MoboReader> Literature > The Pacha of Many Tales

   Chapter 3 No.3

The Pacha of Many Tales By Frederick Marryat Characters: 54173

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Mustapha," said the pacha the next day, when they had closed the hall of audience, "have you the other Giaour in readiness?"

"Bashem ustun! Upon my head be it, your highness. The infidel dog waits but the command to crawl into your sublime presence."

"Let him approach, that our ears may be gratified. Barek Allah! Praise be to God. There are others who can obtain stories besides the Caliph Haroun."

The slave was ordered into the pacha's presence. He was a dark man with handsome features, and he walked in with a haughty carriage, which neither his condition nor tattered garments could disguise. When within a few feet of the carpet of state he bowed and folded his arms in silence. "I wish to know upon what grounds you asserted that you were so good a judge of wine the other evening, when you were quarrelling with the Greek slave."

"I stated my reason at the time, your highness, which was, because I had been for many years a monk of the Dominican order."

"I recollect that you said so. What trade is that, Mustapha?" inquired the pacha.

"If your slave is not mistaken, a good trade every where. The infidel means that he was a mollah or dervish among the followers of Isauri."[2]

[2] Jesus Christ.

"May they and their fathers' graves be eternally defiled," cried the pacha. "Do not they drink wine and eat pork? Have you nothing more to say?" inquired the pacha.

"My life has been one of interest," replied the slave, "and if it will please your highness, I will narrate my history."

"It is our condescension. Sit down and proceed."

STORY OF THE MONK.

May it please your highness, I am a Spaniard by birth, and, a native of Seville; but whether my father was a grandee, or of a more humble extraction, I cannot positively assert. All that I can establish is, that when reason dawned, I found myself in the asylum instituted by government, in that city, for those unfortunate beings who are brought up upon black bread and oil, because their unnatural parents either do not choose to incur the expense of their maintenance, or having, in the first instance, allowed unlawful love to conquer shame, end by permitting shame to overcome maternal love.

It is the custom, at a certain age, to put these children out to different trades and callings; and those who show precocity of talent are often received into the bosom of the church.

Gifted by nature with a very fine voice and correct ear for music, I was selected to be brought up as a chorister in a Dominican convent of great reputation. At the age of ten years, I was placed under the charge of the leader of the choir. Under his directions, I was fully occupied receiving my lessons in singing, or at other times performing the junior offices of the church, such as carrying the frankincense or large wax tapers in the processions. As a child my voice was much admired; and after the service was over, I often received presents of sweetmeats from the ladies, who brought them in their pockets for the little Anselmo. As I grew up, I became a remarkable proficient in music; at the age of twenty, I possessed a fine counter-tenor; and flattered by the solicitations of the superior of the convent and other dignitaries of the church, I consented to take the vows, and became a member of the fraternity.

Although there was no want of liberty in our convent, I was permitted even more than the rest of the monks. I gave lessons in music and singing, and a portion of my earnings were placed in the superior's hands for the benefit of the fraternity. Independent of this, my reputation was spread all over Seville; and hundreds used to attend the mass performed in our church, that they might hear the voice of brother Anselmo. I was therefore considered as a valuable property, and the convent would have suffered a great deal by my quitting it. Although I could not be released from my vows, still I could by application have been transferred to Madrid; and the superior, aware of this circumstance, allowed me every indulgence, with the hopes of my being persuaded to remain. The money which I retained for my own exigencies enabled me to make friends with the porter, and I obtained egress or ingress at any hour. I was a proficient on the guitar; and incongruous as it may appear with my monastic vows, I often hastened from the service at vespers to perform in a serenade to some fair senora, whose inamorato required the powers of my voice to soften her to his wishes.

My sedillas and canzonettas were much admired; and eventually no serenade was considered as effective, without the assistance of the counter-tenor of Anselmo. I hardly need observe that it was very profitable; and that I had the means of supplying myself with luxuries which the rules of our order did not admit. I soon became irregular and debauched; often sitting up whole nights with the young cavaliers, drinking and singing amorous songs for their amusement. Still, however, my conduct was not known, or was overlooked for the reasons which I have stated before.

When once a man indulges to excess in wine, he is assailed by, and becomes an easy prey to every other vice. This error soon led me into others; and, regardless of my monastic vows, I often felt more inclined to serenade upon my own account than on that of my employers. I had the advantage of a very handsome face, but it was disguised by the shaven crown and the unbecoming manner of cutting the hair; the coarse and unwieldly monastic dress belonging to our order hid the symmetry of my limbs, which, might have otherwise attracted notice on the Prado. I soon perceived that, although my singing was admired by the other sex, their admiration went no further. They seemed to consider that in every other point I was, as I ought to have been, dead to the world.

There was a young lady, Donna Sophia, whom I had for some time instructed in music, who appeared to be more favourably inclined. She was an excellent performer, and passionately fond of the science: and I have always observed, your highness, that between the real amateurs of harmony there is a sympathy, a description of free-masonry, which immediately puts them on a level, and on terms of extreme intimacy; so much so, that were I a married man, and my wife extremely partial to music, I should be very careful how I introduced to her a person of a similar feeling, if I possessed it not myself. I was very much in the good graces of this young lady, and flattered myself with a successful issue: when one day, as we were singing a duet, a handsome young officer made his appearance. His hair, which was of the finest brown, curled in natural ringlets: and his clothes were remarkably well-fitted to his slender and graceful figure. He was a cousin, who had just returned from Carthagena; and as he was remarkably attentive, I soon perceived that all my advances had been thrown away, and that I was more and more in the background each morning that I made my appearance.

Annoyed at this, I ventured to speak too freely; and during his absence calumniated him to the Donna Sophia, hoping by these means to regain my place in her affections; but I made a sad mistake: for not only were my services dispensed with for the future, but, as I afterwards discovered, she stated to her cousin the grounds upon which I had been dismissed.

I returned to the convent in no pleasant mood, when I was informed that my presence had been demanded by the superior. I repaired to the parlour, where he stated that my licentious conduct had come to his ears; and after much upbraiding, he concluded by ordering me to submit to a severe penance. Aware that disobedience would only be followed up by greater severity, I bowed with humility in my mien, but with indignation in my breast; and returning to my cell, resolved upon immediately writing for my removal to Madrid. I had not been there many minutes when the porter brought me a note. It was from Donna Sophia, requesting to see me that evening, and apologising for her apparent ill-usage, which she had only assumed the better to conceal her intentions; being afraid, at our last interview, that her mother was within hearing.

I was in raptures when I perused the note, and hastened to comply with her request. Her directions were to repair to the back door, which looked out upon some fields, and give three taps. I arrived, and as soon as I raised my hand to give the signal, was seized by four men in masks, who gagged and bound me. They then stripped off my friar's dress, and scourged me with nettles, until I was almost frantic with the pain. When their vengeance was satisfied, they cast me loose, removed the gag, and ran away. As I then suspected, and afterwards discovered to be true, I was indebted to the young officer for this treatment, in return for what I had said, and which his mistress had repeated. Smarting with pain, and boiling with rage, I dragged on my clothes as well as I could, and began to reflect in what manner I should act. Conceal my situation from the other members of the convent I could not; and to explain it would not only be too humiliating, but subject me to more rigorous discipline. At last, I considered that out of evil might spring good; and gathering a large bundle of the nettles, which grew under the walls, I crawled back to the convent. When I attained my cell, I threw off my gown, which was now unbearable from the swelling of my limbs, and commenced thrashing the walls of my cell and my bed with the nettles which I had procured.

After a short time I moaned piteously, and continued so to do, louder and louder, until some of the friars got up to inquire the reason; when they found me, apparently, castigating myself in this cruel manner. When they opened the door, I threw myself on the bed, and cried still more vociferously. This certainly was the only part of my conduct which was not deceptive, for I was in the most acute agony. To their inquiries, I told them that I had been guilty of great enormities; that the superior had reproved me, and ordered me penance; and that I had scourged myself with nettles; requesting them to continue the application as my strength had failed me. With this injunction they were too humane to comply. Some went for the surgeon of the convent, while others reported the circumstance to the superior. The former applied remedies which assuaged the pain: the latter was so pleased at my apparent contrition, that he gave me absolution, and relieved me from the penance to which I had been subjected. When I recovered, I was more in favour, and was permitted the same indulgences as before.

But I was some days confined to my bed, during which I was continually reflecting upon what had passed. I perceived, to my misery, the pale which I had placed between me and the world, by embracing a monastic life; and how unfit I was, by temperament, to fulfil my vows. I cursed my father and mother, who had been the original cause of my present situation. I cursed the monastic dress which blazoned forth my unhappy condition. Then I thought of the treacherous girl, and planned schemes of revenge. I compared my personal qualifications with those of the young officer; and vanity suggested, that were it not for my vile professional disguise, the advantage was on my side. At last I decided upon the steps that I would take.

As I before stated, my purse was well supplied from the lessons which I gave in music, and from assisting at the serenades. When I was sufficiently recovered to go out, I proceeded to a barber, and on the plea of continual headache, for which it had been recommended that I should shave my head, requested him to make me a false tonsure. In a few days it was ready, and being very well made, no difference could be perceived between the wig and my own hair, which was then removed. So far I had succeeded; but as the greatest caution was necessary in a proceeding of this nature, to avoid suspicion, I returned to the convent, where I remained quiet for several days. One evening I again sallied forth, and when it was quite dark repaired to the friperie show of a Jew, where I purchased a second-hand suit of cavalier's clothes, which I thought would fit me. I concealed them in my cell, and the next morning, went in search of a small lodging in some obscure part, where I might not be subject to observation. This was difficult, but I at last succeeded in finding one to let, which opened upon a general staircase of a house, which was appropriated to a variety of lodgers, who were constantly passing and repassing. I paid the first month in advance, stating it would be occupied by a brother, whom I daily expected; in the meantime took possession of the key. I bought a small chest, which I had conveyed to my lodgings, and having removed my cavalier's dress from the convent, locked it up. I then remained quiet as before, not only to avoid suspicion, but to ingratiate myself with the superior, by my supposed reformation.

After a few days, I sallied forth, and leaving a note for one of the most skilful perruquiers of Seville, desired him to call at my lodgings, at an hour indicated. Having repaired there, to be ready to receive him, I took off my monk's dress and false tonsure, which I locked up in my chest; I tied a silk handkerchief round my head, and got into bed, leaving the cavalier's suit on my chair near to me. The perruquier knocked at the appointed time. I desired him to come in, apologised for my servant being absent on a message, and stating that I had been obliged to shave my head on account of a fever, from which I had now recovered, requested that he would provide me with a handsome wig. I explained at his request the colour and description of hair which I had lost; and in so doing, represented it as much lighter than my own really was, and similar to that of the young officer, whose ringlets had been the cause of my last disaster. I paid him a part of the price down, and having agreed upon the exact time at which it should be delivered, he departed; when I rose from my bed, I resumed my monastic dress and tonsure, and returned to the convent.

During the whole of the time occupied by these transactions, I had been assiduous in laying up money, which before I had squandered as fast as I obtained it, and had realised a considerable sum. I could not help comparing myself to a chrysalis previous to its transformation. I had before been a caterpillar, I was now all ready to burst my confinement, and flit about as a gaudy butterfly. Another week, I continued my prudent conduct, at the end of which I was admitted to my superior, in whose hands I placed a sum of money which I could very conveniently spare, and received his benediction and commendations for having weaned myself from my former excesses. With a quickened pulse, I hastened to my lodgings, and throwing off my hateful gown and tonsure, dressed myself in my new attire.

The transformation was complete. I could not recognise myself. I hardly could believe that the dashing young cavalier that confronted me in the mirror, was the brother Anselmo. "Is this a face," said I, communing with myself, "to be disfigured with a vile tonsure? are these limbs to be hid under the repulsive garment of a monk?" Again I surveyed myself, and it was with difficulty that I could tear myself away from contemplating my metamorphosis. I was indeed a butterfly. At last, I determined upon sallying forth. I locked up my monastic dress and descended the staircase. I must acknowledge, that it was with trepidation I ventured into the street, but I had soon reason to take confidence, for I was met by one of my most intimate friends, who looked in my face, and passed on without the slightest recognition. Overjoyed at this circumstance, I took courage, and boldly proceeded to the Prado, where I was greeted with favourable glances from the women, and sneers from the men, both of which I considered equally flattering. In the evening, I returned to my lodgings, resumed the habit of my order, and gained the convent. I now felt that there was no chance of discovery, and anticipated the happiness which had been denied me. I subsequently ordered the most fashionable and expensive clothes, hired my lodgings for six months, assumed the name of Don Pedro, made the acquaintance of many young men, and amongst others of the officer who had treated me so ill. He took a fancy to me, which I encouraged to further my views. I became his confidant, he informed me of his amour with his cousin, adding that he was tired of the business, and wished to break with her; also, as an excellent joke, the punishment which he had inflicted upon the friar Anselmo.

He was a great proficient with the small sword, an accomplishment, which of course had been neglected in my education, and which I accounted for by stating that until the death of my elder brother, I had been intended for the church. I accepted his offer to be my instructor, and my first rudiments in the science were received from him. Afterwards I applied to a professor, and, constantly practising, in the course of a few months, I knew, from occasional trials of skill with the officer, that I was his superior. My revenge, which hitherto had been controlled was now ripe.

But in narrating my adventures abroad, it must not be supposed that I neglected every thing that prudence or caution could suggest, to avoid discovery. On the contrary, now that I had the means of enjoying myself, I was more careful that I did not by any indiscretion excite surmises. I generally devoted four days out of the seven in the week to the convent and to my professional occupation as music-master. To increase the difficulty of identification, I became more serious in my manner, more dirty in my person, as the brother Anselmo. I pretended to have imbibed a fancy for snuff, with which I soiled my face and monastic attire, and seldom if ever spoke, or if I did, in a very solemn voice. So far from suspicion, I every day gained more and more the good will of the superior. My absence in the day-time was not noticed, as it was known that I gave lessons in music, and my irregularity during the night was a secret between the porter and myself.

I hardly need observe that, as Don Pedro, I always lamented not having been gifted with a voice, and have even in the presence of my companions, sent a billet to brother Anselmo to serenade a lady whom I courted as Don Pedro. I do not believe until ulterior circumstances, that there was ever in the mind of any the slightest idea that, under my dissimilar habits, I was one and the same person.

But to continue: one day the young officer, whose name was Don Lopez, informed me that he did not know how to act; he was so pestered with the jealousy and reproaches of his mistress; and requested my advice as to how to proceed. I laughed at his dilemma. "My dear Lopez," replied I, "introduce me to her, and depend upon it, that she will give you no more trouble. I will make love to her, and, pleased with her new conquest, she will soon forget you."

"My good fellow," replied he, "your advice is excellent: will you come with me this afternoon?"

Once more I was in the presence of her whom I had loved, but loved no more, for I now only felt and lived for revenge. She had not the most distant recognition of me. Piqued as she was with Don Lopez, and fascinated with my exertions to please, I soon gained an interest; but she still loved him, between the paroxysms of her hate. Trying all she could to recover him at one moment, and listening to my attentions at another, he at last accused her of perfidy, and took his leave for ever. Then her violence broke out, and as a proof of my attachment, she demanded that I should call him to account. I wished no better, and pretending to be so violently attached to her that I was infatuated, I took an occasion of his laughing at me, to give him the lie, and demand satisfaction. As it was in the presence of others, there was no recall or explanation allowed. We met by agreement, alone, in the very field where I had received my chastisement; I brought with me my monastic habit and tonsure, which I concealed before his arrival among the very nettles which he had gathered for my chastisement. The conflict was not long: after a few thrusts and parries, he lay dying at my feet. I immediately threw over my dress that of the friar, and exchanging the wig for the tonsure, stood by him. He opened his eyes, which had closed from the fainting, occasioned by the sudden gush from his wound, and looked at me with amazement.

"Yes, Don Lopez," said I, "in Don Pedro behold the Friar Anselmo; he whom you scourged with nettles; he who has revenged the insult." I then threw off the monk's dress, and exposed to him the other beneath it, and changing my tonsure for the wig, "now you are convinced of the truth," added I, "and now I have my revenge."

"I am, I am," replied he faintly; "but if you have slain me as Don Pedro, now that I am dying, I entreat you, as brother Anselmo, to give me absolution. Carry not your revenge so far as to deny me this."

I could not refuse; and I gave absolution in the one costume, to the man who had fallen by my hand in the other: for my own part, I thought it was an absurdity, but my revenge was satisfied, and I would not refuse him such a poor consolation.

A few minutes afterwards he expired, and I hastened to my lodgings, changed my dress, and repaired to the convent, where, as Don Pedro I wrote to Donna Sophia, informing her of what had taken place, and of my having absconded until the hue and cry should be over. For three weeks I remained in the convent, or only appeared abroad as the Friar Anselmo. I brought a considerable sum to the superior for the use of the church, partly to satisfy the qualms of conscience which assailed me for the crime which I had committed; partly that I might continue in his good graces.

At the expiration of the time I sent a note to the young lady, as from Don Pedro, acquainting her with my return, and my intention to call upon her in the dusk of the evening. I went to my lodgings, dressed myself as Don Pedro, and tapping at her door, was admitted; but instead of being cordially greeted, as I expected, I was repulsed, loaded with abuse, and declared an object of detestation. It appeared that, although in her rage at the desertion of her lover, she had listened to the dictates of revenge, now that he was no more, all her affection for him had revived. I returned her upbraiding, and quitted the room to leave the house: but she had no intention that I should escape, and had stationed two of her relations below, ready to intercept me.

She called to them as I descended the stairs; when I arrived at the hall, I found them with drawn swords to dispute my passage. I had no resource but to fight my way; and charging them furiously, I severely wounded one, and shortly afterwards disarmed the other, just as the enraged fair one, who perceived that I was gaining the day, had run behind me and seized my arms; but she was too late: I threw her indignantly upon the wounded man, and walked out of the house. As soon as I was in the street, I took to my heels, gained my lodgings, changed my dress, and repaired to the convent.

This adventure sobered me much. I now remained quiet for some months, never assuming my dress as Don Pedro, lest the officers of justice should lay hold of me. I became more rigid and exact in my duties, and more austere in my manner.

The several confessional chairs in our church were usually occupied by the senior monks, although, when absent from sickness or other causes, the juniors occasionally supplied their place. One of the monks had been taken ill, and I knew that the mother of the young lady, who was very strict in her religious duties, confessed at that chair every Friday; I took possession of it, with the hopes that I should find out some means of prosecuting my revenge. The young lady also confessed at the same chair, when she did come, which was but seldom. Since the death of her lover, she had never made her appearance.

As I anticipated, the mother came, and after having run over a string of peccadilloes, for which I ordered a slight penance, I inquired, through the punctured communication on the side of the confessional chair, whether she had not children, to which she answered in the affirmative. I then asked when her daughter had confessed last. She mentioned a long date, and I commenced a serious expostulation upon the neglect of parents, desiring that her daughter might be brought to confess, or otherwise I should be obliged to inflict a penance of some hundred Pater-Nosters and Ave-Marias upon herself, for not attending to her parental duties. The old lady, who had no wish to submit to her own penance, promised to bring her daughter the next day, and she was true to her word. Donna Sophia appeared to come very unwillingly. As soon as she had taken her seat by the confessional chair, she made a confession of a hundred little nothings, and having finished her catalogue, stopped as if waiting for absolution.

"Have you made no reservation?" inquired I, in the low muttering tone which is used at the confessional; for although neither party can distinguish the person of the other, I did not wish her to recognise my voice.

"Every thing," replied she, in a faint whisper.

"My daughter," replied I, "by your trembling answer, I know that you are deceiving yourself and me. I am an old man, and have been too many years in this chair, not to ascertain by the answers which I receive, whether the conscience is unloaded. Yours, I am convinced, has something pressing heavily upon it; something for which you would fain have absolution, but which you are ashamed to reveal. If not a principal, you have been a party to crime; and never shall you have absolution until you have made a full confession." Her heart swelled with emotion, she attempted to speak, and burst into tears. "These are harbingers of good," observed I; "I am now convinced that my supposition was correct: pour out your soul in tribulation, and receive that comfort which I am empowered to bestow. Courage, my daughter! the best of us are but grievous sinners." As soon as she could check her sobbing, she commenced her confession; narrating her penchant for me, her subsequent attachment to the young officer, my abuse of him, and the punishment which had ensued-his desertion, the introduction of Don Pedro, her pique at having instigated him to kill her lover, his death, and all that I have narrated to your highness.

"These are serious crimes, my daughter! grievous indeed; you have yielded to the tempter in your own person, caused the death of one man, you have led another astray, and have deceived him, when he claimed the reward of his iniquity; but all these are trifles compared to the offence upon the holy monk, which is the worst of sacrilege. And wh

at was his fault? that he cautioned you against a person, whose subsequent conduct has proved, that the worthy man was correct in his suppositions.

"In every way you have offended Heaven; a whole life will be scarce sufficient for the task of repentance, laying aside the enormous crime of sacrilege, which, in justice, ought to be referred to the Inquisition. Excommunication is more fitting in your case than absolution." I waited some time before I again spoke, during which she sobbed bitterly. "My daughter," observed I, "before I can decide upon what is to be done to save you from everlasting perdition, it is necessary that you humble yourself before the religious man, whose person you have abused. Send to the convent to which he belongs, and entreat him to come; and when you have confessed your crime, offer to him the same implements of punishment, which through your instigation were so sacrilegiously applied. Submit to his sentence, and the penance which he may prescribe. When you have done that, repair again to me. I shall be in this chair the day after to-morrow."

The girl muffled up her face, waited a few minutes to compose herself, and then returned to her mother, who wondered what could have detained her so long.

That evening, I received a note from Donna Sophia, requesting me to call on the ensuing day. I found her in her room, she had been weeping bitterly, and when I entered coloured up with shame and vexation; but she had been too much frightened on the day before, to resist the injunctions which she had received: a large bundle of nettles lay on the chair; and when I entered she turned the key of the door, and falling down on her knees, with many tears made a full confession. I expressed the utmost horror and surprise; she embraced my knees, implored my pardon, and then, pointing to the nettles, requested I would use them if I thought proper. Having said this, she covered her face with her hands, and remained on her knees in silence.

I must confess, that when I called to mind the punishment which had been inflicted on me through her means, and the manner in which she had attempted to betray me to my death, I felt very much inclined to revenge myself by scourging her severely; but although the affection I once felt for her had passed away, I had a natural tenderness for the sex, which made me abandon this petty revenge. My object was to remove her, so that I might not be recognised in my worldly attire; and she, I knew, was the only person who could prove that I had killed her lover. I therefore raised her up, and telling her that I was satisfied with her repentance, and, as far as I was personally concerned, forgave her ill-treatment, desired her to repair to her confessor, who was the proper person to award a punishment for such a catalogue of heinous crimes. The next day I was in the confessional, when she narrated all that had passed: I then told her she had nothing to do, but to propitiate Heaven by dedicating her musical talents to its service; pointing out, that her only chance of salvation was from immediately taking the veil. I refused to listen to any other species of penance, however severe, for which she gladly would have compromised the sentence. Goaded by her conscience, miserable at the desertion and death of her lover, and alarmed at the threats of excommunication, in less than a week she repaired to the Ursuline Convent; and, after a short probation, she took the veil, and was admitted as one of the sisterhood.

As soon as my only accuser was fairly locked up, I occasionally resumed my dress and wig. I say occasionally, because in the society which I chiefly delighted in, and in which I became the connoisseur of good wine, that I asserted myself to be, when your highness overheard me, I had no occasion for it, being quite as well received when I sang and played the guitar in my monkish dress, as I should have been in my other. Besides which, I never had to pay when in that costume, as I was obliged to do when I sported the other; which was only put on when I wished to make myself agreeable to any fair one. I hardly need observe, that I took great care to avoid the society in the one dress with which I mixed in the other. This disguise I continued very successfully for three years, when a circumstance occurred, which ended in my discovery, and my eventually becoming a slave in your highness's dominions.

For some time I had taught the niece of an elderly lady, who was of noble family and very rich. The aunt was always present at the lessons; and, knowing that she was very devout, I rejected all songs that were of an amorous tendency, and would only practise such as were unimpeachable. In my demeanour I was always sedate and respectful-full of humility and self-accusation. When I received my money from the old lady, I used to thank her in the name of our convent, for whose use it was to be appropriated, and call her donation a charity, for which Heaven would reward her. Her confessor died, and the old lady chose me to supply his place. This was what I was anxious to obtain, and I redoubled my zeal, my humility, and my flattery.

It was not that I had originally any design upon the affections of the niece, although she was a very pretty girl, but upon the old lady's purse, for I knew that she could not last for many years. On the contrary, I was anxious, if possible, to have the niece removed, as it was supposed that she would inherit the old lady's doubloons; but this required time and opportunity, and, in the mean while, I assiduously cultivated the old lady's good graces. She used to confess once a week; and I often observed that she acknowledged as a sin, thinking too much of one who had led her from her duty in former days, and for whom she still felt too much worldly passion. One evening when the clock had struck ten, we had laid down the cards, which we occasionally played, it being the day and her usual hour for confessing. Again she repeated the same offence, and I then delicately hinted, that she might be more at ease if she were to confide to me the circumstances connected with her compunctions. She hesitated; but on my pointing out to her that there ought to be no reservation, and that the acknowledgment of the compunction arising from a sin was not that of the sin itself, she acquiesced. Her confession referred to her early days, when, attached to a young cavalier, against the wishes of her parents, under a solemn promise of marriage, she had consented to receive him into her chamber. The intercourse continued for some time, when it was discovered. Her lover had been waylaid and murdered by her relations, and she had been thrown into a convent. There she had been confined, and the child removed as soon as it was born: she had resisted all the force and threats employed to induce her to take the veil; and at the death of her father had been released and came into possession of her property, of which they could not deprive her: that she made every endeavour to find out to where her child had been removed, and at last discovered that it had been sent to the Foundling Asylum; but this information was not obtained until some years afterwards, and all the children sent there at the period had been dispersed. Never having married, her thoughts would revert to the scenes which had taken place with her adored Felix, although years had rolled away, and she felt that she was wrong to dwell upon what in itself had been so criminal.

I listened to her story with great interest, for the idea occurred to me, that I might be the unfortunate offspring of their loves, and if not, that in all probability the old lady might be induced so to believe. I inquired whether her child had any marks by which he could be recognised. She answered, that she made most particular inquiries of the people who attended her, and that one of the women had stated that the child had a large wart upon the back of its neck: this however was not likely to remain, and she had abandoned all hopes of its discovery.

I observed that warts were easily removed when contracted accidentally, but that those which appeared at the birth were no more to be removed than moles. I then turned the conversation, by stating that I could not consider her conduct criminal; it was more than could be expected from human nature, that she should not retain affection for one who had lived with her as a husband, and died for her sake. I gave her absolution for half a dozen Ave-Marias, and took my leave for the night. When I lay on my pallet, I reflected upon what had passed; the year and month agreed exactly with the time at which I had been sent to the Asylum. A wart, as she very truly observed, might disappear. Might not I be the very son whom she was lamenting? The next morning I repaired to the Asylum, and demanded the date of my reception, with all the particulars, which were invariably registered in case of the infants being eventually claimed. It was in the month of February. There was one other entry in the same month, same day, and nearly the same hour as my own.

"At nine at night, a male infant left at the door in a basket, parties absconded, no marks, named Anselmo."

"At ten at night, a male infant brought to the door in a capote, parties absconded, no marks, named Jacobo."

It appeared then that there were two children brought within an hour of each other to the Asylum, and that I was one of them. In the evening I returned to the old lady, and accidentally resumed the subject of her not having made further search for her child, and asked if she had the precise date. She answered that she had it in her memory too well, and it was on the 18th of February; and that when she referred to the Asylum, they had informed her that the children brought in February had no marks; that they had all been sent away, but where they could not tell, as the former governor had died, and he was the only person who could give the information. That either I or the other was her child was clear, but to prove which, was impossible. It however made me less scrupulous about my plan of proceeding, which was to identify myself with the child she had lost. It was useless to prove that I was sent in on that day as there was a competitor; besides which, my monastic vows were at variance with my speculation: I therefore resolved to satisfy her, if I could not satisfactorily prove it to myself or to the rest of the world, and I took my measures accordingly.

It was in my worldly disguise, that I determined to attempt my purpose; and as it was necessary to have a wart on my neck, I resolved to obtain one as soon as possible. This was easily managed: a friar of the convent was troubled with these excrescences, and I jocularly proposed a trial to see whether it was true that the blood of them would inoculate. In a fortnight I had a wart on my finger which soon became large, and I then applied the blood of it to my neck. Within three months I had a large wart on the back, of my neck, or rather a conglomeration of them, which I had produced by inoculation, assisted by constant irritation: during this period I was not so frequent in my attendance upon the old lady, excusing myself on account of the duties of the convent which devolved upon me. The next point was how to introduce myself in my other apparel. This required some reflection, as it would be but occasionally that I could make my appearance. After some reflection, I determined that the niece should assist me, for I knew that even if I succeeded in my plans, she would be a participator in the property which I wished to secure. Often left in her company, I took opportunities of talking of a young friend whom I highly extolled. When I had raised her curiosity, I mentioned in a laughing manner, that I suspected he was very much smitten with her charms, as I had often found him watching at the house opposite. An admirer is always a source of gratification to a young girl; her vanity was flattered, and she asked me many particulars. I answered them so as to inflame her curiosity, describing his person in a very favourable manner, and extolling his good qualities. I also minutely described his dress. After the music lesson was over, I returned to my lodgings, arrayed myself in my best suit, and putting on my curling ringlets, walked up and down before the window of the house. The niece soon recognised me as the person whose dress and appearance I had so minutely described, one moment showing herself at the window, at another darting away with all the coquetry of her sex. I perceived that she was flattered with her conquest; and, after parading myself for a short time, I disappeared.

When I called the next day in my monastic costume, I had a billet-doux ready in my pocket. The singing commenced: I soon found out that she had a prepossession, from her selecting a song which in the presence of her aunt I should have put on one side, but it now suited my purpose that she should be indulged. When the aunt made her appearance we stopped, and commenced another: by this little ruse I became a sort of confidant, and the intimacy which I desired was brought about. When we had practised two or three songs, Donna Celia, the aunt, left the room: I then observed that I had seen the young cavalier whom I had mentioned, and that he appeared to be more infatuated than ever: that he had requested me as a favour to speak on his behalf, but that I had threatened to acquaint her aunt if he mentioned the subject; for I considered that my duty as a confessor in the family would be very irreconcileable with carrying clandestine love-messages. I acknowledged that I pitied his condition; for to see the tears that he shed, and listen to the supplications which he had made, would have softened almost any body; but that notwithstanding my great regard for him, I thought it inconsistent with my duty to interfere in such a business: I added, that he had told me that he had walked before the house yesterday afternoon, with the hopes of meeting one of the servants, whom he might bribe to convey a letter; and that I had threatened to acquaint Donna Celia if he mentioned the subject again. Donna Clara (for such was her name) appeared very much annoyed at my pretended rigour, but said nothing. After a little while, I asked her if she had seen him; she replied in the affirmative without further remarks. Her work-box lay upon the sofa, upon which she had been seated, and I put the note in it without being perceived. The lesson was finished, and I repaired to her aunt's apartments to pay her a visit in the quality of confessor. After half-an-hour's conversation, I returned through the saloon, where I had left Donna Clara: she was at her embroidery, and had evidently seen and read the note, for she coloured up when I entered. I took no notice, but, satisfied that she had read it, I bade her adieu. In the note, I had implored her for an answer, and stated that I should be under her window during the whole night. As soon as it was dark, I dressed myself as Don Pedro and repaired to the street, striking a few notes on the guitar to attract her attention. I remained there more than half-an-hour, when the casement opened, and a little hand threw out a billet, which fell at my feet: I kissed it with apparent rapture, and retired. When I gained my lodgings, I opened it, and found it as favourable as I could hope. My plan then was to act as her confidant.

When I called the next day, I told her that, satisfied with the honourable intentions of the young cavalier, he had overcome my scruples, and I had consented to speak in his behalf: that I thought it was not right; but the state of the young man was so deplorable, that I could not withstand his entreaties; but that I expected that no steps would be taken by either party without my concurrence; and with this proviso, if she was pleased with the young cavalier, I would exert my influence in their behalf. Donna Clara's face beamed with delight at my communication: and she candidly acknowledged, as she had before in the note, that his person and his character were by no means displeasing. I then produced another note, which I said he had prevailed upon me to deliver. After this, affairs went on successfully. I repeatedly met her in the evening; and although I at first was indifferent, yet I soon became attached from the many amiable and endearing qualities which love had brought to light. She one day observed that there was a strong resemblance between Don Pedro and me, but the possibility of a serious shaven monk, and a gay cavalier with his curling locks, being one and the same person, never entered her head. When I considered matters ripe, I called upon Donna Celia, and, with the preamble that I had something of importance to communicate, informed her I had discovered that a young man was attached to her niece; and that I strongly suspected the regard was reciprocal; that I knew the young cavalier very well, who was very amiable, and possessed many good qualities, but there seemed to be a mystery about his family, as he never mentioned them. I ended by observing, that I considered it my duty to acquaint her with the circumstance; as if she objected to the match, or had other views for her niece, an immediate stop ought to be put to their correspondence.

The old lady was very much astonished at the information, and very angry that her niece should have presumed to make an acquaintance without her knowledge. I waited until she had said all she could think of, and then calmly took up the right of a confessor, pointing out that she had herself fallen into the same error in her youthful days; that the young man had confessed to me that his views were honourable; but had not an idea, at the time, that I was acquainted with the family. Donna Celia then appeared to be more pacified, and asked many questions: all that she seemed to object to, was the mystery about his family, which at her request I promised to clear up before any other steps should be taken. Cautioning her against any violence of language to her niece, I took my leave. As I went out I spoke a few words to Clara, informing her of the dénouement which had taken place, and recommending her by no means to irritate her aunt, but to be very penitent when she was reproved. Clara obeyed my injunctions, and the next day, when I called, I found her sitting by the side of Donna Celia, who was apparently reconciled. I motioned Clara out of the room, when Donna Celia informed me that she had acknowledged her error; and as she had promised for the future to be regulated by her advice, she had overlooked her indiscretion. When she had finished: "Prepare yourself, madam," said I, "for strange tidings-the ways of Heaven are wonderful. Last evening I had an explanation with the young cavalier, Don Pedro, and he proves to be-that son whose loss you have so much lamented."

"Merciful heaven!" cried the old lady, and she fainted away. As soon as she recovered, she cried out, "Oh where is he! bring him to me-let a mother's eyes be blessed with his sight-let the yearnings of a mother's heart be recompensed in his embraces-let the tears of affection be wept upon his bosom."

"Calm yourself, my dear madam," replied I: "the proofs you have not yet seen. First be satisfied, and then indulge in your delightful anticipation. When I pressed Don Pedro upon the subject of his family, I told him candidly that his only chance of success was unlimited confidence: he acknowledged that he had been sent to the Asylum when an infant, and that he did not know his parents; that the mystery and consequent stigma on his birth had been a source of mortification to him through life. I asked him if he knew his age, or had a copy of the register of his reception. He took it out of a small cabinet; it was on the 18th of February, in the same year that your child was sent there. Still as I was not sure, I stated that I would call upon him this morning, and see what could be done; assuring him that his candid avowal had created strong interest in his favour. This morning I repaired to the Asylum, when I examined the register. Two children were brought in on that night: here is the extract, and I feel much mortified, as you will observe, that no marks are mentioned. If, therefore, the wart you spoke of was not still remaining, the uncertainty would have been as great as ever. When I returned to him about an hour since, I renewed the subject, and stated that I thought it was the custom to make a note of any particular marks upon the children, by which they might be eventually reclaimed. He replied that it was customary when they were indelible, but not otherwise: that he had no indelible mark, although a large wart had been on the back of his neck as long as he could remember; 'but,' added he, 'it is of no use,-all hopes of finding my parents have long since been abandoned, and I must submit to my unfortunate destiny. I have thought upon what has passed, and I feel that I have acted wrong. Without family and without name, what right have I to aspire to the hand of any young lady of good parentage? I have made the resolution to conquer my feelings; and before the intimacy has been carried on to an extent that a rupture would occasion any pangs to her that I adore, I will retire from Seville, and lament in solitude my unfortunate condition.'

"'Are you capable of making such a sacrifice, Don Pedro?' said I.-'I am, Father Anselmo,' replied he: 'I will always act as a man of honour and of family, although I cannot prove my descent.'

"'Then,' said I, 'Don Pedro, do me the favour to call upon me this evening at my convent, and I hope to have some pleasing intelligence to impart.' I then left him, to come here and acquaint you with the joyful discovery."-"But why did you not bring him here immediately?" cried Donna Celia.

"Madam, I have important duties at my convent which will occupy me with the superior till late at night. These must be attended to; and it is not impossible that the affairs of our convent may require my absence for some time, as there are new leases of our lands to be granted, and I have reason to expect that the superior may dispatch me on that business. I will acquaint the young man with what has been discovered, and will then send him to your arms; but it were advisable that you allow a few hours to repose after the agitation which you have undergone, and previous to the affecting scene that will naturally take place. I wish I could be present; for it is not often, in this world, that we can witness the best affections of the heart in their virtuous action."

I then took my leave, requesting Donna Celia to inform her niece of the circumstances, as I presumed there would now be no obstacle to the mutual attachment of the young people.

My reason for an early departure was that I might arrange the story I should tell, when, as Don Pedro, my new mother would demand from me the events of my life. I had also to request leave of absence, which I obtained in expectation of some property being left to the convent by an elderly gentleman residing at Alicant, who was expected to die, and from whom I produced a letter, requesting my presence. As I was on the best terms with the superior, and there was a prospect of obtaining money, his consent was given. That I should be there in time, I was permitted to depart that evening. I took my leave of the superior, and the rest of the monks, intending never to return, and hastened to my lodgings, where I threw off my monastic habit, which from that hour has never been resumed. I repaired to Donna Celia's house, was admitted and ushered into a room to await her arrival. My person had been set off to the best advantage. I had put on a new wig, a splendid velvet cloak, silk doublet and hose; and as I surveyed myself for a second or two in the mirror, I felt the impossibility of recognition, mingled with pride at my handsome contour. The door opened, and Donna Celia came in, trembling with anxiety. I threw myself on my knees, and in a voice apparently choked with emotion, demanded her blessing. She tottered to the sofa overpowered by her feelings; and still remaining on my knees, I seized her hand, which I covered with kisses.

"It is-it is my child," cried she at last; "all powerful nature would have told me so, if it had not been proved," and she threw her arms round my neck, as she bent over me and shed tears of gratitude and delight. I do assure your highness that I caught the infection, and mingled my tears with hers; for I felt then, and I even now firmly believe, that I was her son. Although my conscience for a moment upbraided me, during a scene which brought back virtuous feelings to my breast, I could not but consider, that a deception which could produce so much delight and joy, was almost pardonable. I took my seat beside her, and she kissed me again and again, as one minute she would hold me off to look at me, and the next strain me in her embraces.

"You are the image of your father, Pedro," observed she, mournfully, "but God's will be done. If he has taken away, he also hath given, and truly grateful am I for his bounty." When we had in some degree recovered our agitation, I entreated her to narrate to me the history of my father of which I had heard but little from the good brother Anselmo, and she repeated to me those events of her youthful days which she had communicated before.

"But you have not been introduced to Clara: the naughty girl little thought that she was carrying on an amour with her own cousin."

When Donna Celia called her down, I made no scruple of pressing the dear girl to my heart, and implanting a kiss upon her lips: with our eyes beaming with love and joy, we sat down upon the sofa, I in the centre, with a hand locked in the hand of each. "And now, my dear Pedro, I am anxious to hear the narrative of your life," said Donna Celia: "that it has been honourable to yourself, I feel convinced." Thanking her for her good opinion, which I hoped neither what had passed, or might in future occur, would be the means of removing, I commenced the history of my life in the following words.

* * * * *

"Commenced the history of your life?" interrupted the pacha. "Does the slave laugh at our beards? What then is all this you have been telling us?"

"The truth, your highness," replied the Spaniard. "What I am about to tell, is the history of my life, which I invented to deceive the old lady Donna Celia, and which is all false."

"I understand, Mustapha, this kafir is a regular Kessehgou,[3] he makes one story breed another; but it is late, see that he attends to-morrow afternoon, Bero! Go, infidel, the muezzin calls to prayers."

[3] Eastern story-teller.

The Spaniard quitted the sublime presence, and in obedience to the call of the muezzin, the pacha and Mustapha paid their customary evening devotions-to the bottle.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares