as if in a fright without attending
to it and listening. He immediately drove his trembling horse into the
middle of the hill, and stopping, erect and calm, with his hand at his
side, cried, after steadfastly gazing at the four suspended bodies, one
by one: 'Which of you hanged men dared to call for Don Ruy de Cardenas?’

Then the one who had his back to the full moon replied from the top of
the cord, very quietly and naturally, like a man talking from his window
to the street: 'It was I, sir.’

Don Ruy drove his horse forward. He could not distinguish the man’s
face, which was buried in his breast, and hidden by his long, black,
falling tresses. All he saw was that his hands were free and unbound,
and also his bare feet, which were already withered and the colour of
bitumen.

'What do you want of me?’ The hanged man sighed and murmured: 'Do me the
great favour, sir, to cut the cord by which I am suspended.’ Don Ruy
snatched his sword, and with a sure blow cut the half-rotten cord. With
a sinister sound of clashing bones the body fell on the ground, and lay
stretched out there for a moment, but immediately righted itself on its
ill-secure and still sleeping feet, and raised towards Don Ruy a dead
face, which was a skull with the skin tightly glued to it, and more
yellow than the moon that beat upon it. The eyes showed neither movement
nor light. The two lips grinned in a stony smile. From the whitest of
teeth issued the point of a very black tongue. Don Ruy displayed neither
terror nor loathing, but calmly sheathing his sword, asked: 'Art thou
alive or dead?’ The man slowly contracted his shoulders: 'Sir, I know
not. Who knows what is life? Who knows what is death?’ ... 'But, what do
you want of me?’ With his long, fleshless fingers the hanged man
enlarged the knot of the cord that still encircled his neck, and said
very calmly and firmly: 'Sir, I must go with you to Cabril, whither you
are going.’

The knight started so sharply in his astonishment, pulling back the
reins, that his good horse reared up as if struck by the same fright.
'With me to Cabril?’ The man bent his spine, displaying all the bones
sharper than the teeth of a saw through a long rent in his tammy shirt.
'Sir,’ he prayed, 'deny me not, for I shall receive a great reward if I
do you a great service.’ Then it suddenly occurred to Don Ruy that that
might well be some dreadful trick of the Demon, and fixing his piercing
eyes on the dead face which was upraised to him, anxiously awaiting his
consent, he slowly made a large Sign of the Cross. The hanged man bent
his knees with startled reverence. 'Why do you try me with that Sign,
sir? By it alone we obtain remission, and from it alone I hope for
mercy.’ Then Don Ruy thought that if that man was not sent by the
Demon, he might well be sent by God, and so, straightway, devoutly, with
a gesture of submission in which he abandoned all to Heaven, he
consented and accepted his awful companion.

'Come with me, then, to Cabril, if God sends you, but I shall ask you no
questions, and you must ask none of me!’

He took his horse down the road all lighted up by the moon. The hanged
man followed at his side with such airy steps that, even when Don Ruy
galloped, he kept touching his stirrup, as if he were borne along by a
silent wind. Now and then, to breathe freely, he pulled back the knot of
the cord that was twisted round his neck, and as they were passing
between hedges where the scent of wild-flowers was wafted about, the
man murmured with extraordinary relief and delight, 'How good it is to
run!’ Don Ruy was filled with amazement and a torment of care. He
understood clearly now that that was a corpse revived by God for a
strange and hidden service. But why did God give him such a terrible
companion? To protect him? To prevent Donna Leonor, beloved of Heaven
for her piety, from falling into mortal sin? But had the Lord no Angels
left in heaven that He must needs employ a man who had paid the death
penalty on so divine a mission of such high favour?... Ah, how gladly
would he turn his horse towards Segovia were it not for a knight’s
gallant loyalty, his pride in never turning back, and his submission to
the orders of God which he felt weigh upon him....

From a high part of the road they suddenly caught sight of Cabril, and
the towers of the Franciscan Convent showing white in the moonlight, and
the farmhouses sleeping among the gardens. Very silently, with never a
dog barking behind the gates or from the top of the walls, they
descended to the old Roman bridge. In front of the Calvary the hanged
man fell on his knees on the flags, lifted up the livid bones of his
hands, and remained a long time in prayer, now and again heaving a deep
sigh. Afterwards, as they entered the narrow lane, he drank much and
took comfort from a spring that ran and sang under the branches of a
willow-tree. As the path was very narrow, he walked in front of the
knight, his whole body bent, and his arms firmly crossed over his
breast, and made not a sound. The moon was mounting high in the heavens,
and Don Ruy gazed with bitterness on that full and lustrous disc which
shed such indiscreet brightness all around on his secret. Ah! how the
night that should have been a divine one was being spoiled! An immense
moon was coming out from between the mountains to lighten up everything.
A hanged man descended from the gibbet to follow him, and know all. God
had so ordained it; but how sad for him to reach the sweet door, sweetly
promised, with such an intruder by his side under that brilliantly clear
sky!

The hanged man pulled up sharply and raised his arm, from which his
sleeve hung in tatters. It was the end of the lane which opened out into
a wider and more beaten road: and in front of them the lengthy wall of
the Lord of Lara’s _quinta_ showed white, with its belvedere and little
stone balconies, the whole covered with ivy. 'Sir,’ murmured the hanged
man, respectfully holding Don Ruy’s stirrup, 'the gate by which you must
enter the garden is only a few paces from this belvedere. It is best you
should leave your horse here, tied to a tree, if you think you can
safely trust it, for in the business we are undertaking the mere sound
of our footsteps is too much!’ Don Ruy dismounted silently and fastened
his horse, which he knew to be faithful and sure, to the trunk of a
poplar tree, and, so submissive had he become to that companion imposed
by God, that, without further consideration, he followed him touching
the wall beaten by the moonlight. The hanged man advanced now with
leisurely caution, on bare tiptoe, watching the top of the wall,
scrutinising the blackness of the hedge, and stopping to listen for
noises which only he perceived--for Don Ruy had never known a night more
deeply asleep and dumb. And this fear in one who should have been
indifferent to human perils slowly filled the brave knight also with so
deep a distrust that he took his dagger from its sheath, folded his
cloak round his arm, and walked on guard, with his eyes flashing, as if
he were in a place of ambushes and strife. In this manner they arrived
at a low door, which the hanged man pushed, and which opened without a
creak of the hinges. They penetrated into a walk, on either side of
which were thick yews, up to a tank full of water, where leaves of
water-lilies floated, which was surrounded by rude stone seats covered
by boughs of flowering shrubs. 'That way!’ murmured the hanged man,
extending his withered arm. It was an avenue, beyond the tank, vaulted
over and darkened by dense and ancient trees. They went down it like
shadows in the shade, the hanged man in front, Don Ruy following, very
cleverly, without brushing a branch, and scarcely touching the sand with
his feet. A slight thread of water purled among the lawns, and climbing
roses grew up the tree-trunks and gave a sweet smell. Don Ruy’s heart
began again to beat with loving hope. 'Hush!’ uttered the hanged man.
Don Ruy almost stumbled over the sinister creature, who stopped short
with arms outstretched like the bars of a gate. In front of them, four
stone steps mounted to a terrace, where the light was full without a
shadow. Crouching down they clambered up the steps, and at the end of a
treeless garden full of well-fashioned flower-beds, edged by short box,
they espied one side of the house beaten by the full moon. In the
middle, between the breast-high windows, which were closed, a stone
balcony, with pots of basil at the corners, had its glass windows
opened wide. The room inside was blotted out, and made a dark gap in the
bright façade bathed by the moonlight; and leaning against the balcony
was a ladder with rungs of cord. Then the hanged man sharply pushed Don
Ruy away from the steps into the darkness of the avenue, and there, in a
pressing manner, dominating the knight, exclaimed: 'Sir! it is best that
you should give me your hat and cloak now! Stay you, very still, here in
the darkness of these trees, and I will go and mount that ladder and
peep at that room, and, if it be as you desire, I will return here, and
God make you happy.’ Don Ruy recoiled in horror at the idea of such a
creature mounting to that window. He stamped his foot and cried
quietly: 'No, by God.’ But the hand of the hanged man, livid in the
darkness, roughly tore his hat from his head, and pulled his cloak from
his arm, and now he covered himself, now he wrapped himself up,
murmuring in anxious supplication: 'Don’t deny it me, sir, for if I do
you a great service, I shall gain a great reward.’ And he climbed the
steps--he was on the broad, illuminated terrace. Don Ruy, dazed, went up
and watched, and--oh, wonderful!--that man was himself, Don Ruy, all
himself, in figure and gait, as he advanced between the flower-beds and
the short box, lightly and gracefully with his hand on his girdle, his
face lifted smilingly towards the window, and the long scarlet plume of
his hat swaying in triumph. The man went forward through the splendid
moonlight. The chamber of love was there waiting, open and dark. Don Ruy
gazed with flashing eyes, and trembled with amazement and anger. The man
had reached the ladder; he unwound his cloak, and set his foot on the
cord rung. 'Oh! there he is going up, the villain!’ roared Don Ruy. The
hanged man went up, and now the tall figure which was his, Don Ruy’s,
was half way up the ladder, and made a black patch against the white
wall. He stopped!--no! he had not stopped; he mounted--he reached the
top--now he had carefully rested his knee on the rounded edge of the
balcony. Don Ruy gazed despairingly, with his eyes, his soul, and all
his being. And lo! suddenly a black figure rises out of the dark room,
a furious voice shouts, 'Villain, villain!’ and the blade of a dagger
rises and falls, and again rises, shines again and comes down, and once
more shines, and once more is driven in! Like a bundle the hanged man
falls heavily from the top of the ladder onto the soft earth. The glass
windows and doors of the balcony are immediately shut to with a crash,
and there is nothing more but the silence, the gentle calm, and the moon
high up and round in the summer sky. In a flash Don Ruy had comprehended
the treason, drawn his sword and retreated to the darkness of the
avenue, when--oh, wonder! the hanged man appears running across the
terrace, seizes his sleeve, and cries to him: 'To horse, sir, and let
us be off, for the meeting was not one of love but of death!’ They both
descend the avenue at full speed, hug the tank, under the protection of
the flowering shrubs, plunge into the narrow walk edged with yews,
pierce the gate, and stop for a moment out of breath in the road, where
the moon, now fuller and more refulgent, turned night into day. And
then, only then, did Don Ruy discover that the hanged man still had the
dagger nailed in his breast up to the guard, while the point, shining
smooth and clean, issued from his back!... But immediately the terrible
man pushed and hurried him: 'To horse, sir, and let us be off, for
treason is still upon us!’ Terror-struck, and burning to close that
adventure full of miracles and horrors, Don Ruy plucked up the reins and
rode off full tilt, and straightway, in great haste, the hanged man
leapt also onto the crupper of the faithful horse. The good knight
shivered all over at feeling the contact with his back of that dead body
which had been hanged from a gibbet and pierced through by a dagger.
With what despair he galloped then along the endless road! But violent
as was his career, the hanged man neither moved to one side or the
other, but sat rigid on the crupper like a statue on a pedestal, and Don
Ruy felt each moment a more freezing cold congealing his shoulders as if
he bore on them a sack full of ice. As he passed the Calvary, he
murmured: 'Lord aid me!’ Past the Calvary he gave a sudden tremble, in
the fancied fear that his funereal companion would remain with him for
ever, and that he was destined to gallop over the world in an eternal
night bearing a dead man on his crupper.... And he could not contain
himself, but shouted behind him, in the wind that struck them like a
switch in their career: 'Whither do you wish me to take you?’ The hanged
man, leaning his body so much against Don Ruy that he hurt him with the
hilt of the dagger, whispered: 'Sir, it is expedient you should leave me
on the hill.’ It was a sweet and immeasurable relief for the good
knight, for the Hill was near, and its pillars and black beams could
already be discerned in the pale light. Soon the trembling horse came to
a stand, white with foam, and immediately the hanged man noiselessly
slid down from the crupper, and bearing up Don Ruy’s stirrup like a good
attendant, his skull uplifted, and his black tongue put further out from
between his white teeth, he murmured in respectful supplication: 'Sir,
do me now the great favour to hang me once again from my beam.’ Don Ruy
trembled with horror. 'For God’s sake! I hang you?’ The man sighed,
opening his long arms. 'Sir, it is God’s will, and Hers who is dearest
to God!’ Thereupon, in resignation and submission to the commands of the
Most High, Don Ruy dismounted and began to follow the man as he mounted
pensively towards the hill, bending his back, from which the shining
point of the dagger came sticking out. They both stopped under the empty
beam. Round about the other beams hung the other carcasses. The silence
was sadder and more deep than other earthly silences. The water in the
lagoon had grown black. The moon was descending and waning. Don Ruy
contemplated the beam where the piece of cord he had cut with his sword
was left short in the air. 'How am I to hang you?’ he exclaimed. 'I
cannot reach that piece of cord with my hand; nor can I hoist you up
there by myself.’ 'Sir,’ replied the man, 'here, in a corner, there
ought to be a long roll of cord. You will tie one end of it to this knot
I have on my neck; the other end you will throw over the beam, and then,
if you pull, you will, with your strength, easily be able to hang me
again.’ Both men bending down and walking slowly looked for the roll of
cord, and it was the hanged man who found and unrolled it.... Then Don
Ruy took off his gloves, and, taught by the man who had learned his
lesson well from the executioner, he tied one end of the cord to the
noose the man had on his neck, and vigorously threw the other end,
which undulated in the air, passed over the beam, and remained suspended
close to the ground. Driving in his feet and tightening his arms, the
bold knight pulled and hoisted the man until he was there suspended and
black in the air like a natural hanged man among the others. 'Are you
right as you are?’ Slow and sinking came the voice of the dead man.
'Sir, I am as I ought to be.’ Then to make him fast Don Ruy twisted the
cord in stout knots to the stone pillar, and removing his hat and wiping
with the back of his hand the sweat that covered him, he contemplated
his sinister and miraculous companion. The latter was already rigid as
before, with his face hanging down under his falling tresses and his
feet stiffened, and the whole of him was smooth and worm-eaten like an
ancient carcass. The dagger was still nailed in his breast, and above,
two crows slept quietly. 'Now, what more do you want?’ asked Don Ruy,
beginning to put on his gloves. From above, the hanged man murmured in a
low voice, 'Sir, I earnestly beg you now that, when you reach Segovia,
you tell everything faithfully to Our Lady of the Pillar, your
Godmother, for I expect a great favour from her for my soul in exchange
for this service that at her command has been done you by my body!’ Then
Don Ruy de Cardenas understood all, and, devoutly kneeling on the ground
of sorrow and death, said a long prayer for that good hanged man.
Afterwards he galloped towards Segovia. The morning was growing light
when he passed through the gate of St. Mauros, and the clear bells were
ringing for matins in the pure air. Entering into the Church of Our Lady
of the Pillar, still in disarray after his terrible journey, Don Ruy,
prostrate before the altar, told his divine Godmother of the wicked
design that had taken him to Cabril, and the help he had received from
Heaven, and with warm tears of repentance and gratitude, swore to her
that he would never more set his desire in the way of sin, nor open his
heart to thoughts that came from the world and from evil.



III


At that hour, in Cabril, Don Alonso de Lara, with eyes standing out with
wonder and terror, was searching diligently all the walks and nooks and
shades of his garden. When, after listening at the door of the room
where he had shut up Donna Leonor that night, he slily descended at dawn
into the garden and did not encounter the body of Don Ruy de Cardenas
below the balcony, close to the ladder, as he had expected with delight,
he felt certain that the hateful man after falling down had, with his
little remnant of life, dragged himself along, bleeding and gasping, in
the attempt to reach his horse, and get away from Cabril. But the
villain would not drag himself for many yards with that stout dagger
which he had thrice buried in his breast, and had left there, and he
must be lying in some corner cold and stiff.

Then he searched again and again in every path, every shadow and every
mass of shrubs, and, wonderful to say! he discovered neither the body,
nor footprints, nor earth that had been disturbed, nor even a track of
blood on the soil! And yet with a sure hand, thirsting for vengeance, he
had thrice driven the dagger into the man’s breast and there had left
it! And the man he had killed was Don Ruy de Cardenas, for he had
recognised him well straight away from the dark depths of the room where
he was watching when he crossed the terrace under the moon-*light,
confident and gay, with his hand on his girdle, and his face uplifted
with a smile, and the feather in his hat tossing in triumph. How could
so extraordinary a thing be--a mortal body survive a dagger that had
thrice pierced its heart and remained nailed there? And the greater
marvel was that that strong body, though it had fallen like a bundle,
heavily and inertly from such a height, had left not a mark on the
ground below the verandah where a strip of wallflowers and lilies ran
along the wall! Not a flower was crushed--all were erect and full of
life, as if freshly out, with light drops of dew! Don Alonso de Lara
stopped there, motionless with surprise, almost with terror,
contemplating the balcony, measuring the height of the ladder, staring
at those wallflowers, erect and fresh, without a stem or leaf bent. Next
he began again a mad race down the terrace, the avenue, and the
yew-path, still in hopes of finding a footprint, a broken branch, or a
stain of blood on the fine sand. Nothing! The whole garden exhibited an
unaccustomed order and fresh neatness, as if neither the wind that
strips the leaves, nor the sun that withers, had ever passed over it.
Then as evening was coming on, devoured by uncertainty and the mystery
of the thing, he took horse and, without squire or groom, departed for
Segovia. Bent and secretly, like a fugitive, he entered his palace by
the orchard door, and his first care was to hasten to the vaulted
gallery, unbar the shutters of the windows, and greedily spy the house
of Don Ruy de Cardenas. All the latticed windows of the Archdeacon’s
old dwelling were dark and open, breathing the freshness of the night;
and seated on a stone bench at the door, a stable-youth lazily tuned his
guitar. Don Alonso de Lara went down to his room livid, thinking that
certainly no misfortune could have happened in a house where all the
windows were open to cool it, and where servants were amusing themselves
at the street door. Then he clapped his hands and angrily called for
supper, and as soon as he was seated at the head of the table, in his
tall chair of carved leather, he sent for the steward, and at once
offered him a cup of old wine with unusual familiarity. Whilst the man
drank respectfully, standing the while, Don Alonso, drawing his fingers
through his beard and forcing his sombre face to a smile, asked for the
news and rumours of Segovia. Had any event caused surprise and murmuring
in the city during these days of his stay in Cabril?... The steward
wiped his lips and affirmed that nothing had occurred in Segovia that
was being talked about, unless it was that the daughter of Don
Gutierres, the young and rich heiress, had taken the veil in the Convent
of the Barefooted Carmelites. Don Alonso insisted, fixing his eyes
greedily on the steward. And had not there been a great quarrel?... had
not a well-known young knight been found wounded on the Cabril road?...
The steward shrugged his shoulders; he had heard nothing in the city of
quarrels or wounded knights. With a rough gesture Don Alonso dismissed
the steward, and, after a spare supper, he returned at once to the
gallery to watch the windows of Don Ruy. They were now closed; in the
end one at the corner shone a trembling light. All the night Don Alonso
watched, tirelessly revolving in his mind the same wonderment. How could
that man have escaped with his heart transfixed by a dagger? How could
he?... When morning dawned, he got a cloak and large hat and descended,
all muffled up and concealed, into the square, and remained patrolling
in front of Don Ruy’s house. The bells rang for matins. Tradesmen in
ill-buttoned jerkins came out to raise the shutter-doors of their shops
and hang out their signs. Market-gardeners, urging on their donkeys
laden with baskets, were already shouting their cries of fresh
vegetables; bare-footed friars, with their wallets on their shoulders,
begged an alms and gave their blessing to the girls; and cloaked
_beatas_, with great black rosaries, threaded their way greedily towards
the church. Then the city crier stopped at a corner of the square,
sounded a horn, and in a powerful voice began to read a proclamation.
The Lord of Lara had stopped, gaping, near the fountain, as though
enraptured by the song of the three spouts of water. Suddenly it
occurred to him that that proclamation, read by the city crier, perhaps
referred to Don Ruy--to his disappearance.... He ran to the corner of
the square, but the man had already rolled up his paper and majestically
departed, beating on the pavement with his white staff. When he turned
round to spy the house again, lo! his astonished eyes encountered Don
Ruy--Don Ruy whom he had killed--coming walking to the Church of Our
Lady, gaily and airily, lifting a smiling face in the fresh morning air,
wearing a bright jerkin and bright plumes, one of his hands resting on
his girdle, the other absently twirling a stick with tassels of golden
braid! Then, with halting, aged steps, Don Alonso went back to the
house. At the top of the stone staircase he met his old chaplain, who
had come to greet him, and who penetrated with him into the antechamber,
and, after respectfully asking for news of Donna Leonor, at once told
him of an extraordinary event which was causing serious murmuring and
surprise in the city. Late the evening before, when the Corregedor went
to visit Gallows Hill, because the Feast of the Holy Apostles was
drawing nigh, he had discovered, to his great amazement and scandal,
that one of the hanged men had a dagger nailed in his breast! Was it
some wicked rogue’s jest? A vengeance that not even death had sated?...
And to make the prodigy greater still, the body had been taken down from
the gibbet, dragged in some vegetable or flower-garden, since tender
leaves had been found clinging to the old rags, and afterwards had been
hanged again, and with a new rope!... And such, then, was the turbulence
of the times that not even the dead escaped outrage! Don Alonso
listened, with hands trembling and hair on end. And immediately, in an
anguish of agitation, shouting and stumbling against the doors, he
wanted to set off and verify the dismal profanation with his own eyes.
On two mules, hurriedly caparisoned, they both started away for Gallows
Hill, he and the astounded chaplain, whom he dragged after him. A large
concourse of the people of Segovia had already collected on the hill,
gazing on the marvellous horror--the dead man who had been slain!...
They all stepped aside for the noble Lord of Lara, who hurled himself up
the ridge and stood and gazed, staring and livid, at the hanged man, and
at the dagger which pierced his breast. It was his dagger--it was he who
had killed the dead!

He galloped in terror to Cabril, and there shut himself up with his
secret, and straightway began to grow yellow and pine away, always
keeping at a distance from Donna Leonor, and hiding in the gloomy walks
of the garden, murmuring words to the wind, until early one St. John’s
Day, a maidservant, returning from the fountain with her pitcher, found
him dead below the stone balcony, all stretched out on the ground, with
his fingers fixed in the bed of wallflowers, where he seemed to have
been raking the soil for a long space, searching....



IV


To flee from these sorrowful memories, Donna Leonor, who had inherited
all the possessions of the House of Lara, retired to her palace in
Segovia. But as she knew now that Don Ruy de Cardenas had miraculously
escaped the ambush at Cabril, and as each morning, peeping between the
half-closed blinds, she followed him when he crossed the square to enter
the church, with eyes which never wearied, and were wet, she would not
visit Our Lady of the Pillar during the time of her mourning, fearing
the haste and impatience of her heart. Afterwards, one Sunday morning,
when, instead of black crape she could dress herself in purple silk, she
descended the staircase of her palace, pale with a new and divine
emotion, trod the flags of the square, and passed through the doors of
the church. Don Ruy de Cardenas was kneeling before the altar, where he
had deposited his votive bouquet of yellow and white carnations. At the
sound of her rich silks he raised his eyes with a hope that was all pure
and full of heavenly grace, as if an angel called him. Donna Leonor
knelt down with heaving breast, so pale and so happy that the waxen
torches were not more pale, nor happier the swallows that beat their
unfettered wings through the ogives of the old church. They were married
before that altar, kneeling on those slabs, by Don Martin, Bishop of
Segovia, in the autumn of the year of grace 1475, when the Most Mighty
and Most Catholic Sovereigns, Isabella and Ferdinand, through whom God
worked great deeds by land and sea, were already rulers of Castile.


Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty at the Edinburgh
University Press





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