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extremities are in utter darkness. Near the door are ranged the different vehicles of the country, “galeras ;" and here and there about the pillars, the baggage and trunks of the different caravans are disposed. Opposite to the door, in the midst of a little paved hearth, the fire of hospitality is kept constantly alight. The smoke escapes how it can, either by the narrow loop-holes, or by the chinks between the rafters and the roof, for chimney there is none.
One partition only exists in the corner of this barn. It is, as it were, a hut within a house, an asylum reserved for the landlord and his family. Against this, upon some thick planks of wood, are ranged with great regularity some enormous vessels of red earthen. ware, which, to avoid the trouble of constantly fetching water from the well, contain some days' provision for the animals, whilst water of a better description, in vases of a lighter kind of clay, unbaked, is carefully stowed away for the use of the guests at the venta.
It was in this splendid apartment, and as near to the fire as they could contrive to get, that the new arrivals formed a group. A great many others had already taken up their quarters, stretched at full length in their cloaks or blankets, the only beds in the hostelry, or were seated cross-legged in the Eastern fashion round long tables on the ground, and taking their frugal meal from the provisions which they had brought with them, for none were to be obtained in the place.
« Ave Maria Santissima!” was the salutation of the company. “Good evening, caballeros ; may God bless your repast !” the reply. This exchange of greetings is common even among the lowest ranks. Many invited the new comers to partake of their supper; for Arab hospitality is still kept up in that land, so long emancipated from their yoke; and no good Spaniard thinks of eating or drinking without inviting those around him, often even the passers by, to partake of his meal.
These compliments having been exchanged on both sides, a profound silence reigned in the venta ; and, thanks to the darkness, we might almost fancy ourselves in complete solitude, were it not for the monotonous noise which so many bipeds and quadrupeds made in eating.
Close to the fire, which, being now replenished, flashed full on their faces, were a group that particularly attracted my attention. It consisted of three persons, a girl and two youths, all of a beauty so remarkable, that even in that land, where it is so common, I never saw it equalled. The girl, whose name was Margarita, was about sixteen or seventeen; but, owing to that climate, where females arrive at maturity at an earlier period, she was, and had been some time, a woman, and offered at once the most striking contrast between infantine gaiety and coquetry. She was of middle height; her large black eyes sparkled with a virginal candour, though they at times expressed the energy of passion ; less, as it appeared, the result of present than the prognostic of future emotions. I have spoken of her eyes, and you must excuse my speaking of them still ; they shone from under their long brown lashes and thick brows, like the sun through a dark cloud.
The complexion of this young Andalusian was very different from that on which English women so much pride themselves. It was pale, and clear, and brown, and set off by tresses of a jetty black.
“ An Arab horse-a stately stag—a barb
New broke--a cameleopard—a gazelle —". No- none of them will do by way of comparison - no simile will define or liken her ; but I never saw the like.
I must now introduce you to the cousin. He was about twentyseven or twenty-eight years of age, with an open countenance and a happy insouciance. His features were regular ; his eyes resembled a brazier, which at every instant threw out sparkles of fire; he had also raven-black hair, and a complexion dark as a Moor. For an Andalusian, he was taller than they usually are, and wore the elegant cabas commonly in use in that province. The “retecilla," or net of green silk, fitted closely to the head, from which, however, some few locks escaped ; his short jacket was of velvet, ornamented with ribands, and enlaced with silver buttons ; a handkerchief of red silk, negligently tied about his neck, fastened his shirt of coarse linen over his ample chest; a scarf, or girdle, also of red silk, éncircled his waist in many folds, and half hid a purse and a poniard ; tight breeches, of a coarse brown cloth, scarcely covered his knees ; and gaiters and leathern shoes of yellow morocco completed the costume of the young Maio...
The brother of Margarita was some years older, and had a serious and determined look, as though he had led an adventurous life, and followed the profession, common in the country, of a contrabandista. Such, indeed, he was.
In the course of the evening, the young Maio asked for a guitar, and said, “Gentlemen, shall I sing you the Tragala ?” The “ Tragala " is in Spain what the “Ca ira” was in the First French Revolution, or the Marsellais. '
Margarita pointed to one of the pillars, against which were suspended by a peg a pair of cavalry boots.
“Well,” said he, with a burst of laughter, « what then? ” — “ What then!” she replied. “They may belong to — ; he may not be one of ours."
“ No matter," said Alvas.
« Pray,” said Margarita, with a voice that trembled, “ do not, for the sake of a song, run the risk of a quarrel.”
But Alvas tuned his instrument, and with his fine sonorous voice thundered out the Tragala, in which many of the party joined chorus. It was received with enthusiasm,-and after the bravos had subsided,
"Success,” said Alvas, s to the arms of Christino, and damnation to the Pretender!”
Scarcely had he spoken the words, when one of the guests advanced towards Alvas. He was a man of forty years of age, of a commanding stature and military air, and was enveloped in a cloak that had seen many a campaign. He was, in fact, returning from his furlough to the head-quarters of Don Carlos.
“It is said that we cannot resist our destiny. At all events we are often in a mood to brave it, or to yield to the impulse of our passions, little caring for the consequences. The satirist has often lost his best friend by an irresistible bon mot, or epigram ; the caricatur. ist by a sketch. A look of scorn, or a hasty word, which cannot be recalled, or which pride forbids us to retract, have led to many a scene of bloodshed. So with this officer.
Eyeing the company with a look of scorn, he said, “ I will allow no one in my presence to be wanting in respect to our legitimate sovereign!"
“ Legitimate sovereign, indeed!” muttered Alvas, and then, “The Constitution for ever! Down with the Pretender !” he vociferated, his voice rising to fortissimo under the fiery impulse of his feelings.
" Who are you,” demanded the Captain, “ that you venture to talk thus?”
“ My name," said the young man, rising, “is Alvas.”
“ Alvas,” replied the other. “I know that name. If I mistake not, you once attacked an escort which I commanded. You are a contrabandist and a brigand.”
- Liar !” retorted Alvas. “You shall answer for this."
At these words Margarita sprang from the ground, and threw her arms about Alvas, crying, "Jesu Maria! Alvas, be calm! Think of me.” Alvas, however, shaking her off, and, tearing the retecilla from his head, and throwing it down on the floor with violence, struck the officer a blow that nearly felled him to the ground.
He who has not experienced, can scarcely conceive what a terrible effect a blow produces. That flesh, grating against your flesh, seems, as it were, to tear your heart out. You feel the blood curdle within you—the fire of shame consumes you. The stain of such a degradation can only be washed out with blood.
Several of the party now got up, and separated the infuriate pair.
“ To-morrow," muttered the officer, grinding his teeth. “ To-morrow be it,” repeated Alvas.
Silence was again restored, only interrupted by the snoring of the guests, that formed a concert on all sides. Whether Alvas and the officer joined in it I know not; but the recollection of the scene I have described, of the blow, and the reply, might well disturb their slumbers.
At daybreak, as the caravan was preparing, in maritime phrase, to get under weigh, I observed the officer parading backwards and forwards before the inn, in the midst of the muleteers busily engaged in saddling the horses and loading the beasts of burthen. He was at times muttering to himself curses against the Christinos. He was waiting for Alvas, sword in hand; and the whole of the company at the inn, after the line was formed, were talking in groups, and lingering in expectation of the duel, which they knew to be inevitable. Alvas soon made his appearance, accompanied by Margarita and her brother. The timid and frightened girl was clinging to her lover. But as soon as he saw his adversary he threw her off.
“Back, girl!” he said. “Hold her.” Then turning to the officer, he said to him, “We have an account to settle. Make a circle," said he to the caballeros. “Every one his own arms.”
With these words he threw his mantle from off his shoulder, and rolling it round his left arın, the poniard in his right, he rushed at his antagonist. The officer could not but be aware how critical was the situation in which he stood. Wherever he turned his eyes he saw none but hostile faces and threatening looks.
Being an inhabitant of Andalusia, where he had served for some years, he was known to several of the party, among the rest, to the brother of Margarita, as having shown great activity in the apprehension of smugglers and bandits; and, consequently, was more detested on that account than as a partisan of Don Carlos. It might be supposed that one who had declared himself openly an enemy to the Constitution, and the existing Government, would have incurred risk to his personal liberty in declaring such political opinions; but as the civil war had only just broke out, and the priests were (there were several among the assembled travellers) secretly, if not openly, friendly to the cause he espoused, and advocates for the ancient state of things, no grounds existed for such an apprehension. He ran much more danger, even if a victor in the strife, from the dagger of the kinsman of Margarita. But no such thoughts did he entertain, or if they for a moment crossed his mind, the recollection of his stinging insult, loyalty to his sovereign, in whose cause he had received it, and the disgrace and shame of submitting to the indignity, and leaving it unavenged, nerved his arm with resolution to abide the conflict.
An old friar made an attempt to stop the effusion of blood; but on all sides a cry was heard, “Let them alone! Let them fight it out!” A circle was now formed about the two combatants; the brother of Margarita vociferating that whoever presumed to interfere should be responsible to him for the attempt. As for poor Margarita, without seeming to be terror-struck, as a young person of her age under such circumstances would naturally have been, she was seen on her knees in a corner of the building, praying fervently to the “ Santa Virgen,”— not to separate the combatants, but to preserve the life of her cousin. Still it might be perceived, that this scene, had it not been for the interest she felt for one of the combatants, would have caused her no particular astonishment or terror.
The daughter of the innkeeper was at her side, endeavouring to comfort her by her caresses; and from time to time turning her head round with a female curiosity to observe how the duel proceeded. With that tact, which all women have, she calmly perceived the cause of Margarita's anxiety as to the issue of the conflict, and not conceiving that she could have any other fear than that of losing her lover, kept calling out with wild and almost savage accents
"Courage, my angel !-never fear, my dear little innocent! The officer will be killed. Alvas will not have a hair of his head injured. I have seen many affairs of this kind. With a good poniard a man has nothing to fear from a sabre. Let him say his last Ave Maria, - the poor officer!- if he knows it by heart. And yet it is a pity such a handsome Don, but Alvas is handsome too; and then he is a Christino.”
Whilst the women were thus engaged the fight became more and more animated. The officer, who was an excellent fencer, as well as swordsman, at first kept upon the defensive, following with his eye, and the point of his sword, every movement of the young Maio; but he rendered all his science of no avail by his manner of fighting. Now turning with the nimbleness of a cat round and round him; now standing motionless, or bending almost to the ground, his left arm in front; and, unrolling the ample folds of the mantle in which he was enveloped, whilst, behind this sort of curtain, his right hand invisibly brandished his long and formidable poniard.
At last, impatient of being kept so long in check, the officer assumed the offensive, and pressed his adversary, attacking him with fury.
“He is done for,” said an old Torres, as he looked on, con amore. “ It is all over with Alvas.” Such, in fact, it would have appeared ; but by a feint, Alvas all of a sudden let fall his cloak. The officer lifted his arm to cut him down, and at that instant fell to the earth. One groan, and all was over. The dropping of the cloak was, as I said, a feint in order to persuade his enemy to put himself off his guard; and, with the rapidity of lightning he had run in upon him, and buried his poniard to the hilt in his stomach. So great the force with which the blow was struck that Alvas' thick cloak, transfixed by the dagger before it reached the side of his adversary, was pinned to the wound.
“ May God have mercy on his soul!” said the murderer, making a sign of the cross, and turning with a look of pity away from his fallen antagonist.
“Come, Alvas," said the brother of Margarita ; " what is done is done, It was a glorious victory. And now, have a care of yourself: I see some carabineers at the top of the hill. Take my horse. Time presses. Take leave of Margarita, and away."
At the name of Margarita, Alvas made a step towards her ; but stopping of a sudden. “No," said he, “not with these hands of blood. No. Adieu, adieu! Margarita-dear Margarita ! fare thee well!” Springing on his horse, he put his spurs into its sides, and for some minutes the profound silence kept by the witnesses of this scene of blood was only broken by the gallop of the horse, till lost in the distance.
At last the trot of the carabineers was heard, and the rattling of their sabres. The caravan was in motion. Margarita, still on her knees, thanked the “Santa Virgen," in tears, for having given the victory to Alvas, including in her prayers the name of the officer ; whilst the girl of the inn related circumstantially all the details of the struggle. The corpse was placed on a hurdle, and carried by the soldiers to the nearest village for interment.
With Margarita and her brother, I soon overtook the caravan.”