Calderon the Courtier Part 6

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Calderon the Courtier is a Webnovel created by Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

“Report says that the cardinal-duke, your father, himself desires the vacant chair of the Inquisition.”

“My poor father, he is old–his sun has set. No, Aliaga; I have thought of one fitter for that high and stern office in a word, that appointment rests with yourself. I can make you Grand Inquisitor of Spain–!”

“Me!” said the Jesuit, and he turned aside his face. “You jest with me, n.o.ble son.”

“I am serious–hear me. We have been foes and rivals; why should not our path be the same? Calderon has deprived you of friends more powerful than himself. His hour is come. The Duke de Lerma’s downfall cannot be avoided; if it could, I, his son, would not as, you may suppose, withhold my hand. But business fatigues him–he is old–the affairs of Spain are in a deplorable condition–they need younger and abler hands.

My father will not repine at a retirement suited to his years, and which shall be made honourable to his gray hairs. But some victim must glut the rage of the people; that victim must be the upstart Calderon; the means of his punishment, the Inquisition. Now, you understand me. On one condition, you shall be the successor to Sandoval. Know that I do not promise without the power to fulfill. The instant I learned that the late cardinal’s death was certain, I repaired to the king. I have the promise of the appointment; and this night your name shall, if you accept the condition, and Calderon does not, in the interim, see the king and prevent the nomination, receive the royal sanction.”

“Our excellent Aliaga cannot hesitate,” said Don Gaspar de Guzman. “The order of Loyola rests upon shoulders that can well support the load.”

Before that trio separated, the compact was completed. Aliaga practised against his friend the lesson he had preached to him–that the end sanctifies all means. Scarce had Aliaga departed ere Juan de la Nuza entered; for Uzeda, who sought to make the Inquisition his chief instrument of power, courted the friendship of all its officers. He readily promised to obtain the release of Fonseca; and, in effect, it was but little after midnight when an order arrived at the prison for the release of Don Martin de Fonseca, accompanied by a note from the duke to the prisoner, full of affectionate professions, and requesting to see him the next morning.

Late as the hour was, and in spite of the expostulations of the governor, who wished him to remain the night within the prison, in the hope to extract from him his secret, Fonseca no sooner received the order than he claimed and obtained his liberation.

CHAPTER X. WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.

With emotions of joy and triumph, such as had never yet agitated his reckless and abandoned youth, the Infant of Spain bent his way towards the lonely house on the road to Fuencarral. He descended from his carriage when about a hundred yards from the abode, and proceeded on foot to the appointed place.

The Jew opened the door to the prince with a hideous grin on his hollow cheek; and Philip hastened up the stairs, and entering the chamber we have before described, beheld, to his inconceivable consternation and dismay, the form of Beatriz clasped in the arms of Calderon, her head leaning on his bosom; while his voice half choked with pa.s.sionate sobs called upon her in the most endearing terms.

For a moment the prince stood, spell-bound and speechless, at the threshold; then, striking the hilt of his sword fiercely, he exclaimed, “Traitor! is it thus that thou hast kept thy promise? Dost thou not tremble at my vengeance?”

“Peace! peace!” said Calderon, in an imperious, but sepulchral tone, and waving one hand with a gesture of impatience and rebuke, while with the other he removed the long cl.u.s.tering hair that fell over the pale face of the still insensible novice. “Peace, prince of Spain; thy voice scares back the struggling life–peace! Look up, image and relic of the lost–the murdered–the martyr! Hush! do you hear her breathe, or is she with her mother in that heaven which is closed on me? Live! live! my daughter–my child–live! For thy life in the World Hereafter will _not_ be mine!”

“What means this?” said the prince, falteringly. “What delusion do thy wiles practise upon me?”

Calderon made no answer; and at that instant Beatriz sighed heavily, and her eyes opened.

“My child! my child!–thou art my child! Speak–let me hear thy voice–again let it call me ‘father!'”

And Calderon dropped on his knees, and, clasping his hands fervently, looked up imploringly in her face. The novice, now slowly returning to life and consciousness, strove to speak: her voice failed her, but her lips smiled arms fell feebly but endearingly upon Calderon, and her round his neck.

“Bless thee! bless thee!” exclaimed Calderon. “Bless thee in thy sweet mother’s name!”

While he spoke, the eyes of Beatriz caught the form of Philip, who stood by, leaning on his sword; his face working with various pa.s.sions, and his lip curling with stern and intense disdain. Accustomed to know human life but in its worst shapes, and Calderon only by his vices and his arts, the voice of nature uttered no language intelligible to the prince. He regarded the whole as some well got-up device–some trick of the stage; and waited, with impatience and scorn, the denouement of the imposture.

At the sight of that mocking face, Beatriz shuddered, and fell back; but her very alarm revived her, and, starting to her feet, she exclaimed, “Save me from that bad man–save me! My father, I am safe with thee!”

“Safe!” echoed Calderon;–“ay, safe against the world. But not,” he added, looking round, and in a low and muttered tone, “not in this foul abode; its very air pollutes thee. Let us hence: come–come–my daughter!” and winding his arm round her waist, he hurried her towards the door.

“Back, traitor!” cried Philip, placing himself full in the path of the distracted and half delirious father, “Back! thinkest thou that I, thy master and thy prince, am to be thus duped and thus insulted? Not for thine own pleasures hast thou s.n.a.t.c.hed her whom I have honoured with my love from the sanctuary of the Church. Go, if thou wilt; but Beatriz remains. This roof is sacred to my will. Back! or thy next step is on the point of my sword.”

“Menace not, speak not, Philip–I am desperate. I am beside myself–I cannot parley with thee. Away! by thy hopes of Heaven away! I am no longer thy minion–thy tool. I am a father, and the protector of my child.”

“Brave device–notable tale!” cried Philip, scornfully, and placing his back against the door. “The little actress plays her part well, it must be owned,–it is her trade; but thou art a bungler, my gentle Calderon.”

For a moment the courtier stood, not irresolute, but overcome with the pa.s.sions that shook to their centre a nature, the stormy and stern elements of which the habit of years had rather mastered than quelled.

At last, with a fierce cry, he suddenly grasped the prince by the collar of his vest; and, ere Philip could avail himself of his weapon, swung him aside with such violence that he lost his balance and (his foot slipping on the polished floor) fell to the ground. Calderon then opened the door, lifted Beatriz in both his arms, and fled precipitately down the stairs. He could no longer trust to chance and delay against the dangers of that abode.

CHAPTER XI. HOWSOEVER THE RIVERS WIND, THE OCEAN RECEIVES THEM ALL.

Meanwhile Fonseca had reached the convent; had found the porter gone; and, with a mind convulsed with apprehension and doubt, had flown on the wings of love and fear to the house indicated by Calderon. The grim and solitary mansion came just in sight–the moon streaming sadly over its gray and antique walls–when he heard his name p.r.o.nounced; and the convent porter emerged from the shadow of a wall beside which he had ensconced himself.

“Don Martin! it is thou indeed; blessed be the saints! I began to fear–nay, I fear now, that we were deceived.”

“Speak, man, but stop me not! Speak! what horrors hast thou to utter?”

“I knew the cavalier whom thou didst send in thy place! Who knows not Roderigo Calderon? I trembled when I saw him lift the novice into the carriage; but I thought I should, as agreed, be companion in the flight.

Not so. Don Roderigo briefly told me to hide where I could this night; and that to-morrow he would arrange preparations for my flight from Madrid. My mind misgave me, for Calderon’s name is blackened by many curses. I resolved to follow the carriage. I did so; but my breath and speed nearly failed, when, fortunately, the carriage was stopped and entangled by a crowd in the street. No lackeys were behind; I mounted the footboard un.o.bserved, and descended and hid myself when the carriage stopped. I knew not the house, but I knew the neighbourhood, a brother of mine lives at hand. I sought my relative for a night’s shelter. I learned that dark stories had given to that house an evil name. It was one of those which the Prince of Spain had consecrated to the pursuits that had dishonoured so many families in Madrid. I resolved again to go forth and watch. Scarce had I reached this very spot when I saw a carriage approach rapidly. I secreted myself behind a b.u.t.tress, and saw the carriage halt; and a man descended, and walked to the house. See there–there, by yon crossing, the carriage still waits. The man was wrapped in a mantle. I know not whom he may be; but–“

“Heavens!” cried Fonseca, as they were now close before the door of the house at which Calderon’s carriage still stood; “I hear a noise, a shriek, within.”

Scarce had he spoken when the door opened. Voices were heard in loud altercation; presently the form of the Jew was thrown on the pavement, and dashing aside another man, who seemed striving to detain him, Calderon appeared,–his drawn sword in his right hand, his left arm clasped round Beatriz.

Fonseca darted forward.

“My lover! my betrothed!” exclaimed the voice of the novice: “thou are come to save us–to save thy Beatriz!”

“Yes; and to chastise the betrayer!” exclaimed Fonseca, in a voice of thunder. “Leave thy victim, villain! Defend thyself!”

He made a desperate lunge at Calderon while he spoke. The marquis feebly parried the stroke.

“Hold!” he cried. “Not on me!”

“No–no!” exclaimed Beatriz, throwing herself on her father’s breast.

The words came too late. Blinded and deafened with rage, Fonseca had again, with more sure and deadly aim, directed his weapon against his supposed foe. The blade struck home, but not to the heart of Calderon.

It was Beatriz, bathed in her blood, who fell at the feet of her frenzied lover.

“Daughter and mother both!” muttered Calderon; and he fell as if the steel had pierced his own heart, beside his child. “Wretch! what hast thou done?” muttered a voice strange to the ear of Fonseca; a voice half stifled with Horror and, perhaps, remorse. The Prince of Spain stood on the spot, and his feet were dabbled in the blood of the virgin martyr.

The moonlight alone lighted that spectacle of crime and death; and the faces of all seemed ghastly beneath its beams. Beatriz turned her eyes upon her lover, with an expression of celestial compa.s.sion and divine forgiveness; then sinking upon Calderon’s breast, she muttered, “Pardon him! pardon him, father! I shall tell my mother that thou hast blessed me!”

It was not for several days after that night of terror that Calderon was heard of at the court. His absence was unaccountable; for, though the flight of the novice was of course known, her fate was not suspected; and her rank had been too insignificant to create much interest in her escape or much vigilance in pursuit. But of that absence the courtier’s enemies well availed themselves. The plans of the cabal were ripe; and the aid of the Inquisition by the appointment of Aliaga was added to the machinations of Uzeda’s partisans. The king was deeply incensed at the mysterious absence of Calderon, for which a thousand ingenious conjectures were invented. The Duke of Lerma, infirm and enfeebled by years, was unable to confront his foes. With imbecile despair he called on the name of Calderon; and, when no trace of that powerful ally could be discovered, he forbore even to seek an interview with the king.

Suddenly the storm broke. One evening Lerma received the royal order to surrender his posts, and to quit the court by daybreak. It was in this very hour that the door of Lerma’s chamber opened, and Roderigo Calderon stood before him. But how changed–how blasted from his former self! His eyes were sunk deep in their sockets, and their fire was quenched; his cheeks were hollow, his frame bent, and when he spoke his voice was as that of one calling from the tomb.

“Behold me, Duke de Lerma, I am returned at last!”

“Returned–blessings on thee! Where hast thou been? Why didst thou desert me?–no matter, thou art returned! Fly to the king–tell him I am not old! I do not want repose. Defeat the villany of my unnatural son!

They would banish me, Calderon; banish me in the very prime of my years!

My son says I am old–old! ha! ha! Fly to the prince; he too has immured himself in his apartment. He would not see me; he will see thee!”

“Ay–the prince! we have cause to love each other!”

“Ye have indeed! Hasten, Calderon; not a moment is to be lost! Banished!

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