ePub 版

ghastly paleness to his face, and there was something unearthly in this boy that made the heart sick to contemplate. Seeing one evidently so young, Donna Maria felt assured of her personal safety; but accustomed as she was to have the honour of her hand contested for by the élite of rank and fashion, she could not avoid smiling internally at the idea of her dancing with an unknown boy, whose dress indicated nothing pertaining to the upper grades of society, and whose demand betrayed an intolerable degree of arrogance and impertinence.

"I do not think I shall dance any more to-night, young sennhor," said Donna Maria, softening the information with a smile. I am much fatigued ; but I have no doubt I can persuade some nice young Donna to allow you the honour of dancing with her. Some one of my young friends more suited to your age."

The youth smiled contemptuously. "Sennhora, it is the honour of your hand I have solicited. I will dance with you, or with none other."

Donna Maria looked at him with astonishment, mingled with dread she vainly endeavoured to subdue. She made no reply, but firmly grasped her cousin's arm, and quickening her pace, returned to the ball-room.

The dancing continued with unabated animation. At the moment Donna Maria entered the room, she met Don Alphonso, who had been seeking her. "Where have you been so long, my best beloved? I have been looking for you everywhere by your father's wishes and my own anxiety. Your friends are loudly calling upon you to exhibit your favourite dance, El Rey don Morso. Pray oblige us, dearest Maria, if you are not too much fatigued already."

"Oh, do! pray do, Donna Maria," was simultaneously echoed. And the orchestra commenced playing the favourite national bolero of El Rey don Morso, at that time the most popular dance of Spain.

It was in vain Donna Maria pleaded justly her being very tired. Alphonso seized her hand, and gently pressing it, she yielded to his silent wish.


'Viva! Viva!" exclaimed the whole party, when Maria and Alphonso had concluded the dance. Never, perhaps, was it better executed, or with greater enjoyment to the parties, who on the eve of being united in the holiest of human bonds, saw nothing before them but a life of love and happiness. Don Alphonso looked with soft affection on his lovely affianced bride, and conducting her to a seat, hung entranced over her.

She was scarcely seated, when a trembling voice reached her ear, and the mysterious boy stood before her. "May I hope for the honour of dancing the Rey don Morso with you, Donna Maria ?"

Donna Maria hastily turned her eyes upon the speaker. Fear no longer

alarmed her, although his savage looks and the peculiar fire of his eyes were fully sufficient to inspire dread in a bolder heart. The extreme pertinacity of the youth astonished her, but it was now with feelings of good humour. She once more smiled sweetly upon him, and said, "that she was too much fatigued to dance any more."

Donna Niévés had apparently explained the previous singular meeting with this youth, as many ladies now flocked round him, laughing, and jestingly inquiring if none of them would do to dance the Rey don Morso with; or must the poor child have no one less than Donna Maria Ribeiro for his partner?

"Who is he? who knows him ?" others asked. 66 "Do you, Donna Maria ?” "No, ladies, I do not. Poor child, I really pity him; but I cannot, even if I were less tired, consent to dance with a total stranger to my father's house and friends." These words reached the youth's ears, and he cast a look at Donna Maria that made her shudder. He quitted the joyous group of dancers; he seemed suffocated, and struck his breast as if to still its inward beatings.

"Poor child!" exclaimed an elderly lady, as he passed her rapidly. "The solano surely has driven him mad."

A hollow sigh escaped the poor child's bosom as he fell at the foot of the myrtle bush, where first Donna Maria recognized him in his place of Concealment. His tears flowed rapidly, and he wrung his hands in grief, at having been foiled in a favourite object.

L "It is the solano," observed some one passing ;-" Poor lad !”

The lad trembled; the falling tears were dried by his burning cheeks; a horrid smile sat upon his blanched lips; he placed his hand upon his heart; he felt the pulsation of his temple arteries, as if astonished that they did not break their confinement. A burst of applause from the ball-room caused him to spring upon his feet. It was another tribute of admiration to Donna Maria, who had again been prevailed upon to dance. Soon the stranger bounded into the ball-room; and standing deliberately before Donna Maria, who was retiring to a seat, escorted by her lover, said,-" You have insulted me, Donna Maria, and you have spoken falsely; the sennhor, on whose arm you so fondly hang, shall give me satisfaction for the insult, which blood alone can efface."

"What is the lad saying, dear Maria ?"

"I can scarcely tell, Alphonzo; but in pity's sake take him away; his very look seems to kill me. Those eyes,-oh, those eyes!-they are not


In fact, it was impossible to describe those eyes, flashing the fire of uncon

trolled passions. This strange youth looked, in miniature, like Lucifer,— lovely to the sight, but a fell destroyer at heart.

The Count Benavente, Alphonso's father, approached the spot; Maria whispered some words to him as she rose and took his arm. The count kissed her forehead; and leaving her with his son and her cousin, advanced towards the stranger.

"My lad, what do you here? What is your name? Who introduced you into this house? Have you any friends present?”

The extraordinary being to whom these queries were made, looked at the count. His only answer was a look of inconceivable hauteur and insolence. "Will you be pleased to answer me? Remember that I command in Seville, and also that you are an unbidden guest in this house."

"My name is Hernandez," the lad after a short pause replied. “I have entered this house, because the doors stood open for my reception. The noise of music and merriment attracted my attention. Was I wrong?"

"This house, my child, is not a place of public amusement, but the private dwelling of myself and family, and these guests my invited friends. Upon the joyous occasion of their meeting, I would not seem harsh to any one; but finding your presence has disturbed the harmony of the scene, and still more so your extraordinary conduct, you must immediately retire."

The youth made a motion it would be difficult to comprehend; but whatever it portended he restrained the action.


Sennhor, neither you nor any of your family or guests have the right to insult a Spanish gentleman; and such I am, though my present garb, being that of a scholar, may not befit my rank in life. I, perhaps, did wrong to enter this house, as it were, clandestinely; but being now here, I shall remain, notwithstanding your proud daughter's aversion to my presence, as long as it pleases me, unless removed by force."

"For Heaven's sake, dear father, let him be removed; he makes me tremble," rejoined Maria.

"Ah! Donna; then you are afraid of a poor child! Why is it? because your heart tells you that you have insulted him; and I repeat it once again --spoken falsely; for you said you would not dance any more, and you have danced twice since."

Donna Maria, in a sort of agony, looked at her lover with a suppliant eye, beaming with that eloquence so peculiar to love. "Alphonso, dearest, "I implore you to take from my sight that horrid vision,-that mysterious boy,-whose insolence is quite intolerable."

"I thank you, Donna Maria, for your compliment," haughtily exclaimed Hernandez," as he moved a step nearer. Shall we not part better friends?" And he approached still closer. H 3

"Maria uttered a scream; and hiding her face in Alphonso's bosom, wildly called upon him to save her. At this moment the old Count dos Arcos returned, followed by several servants. They advanced towards the spot where Hernandez stood. His intention was to have requested him civilly to quit; but beholding the agitation of his daughter, he observed no measures, but imperatively ordered his servants to thrust the boy out of doors.

"Pardon me, your excellency," exclaimed Don Alphonso; "I feel certain he will quit without any violence being necessary; for his looks at this moment betray anguish and despair at having caused this cruel disturbance.”

"Yes, I will quit this inhospitable house, where a stranger, a Spaniard, and a gentleman has met with nothing but insult and falsehood; but mistake not the anguish of my mind, nor attribute it to fear or regret; the first I am a stranger to; the other, indeed, to some extent I may experience, --not the regret of having offended, but the regret of having sustained an indignity I have no immediate opportunity to revenge." He cast a last scowling look at Maria, wrapped his cloak round his slender figure, and disappeared through the balcony window, waving his hand as he exclaimed aloud,--" You shall yet dance the Rey don Morso with me, proud Donna.”

On his departure all parties seemed relieved from an oppressive weight. Who could this mysterious youth be that exercised such a fatal empire by the mere influence of his eyes? Hernandez was not a very common name; but it indicated no family rank. The youth's appearance was that of what he called himself, a scholar of some university, or might be that of an hidalgo (gentleman) of respectable parentage; but the arrogance of his language belonged to no grade of society, and could not have been brooked from the mightiest prince to the most abject dependant.

The Governor in vain inquired of the servants if any one had seen the young man enter. All answered that they knew nothing about it. He appeared perfectly well acquainted with every part of the palace, as on quitting the ball-room he had been seen to take the shortest way out to regain the city."

"And you have never seen this singular being before to-night, Maria ?” asked Don Alphonso. "It is marvellous he should have selected you as the object of his mad reveries. Tell me, dearest love, have you ever chanced to meet him before?"

Maria hesitated to answer: the question implied a doubt that wounded her heart; but clasping her hands, and raising her tearful eyes on Alphonso she seemed to chide him for his unkindness. The language of the heart, thus spoken to those who feel its sense, needs no words of expression.

Forgive me, Maria; but I love you so tenderly, that I am jealous even of those who look upon you with preference; and this strange youth seemed to have spoken to you with the freedom of an old acquaintance,—indeed in But let us terms that even the nearest relative could scarcely dare to utter. think no more of this tragi-comic scene; our friends around us are determined not to quit before the matin bell summons them to a higher duty; and ere it is again heard to sound, I shall claim at the altar the pledge of all my future happiness,-the only treasure I covet on earth.”

Maria smiled as she presented her hand. It shall be yours, dear Alphonso, by the sacred ties of our holy religion;-my heart you have long possessed."

Donna Maria danced no more; but her friends kept up the mazy dance with unabated spirit; and the Seguedilla's chorus made the vaulted roofs of the old palace resound with mirth.

Thus the night advanced-the air becoming more keen, possessed that balsamic freshness indicative of daybreak. The perfume of myrtle and orange blossom, charged with the dew of morning, sent forth fresh odours, almost too powerful to inhale after the fatigue of dancing.

"My dear father, we must retire; the company have nearly all departed. Farewell, dearest Alphonso, we soon shall meet again.”


Aye, beloved Maria-to part no more !"

Donna Maria blushed as she cast down her long eyelashes, while her attentive cousin was wrapping a black taffety Capuchin mantle about her, entirely concealing her face in the hood.



'Why, my dear Niévés, have you deprived yourself of this mantilla? You will catch cold, I fear."


No, no, dear Maria; never fear on my account. I have been sitting quiet while you were dancing, and can brave the morning air with greater impunity than you can. Besides, I have no fond lover to grieve for me, if I do catch cold. I will, however, put on your mantle instead of my cape."

"It has no hood, dear cousin. You must wrap something round your head."

"Well, then, I will put on your veil, wrapping it round my head as you often wear it, just leaving a peep out. I might pass for you in the eyes of many. Do you think, Alphonso, you should discover the difference. Though it is said Love is blind, I promise you I think myself almost as pretty as Maria-therefore, should not feel particularly proud of being mistaken for her, even by such a gallant cavalier as yourself."

"Come, girls, march !" said the Count dos Arcos, placing his niece's arm within his own, and leaving his daughter to the Governor's care.


« 上一頁繼續 »