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11 Complete Works of James De Mille A Castle in SpainA Strange Manuscript Found in a CopperAmong the BrigandsCord and CreeseLost in the FogThe American BaronThe CryptogramThe Dodge ClubThe Lady of the IceThe Lily and the CrossThe Living Link
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The Complete Collection of James De Mille
A Castle in Spain
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper
Among the Brigands
Cord and Creese
Lost in the Fog
The American Baron
The Dodge Club
The Lady of the Ice
The Lily and the Cross
The Living Link
A Castle in Spain, by James De Mille
A CASTLE IN SPAIN
By JAMES DE MILLE
AUTHOR OF "CORD AND CREESE" "THE CRYPTOGRAM" "THE DODGE CLUB" "THE LIVING LINK" "THE AMERICAN BARON" ETC.
A CASTLE IN SPAIN.
HOW A PARTY OF TRAVELLERS SET OUT ON A JOURNEY.
The train for the North was about to start from Madrid, and the station was filled with the usual varied and bustling crowd. Throngs of soldiers were there; throngs of priests; throngs of civilians; throngs of peasants; all moving to and fro, intermingled with the railway employés, and showing the power of steam to stir up even the lazy Spaniard to unwonted punctuality and portentous activity. In the midst of this busy scene two men stood apart, each by himself, with eyes fixed upon the entrance, as though expecting some one whose advent was of no ordinary importance. One of these was an unmistakable Spaniard, of medium size, dark complexion, penetrating black eyes, and sombre countenance. His dress was that of a civilian, but his bearing was military, and his face and general expression savored of the camp. The other was an Englishman, with all his country beaming in his face, tall in stature, light in complexion, with gray eyes, and open, frank expression. He had a thin mustache, flaxen side whiskers, and no beard. He stood in an easy, nonchalant attitude, with an eye-glass stuck in one eye, and a light cane in his hand, which he switched carelessly upon his leg.
At length the two were roused by the approach of a party of people who were undoubtedly the very ones for whom they had been thus waiting.
This party consisted of three persons. First, there was an elderly man, florid, stoutish, and fussy--the Paterfamilias of Punch, with a dash of the heavy father of comedy. He was evidently in a terrible strait, and halting between two opinions, namely, whether he should stay and watch over his family, or go away and see after his luggage.
Then there was a lady of certain or uncertain age--a faded, washed-out blonde, who surveyed the scene with a mixture of trepidation and caution.
Neither of these, however, could have had any interest in the eyes of the two watchers; and it must have been the third member of this party who had led them to lie in wait.
In truth, this third one seemed well worthy of such attention. She was a young lady, of slight and elegant figure; with a sweet and lovely face, round, arch, full of liveliness, merriment, and volatility, which were expressed in every glance of her sparkling eyes. And while the man fidgeted and the woman fussed, this young person stood with admirable self-possession, looking round inquiringly, as though she too might be expecting some one.
Paterfamilias hesitated a little longer, and then made up his mind, for, telling the ladies to wait, he hurried away after his luggage. No sooner had he gone than the two young men, who had held back till then, hurried to the spot. The Englishman reached it first. The elder lady, on seeing him, stared for an instant, and then abruptly turned her back, thus giving him the cut direct in the most pointed and insulting manner. In thus turning she found herself face to face with the Spaniard, who made a very ceremonious bow, saying,
"It gif me mooch pleasure, Madame Russell, to pay my respetts, an' to weesh the good-day."
At this the lady hesitated, as though intending to give this man also the cut, but finally she chose to be gracious; so extending her hand, she said,
"Thanks, Captain Lopez, I'm glad to see you, for Mr. Russell has left us, and I'm a little frightened in this crowd."
"Oh, then," said Lopez, "I hope to haf the honnaire to coudnt you to the carriage, and to say the adios."
"Oh, thanks," said Mrs. Russell, "I shall really feel very much obliged."
Now the Englishman had scarcely seemed to notice the insult of Mrs. Russell; for, brushing past her, he had instantly advanced toward the young lady aforesaid, and seized her hand with a quick, strong, hungry grasp. And the young lady aforesaid, whose eyes had been fixed on him as he advanced, grasped his hand also, while a flush passed over her lovely face, and her eyes rested upon him with a look which might well thrill through and through the favored recipient of such a glance.
"Why, Mr. Ashby!" said she, in innocent surprise--"you here?"
"Katie," said Ashby, in a tremulous voice--"little darling," he continued, in a lower tone--"didn't you know that I'd be here?"
"Well, I should have felt disappointed," said Katie, softly, "if you had not been here."
At this moment Mrs. Russell turned, and said, sharply,
"All right," said Ashby, coolly; "I'll see Miss Westlotorn on board the train."
Mrs. Russell looked vexed.
"Katie," said she, "I wish you to stay by me."
"Oh yes, auntie dearest," said Katie, with her usual self-possession; "of course I shall."
But she made not the slightest movement to leave Ashby, and this annoyed Mrs. Russell all the more. She looked all around, as though for help. The Spaniard's eyes were all ablaze with wrath and jealousy.
"Madame Russell," said he, in an eager voice, "commanda me, I beg, I shall help."
These words were plainly audible to Ashby, who, however, only smiled.
"Madame," said Lopez, still more eagerly, "commanda me. Shall I condut the mees?"
For a moment Mrs. Russell seemed inclined to accept the proffered aid, but it was only for a moment. The good lady was timid. She dreaded a scene. A quarrel in so public a place between these two jealous and hot-headed youths would be too terrible, so she at once gave way.
"Oh no, no," she said, hurriedly. "Thanks, Captain Lopez, I think I shall ask you to conduct me to our carriage. Mr. Russell will be with us immediately."
Upon this Lopez offered his arm, which Mrs. Russell took, and they both went off. Ashby followed slowly with Katie.
"Katie," said he, after a pause, "I'm going too."
"What!" said Katie, in a joyous voice, "in this train?"
"Yes, along with you."
"How perfectly lovely!" said Katie--which expression showed that these two were on very good terms with one another.
"But then, you know," she resumed, "Mr. Russell has the carriage for us only."
"Oh, well, it's all the same," said Ashby. "I'm going on in the same train. That will be happiness enough. But see here," he added, in a hurried voice, "take this letter;" and with this he slipped a letter into her hand, which she instantly concealed in her pocket. "I'll see you to-night at Burgos," he continued, in a low tone, "and then at Biarritz or Bayonne. I have friends in both places. You must do what I ask you. You must be mine. You must, darling. Don't mind these confounded Russells. They're nothing to you compared with me. Russell has no right to interfere. He's not your uncle, he's only a miserable guardian; and he's a contemptible scoundrel too, and I told him so to his face. He's planning to get you to marry that cad of a son of his. But read my letter. Make up your mind to-day, darling. I'll see you tonight at Burgos."
Ashby poured forth this in a quiet, low, earnest voice as they traversed the short space that lay between them and the cars, while Katie listened in silence. Meanwhile the others had reached a carriage, which Mrs. Russell entered: Lopez immediately followed.
"Oh, look!" cried Katie; "Captain Lopez has gone into our carriage. He must be going to travel with us."
"The infernal sneak!" growled Ashby. "But then," he continued, "what's the use of that? He can't go. Why, old Russell hates him worse than me."
At this moment Mrs. Russell put forth her head.
"Katie!" she called, in a thin, shrill voice.
"Yes, auntie dear," said Katie.
"In a moment," chimed in Ashby.
"Perhaps I'd better go," said Katie; "she's so horrid, you know."
"Then," said Ashby, "good-bye for the present, my own darling."
Saying this, he took her in his arms and deliberately kissed her two or three times. Katie then darted away and entered the carriage, to find Mrs. Russell speechless with indignation.
The moment Katie had gone, up came Russell in a fury.
"Look here, sir!" he cried, shaking his fist at Ashby. "I say, sir! Look here, sir! You scoundrel! Didn't I tell you--"
"And look here, you!" said Ashby, in a stern voice, laying his hand heavily on the other's shoulder, "none of this insolence, my good man, or I shall have to teach you better manners. You know perfectly well that Katie is engaged to me, and that I mean to make her my wife."
"You shall never!" cried Russell, passionately; "never--never!"
"Pooh!" exclaimed Ashby, contemptuously.
"I'm her guardian," said Russell.
"That may be," said Ashby, calmly, "but only for a few months longer. I can wait. Don't be alarmed."
"You shall never marry her!"
"Pooh, my good man! attend to your luggage."
Muttering inarticulate threats, mingled with curses, Russell now stamped off, and entered the carriage. Here he found Lopez. At the sight of this man his fury burst all bounds. With Ashby he had felt under some restraint; but with Lopez there was nothing of the kind, and he ordered him out in the most insulting manner.
Lopez, however, refused to stir, telling him that Madame Russell had given him permission to remain.
"Madame Russell be hanged!" roared the other. "You get out of this, or else I'll kick you out!"
"No, señor," said Lopez, coolly, "I advisa you not to try violencia."
For a moment Russell measured him from head to foot; but the sight of the sinewy young Spaniard did not reassure him. His own muscles were somewhat flabby, and by no means fit for a struggle with this vigorous youth.
So he chose another and a safer mode. He sprang out and began to bawl loudly for the guard. But, very unfortunately, Russell could not speak a word of Spanish, and when the guard came up he could not explain himself. And so Russell, after all, might have had to travel with his unwelcome companion had not an unexpected ally appeared upon the scene. This was Ashby, who had been standing by, and had comprehended the whole situation. Now Ashby could speak Spanish like a native.
"See here, Russell," said he, "I don't mind giving you a lift. What's the row?"
Russell hesitated for a moment, but his rage against Lopez had quite swallowed up his anger at Ashby, and he accepted the aid of the latter. So he went on to explain what Ashby very well knew--the situation in the carriage. Ashby thereupon explained to the guard. The guard then ordered Lopez out. At which summons the gallant captain thought fit to beat a retreat, which he effected in good order, drums beating and colors flying, and with many expressions of polite regret to the ladies and many wishes for a pleasant journey.
Arriving outside, however, our noble hidalgo found the blast of war blowing, and so he at once proceeded to stiffen his sinews and summon up his blood. Taking no notice of Russell, he advanced to Ashby.
"Señor," said he, in Spanish, "for the part that you have taken in this matter I will call you to account."
Ashby smiled disdainfully.
"You have insulted me," said Lopez, fiercely. "This insult must be washed out in blood--your heart's-blood or mine. I am going in this train."
"Indeed! So am I," said Ashby.
"We shall find a place--and a time."
"Whenever you please," said the other, shortly.
"Señor, I will communicate with you."
Both the young men bowed, and with their hearts full of hate they separated to take their places in the train.
And now at this particular juncture there came forth from behind a pillar a female figure, which figure had been there for some time, and had closely watched the whole of Ashby's proceedings from beginning to end. It was impossible to see her face, but her graceful shape, and quiet, active movements, indicated youth, and suggested possible beauty. This figure hastened toward the train, and entered the very carriage into which Ashby had gone.
The next moment the guard banged the door to behind her, the great bell rang, the engine puffed and snorted, and then, with the roar of steam, the clank of machinery, and the rumble of many wheels, the long train thundered out of the station on its eventful journey to the North.
HOW MR. ASHBY MEETS WITH A VERY DEAR AND VERY LOVELY YOUNG FRIEND.
On entering the carriage Ashby took a seat and prepared to make himself comfortable for the journey. The hurried events of the last few minutes, the farewell to Katie, the prospect of a new meeting at Burgos, the additional prospect of a hostile encounter with Lopez, were certainly sufficient food for reflection. Consequently he was in a fit of abstraction so profound that he did not notice the female who entered the carriage.
As the train rolled out, the new-comer also made herself comfortable in her seat, which, being opposite to that of Ashby, gave her the opportunity of examining his face at her leisure, if she felt so inclined, while she herself was so closely veiled as to baffle recognition. Her dress, though very plain, was in the latest fashion, and she wore with inimitable grace that marvellous Spanish mantilla which is equally adapted to adorn and to conceal. Although in the opposite seat, she was not close to Ashby, but at the other end of the carriage, in which position she could watch him the more easily. These two were the only occupants.
Once or twice Ashby's eyes fell on her as he raised his head or changed his position; but he paid no attention to her, nor did he even seem aware of her existence; while she sat veiled, so that the direction of her glance could not be seen.
For about half an hour the situation remained unaltered, and then at the end of that time the lady made a readjustment of her mantilla, which exposed all her head and face. The hands which were raised to perform this act were soft, round, plump, and dimpled, and might of themselves have attracted the admiration of one less preoccupied than Ashby; while the face that was now revealed was one which might have roused the dullest of mortals. It was a dark olive face, with features of exquisite delicacy; the eyes were large, lustrous, and melting, fringed with long lashes; the eyebrows delicately pencilled; the hair rich black, glossy, and waving in innumerable ripples. Her cheeks were dimpled, and her lips were curved into a faint smile as she sat with a demure face and watched Ashby. It may have been a certain mesmerism in her gaze, or it may only have been that Ashby had at last grown weary of his own thoughts, for suddenly he looked up, and caught her eyes fixed thus on him. For a moment an expression of astonishment filled his face; then the smile of the lady deepened, and her eyes fell.
At this Ashby jumped from his seat.
"By heavens!" he exclaimed. "Dolores! Oh, Dolores!"
He uttered these words with a strange intonation, yet there was joy in his eyes and in the tone of his voice, together with the wonder that had been at first displayed. As he spoke he seized her hand in both of his, and, holding it fast, seated himself in the place immediately opposite. After a moment Dolores drew away her hand with a light laugh.
"Ah, señor," said she, "you do not seem very quick at recognizing your old acquaintances."
She spoke with the purest Castilian accent, and the rich and mellow tones of her voice were inexpressibly sweet.
"I--I--had no idea--no idea that you were anywhere near. You were the last, the very last person that I could have expected to see. How could I expect to see you here, Dolores? I thought that you were still at Valencia. And are you alone?"
"Yes--just now--from here to Burgos. I am on my way to visit my aunt at Pampeluna. She is ill. Mamma could not come with me, for she is ill too. So I have to travel alone. The good Tilda came with me to Madrid, but had to return to mamma. There was no time to seek another companion. Besides, it is only from here to Burgos."
"Oh, Dolores, little Dolores!" cried Ashby, "how delightful it is to see you again! What a lucky chance!"
"But it was not altogether chance," said Dolores.
"Why, I saw you.
"Yes; I was watching you. You see, I was in the station waiting for the train, and saw you come in. I then watched you all the time till you entered this carriage, and then I came here too. Now, sir!"
Saying this, Dolores tossed her pretty little head with a triumphant air, and smiled more bewitchingly than ever.
"You see," she continued, in the frankest and most engaging manner, "I was so veiled that no one could know me, and when I saw you I was very glad indeed; and I thought I would follow you, and speak to you, and see if you had any remembrance left of poor little me."
For a moment there was a shade of embarrassment on Ashby's face, and then it passed. He took her hand and pressed it fervently.
"Dolores," he said--"dear little friend of mine, I can never forget you as long as I live, and all that was done for me by you and yours. This sudden meeting with you is the most delightful thing that could possibly have happened."
Dolores laughed, and again drew her hand demurely away.
"But oh, Señor Ashby," she said, "how absent you were in the station!--and here--not one look for the poor Dolores!"
"Oh, Dolores!" said Ashby, in a tone of tender apology, "how could I imagine that it was you? You were veiled so closely that no one could recognize you. Why did you not speak before?"
"Ah, señor, young ladies in Spain cannot be so bold as I hear they are in England. Even this is an unheard-of adventure--that I, a young lady, should travel alone. But it is a case of life and death, you know, and it is only from here to Burgos, where I shall find friends. And then I wanted to speak to you once more. And you, señor--are you going to England now?"
Again there came over Ashby's face a look of embarrassment. His present journey was a delicate subject, which he could not discuss very well with Dolores.
"Well, no," he said, after a brief pause. "I'm only going as far as Bayonne--on business. But how long it seems since I saw you, Dolores! It's more than a year."
"And have I changed, señor?" she asked, sweetly.
"Yes," said Ashby, looking at her intently.
Dolores returned his look with another, the intensity of which was wonderful to Ashby. He seemed to look into the depths of her soul, and the lustrous eyes which were fastened on his appeared as though they strove to read his inmost heart. Her manner, however, was light and bantering, and it was with a merry smile that she went on:
"Ah! so I have changed? And how, señor--for the better?"
"No, and yes," said Ashby, drinking in her dark, deep, liquid glances. "In the first place, you could not possibly be better or more beautiful than you used to be; but, in the second place, you are more womanly."
"But I am not yet seventeen, señor."
"I know," said Ashby, of course.
"And you have not yet asked after the dear one--the mamma, who loves you so," said Dolores, in rather an inconsequential way.
"I was thinking of you, so that all other thoughts were driven out of my head."
"That's pretty," said Dolores; "but do you not want to hear about the dear mamma?"
"Of course. I shall love her and revere her till I die. Did she not save my life? Was she not a mother to me in my sorest need? And you, Dolores--"
He stopped short, and seemed somewhat confused and agitated.
"Yes," said Dolores, in a tone of indescribable tenderness; "yes, she loved you--the dear mamma--like a mother, and has always talked about you. It is always, Dolores, child, sing that song that Señor Assebi taught you; sing that beautiful, beautiful English song of 'Sweet Home;' sing that sweetest, loveliest, most mournful Scottish song of 'Lochaber.'"
And here, in a voice full of exquisite tenderness and pathos, Dolores sang that mournful air, "Lochaber," with Spanish words. The tender regret of her voice affected herself; she faltered, and her eyes filled; but the tears were instantly chased away by a sunny smile.
"And so, señor," said she, "you see that I have forgotten nothing of it--nothing."
"Nor I," said Ashby; "nor I--nothing. I have forgotten not one thing."
His voice was low and tremulous. There was a strange, yearning look in his eyes. With a sudden impulse he held out his hand, as though to take hers, but Dolores gently drew hers away.
"And have you been in Madrid ever since?" she asked, in a tone that seemed to convey something of reproach.
"No," said Ashby. "You know, when I fell ill at Valencia, where you saved my life by your tender care, I was on my way to Barcelona. When I left you I resumed my interrupted journey. Then I went to Marseilles and Leghorn, then to Cadiz, and finally to Madrid. I've been in Madrid three months."
"And you didn't think it worth while to write to us in all that long time?" said Dolores, with a reproachfulness in her tone which was now very marked.
"Write?" said Ashby; "why, I wrote twice--once from Marseilles, and once from Leghorn."
"We never heard," said Dolores, sadly, "not once."
"But I wrote," said Ashby, earnestly. "Don't you believe me, Dolores?"
"Believe you, señor? What a question! It was the fault of the post-office in these times of trouble--that was all. And, señor, I am very glad to know all, for I did not know what to think about it."
"And am I forgiven, Dolores?" Ashby asked.
Dolores replied with a sweet smile, and held out her hand, which the young man took and pressed tenderly, not caring to let it go.
"I did not know," said he, "there was anything against me to be forgiven; but this is a sign that you are the same Dolores that you were a year ago."
"Always," said she, "always the same;" and then she withdrew her hand.
"And now, señor," said she, with a perceptible effort, as of one who approaches a disagreeable subject, "this beautiful Inglesa--who is she?"
Ashby's eyes fell before the fixed and profound inquiry of those of Dolores's, who watched him close, and lost nothing of his change of features.
"This lady?" said he, and hesitated.
"Yes," said Dolores, gently.
"She is a--a--Miss Westlotorn."
"And she loves you very, very, very dearly and tenderly," said Dolores, in a quick, breathless voice; "and you are going to be married to her, and she will soon be your wife."
Ashby said nothing, but sat looking strangely embarrassed.
"You never mentioned her to us at Valencia," continued Dolores.
"No," said Ashby.
"And why not?" asked Dolores, who saw his confusion, but was eager to know the truth.
"I had not seen her," said Ashby.
"You had not seen her," repeated Dolores. "Ah!"--she hesitated for a moment and then went on--"so you saw her afterward. And she loves you!"
These last words were spoken with indescribable tenderness and mournfulness. "And--she--loves--you," she repeated, in a voice that had sunk almost to a whisper; "and she is to be your wife--the English girl!"
"Well," said Ashby, making an effort to overcome his embarrassment, "it is--it is about time. The fact is, I--I did ask her to--to be my wife."
"She? Well--she said she would, I think," said Ashby, evasively.
"You think!" exclaimed Dolores.
"Well, you see, there's a difficulty."
"Yes. Her guardian will not consent."
"But that is nothing," said Dolores, in an animated tone. "You must take her, and run away with her."
Ashby looked at Dolores with a strange, eager, hungry gaze.
"But there's another objection," said he.
"Objection? What is that?"
"I don't want to."
"What?" asked Dolores, in surprise.
Ashby hesitated for a moment, and then said, with an effort,
"I thought before we left that I loved her; but since I have seen you again--I feel--that I do not."
These words were spoken rapidly, in a low, feverish whisper. At first Dolores started as though she had been shot. Then she averted her face, and held up her hands deprecatingly.
"Ah," said she, in a sad voice, "that is all idle, idle, idle, foolish, foolish, foolish compliment, and nothing more. You must not say that again, or I will never forgive you--never, never!"
At this Ashby was brought back to his senses with a sudden and wholesome shock, and said no more upon that point. In fact, he now felt afraid that he had said altogether too much.
HOW ASHBY MEETS WITH ANOTHER FRIEND, AND HOW HE TAKES HIM INTO HIS CONFIDENCE.
That evening they arrived at Burgos, where, on account of troubles along the line, the train was to remain until ten o'clock on the following day. Dolores informed Ashby that she was going to stay with friends, and refused to allow him to accompany her to the house, in spite of his earnest entreaties. She had been in Burgos before, she said. The house was not far from the station, and she was firm in her resolve to go alone. Ashby followed her, however, and saw her pass in safety through the streets and into a large and venerable house not far from the Cathedral. He then retraced his steps, and made the best of his way to the Fonda del Norte, where he put up for the night.
Here, after dinner, he loitered about for a time, meditating over the events of the day, and conjecturing about the morrow. His situation was growing somewhat complicated; for there was Katie, whom he had promised to see at Burgos; but on leaving the train he had followed Dolores, and now he had not the faintest idea where the Russells had gone. They were not at the Fonda del Norte. It was also too late now to hunt them up, and too late to hope to see Katie. That must be postponed till the morrow.
Ashby was beginning to feel more melancholy than ever in his life before, when suddenly he was roused by a loud exclamation.
"Well, by Jove! Halloo, old boy! Ashby himself, by all that's wonderful!"
At this Ashby looked up, and the next instant he was heartily wringing the hand of the new-comer.
"Rivers! Harry Rivers! How are you, my boy? and where in the world did you come from?"
"By Jove! do you know, old fellow," said Harry Rivers, "I call this no end of a piece of good luck? I've been bored to death at Burgos. But come along to my rooms and give an account of yourself."
The two friends then went off, and soon were comfortably seated in the rooms of Harry Rivers, with some flasks of wine and Havanas to help along the evening hours.
Harry Rivers was of about the same age as Ashby, but totally different in appearance. He was of medium height, very well knit in his frame, and very well dressed. His hair was crisp and curling; his brow broad and open; his eyes full of light, and life, and volatility. He had a small mustache, but no beard or whiskers, and his laughing eyes, with his smooth face and winning smile, gave him a most engaging appearance. In short, Harry Rivers was one of those rare good fellows who make friends wherever they go; who take the world into their confidence; who insist on making every one familiar with their varying fortunes; and carry about with them a perpetual atmosphere of joyousness and breezy cheerfulness.
"Well, old chap," said Harry, as they sat enjoying their cigars and wine, "I haven't seen you or heard of you since you left Barcelona. How did you get on with your business in Italy? What made you turn up in this queer way at Burgos? This isn't the sort of place that I'd expect to find a friend in."
"I'm on my way to Bayonne just now," said Ashby, "and I stopped here--because the train stopped."
"Bayonne isn't a bad place," said Harry; "I spent a week there once--good wine, but bad tobacco and infernal cigars. Here we have good cigars and bad wine. Do you know, old chap, I don't dote on any of the Spanish wines--do you? At the same time, I drink your very good health, together with future prosperity and good luck in your present undertaking, whatever that may be."
"Thanks," said Ashby, "and the same to you."
"Look here, old chap," said Harry, "you look a little down in the mouth--a trifle seedy. No bad luck, I hope?"
"Oh no," said Ashby, "nothing in particular."
"The fact is, you seem to have lost your high moral tone, and your former happy flow of genial conversation. I don't want to be a Paul Pry, my dear boy; but if you wish to gain sympathy and find a friend who can hear and help, why, all I can say is--here you have him."
"Well," said Ashby, "I'm a little preoccupied, that's a fact."
"Preoccupied? That's your name for it, is it? Well, suppose we adopt that word--what then?"
Ashby knocked the ashes off his cigar with a reflective look, and said, "I rather think, Harry, that I had better make you my father-confessor."
"All right," said Harry; "that's what I was made for. Go ahead, my son. Confess--out with it. Cleanse your bosom of its perilous stuff: make a clean breast of it."
"Well," said Ashby, "in the first place, I'm just now meditating matrimony."
"Yes; but that's not all. It's a sort of runaway match."
"A runaway match! By Jove! Only think of a fellow like you planning a runaway match! Now if it was me, it would be the proper thing. But is it really to be a runaway match?"
"Well, it amounts to that, for I've asked the girl to clear out from her friends and come with me."
"Well, old fellow, all I can say is, good luck to you both. And please, mayn't I be the best man?" he added, with a droll accent that brought an involuntary smile to Ashby's face. "But go on. Who is the charmer? and where is she now?"
"Well, to answer your last question first, she's here--in Burgos."
"Ah," said Harry, "I twig! Came on in the same train. Both planned it together. You cut across the border, and are made one. Why, it's like Gretna Green!"
"Well, you've hit it partly, only she's with her friends just now--that is to say, she's with her guardian and his wife; and the problem to be solved by me is, how I am to get her from those two dragons."
"Oh, that can be done. But now, my boy, to come to the point, who is she?--her name?"
"Her name," said Ashby, "is Westlotorn--Katie Westlotorn."
"Westlotorn," repeated Harry: "never saw her, and don't think I ever heard the name in all my life."
"I got acquainted with her at Cadiz a few months ago," said Ashby. "Her father had been a merchant there, and had died about a year before. She was there with her step-mother, who took no particular care of her--a miserable beast of a woman. She was in correspondence with her sister in England, a Mrs. Russell, whom she kept urging to come on and take Katie away from Spain. This Mrs. Westlotorn had induced her husband before his death to appoint Russell, her sister's husband, Katie's guardian, and it was this Russell and his wife whom, she expected on, but they could not get away very easily. After a time Mrs. Westlotorn decided to move to Madrid, which she thought would be a pleasanter residence. So about three months ago she made the move, and after that Katie and I saw as much of one another as we wished, and she became regularly engaged to me."
"So the step-mother approved, did she?"
"Well, what's the trouble?"
"Oh, this infernal Russell, the guardian, you know! As soon as he came on, he and his wife began to make trouble, and tried to break up the engagement; they also tried to keep me away from the house. Then there was another difficulty: they allowed some Spanish blackguards to get acquainted with them. Mrs. Westlotorn, the widow, you know, is hot-and-heavy in the chase of a husband, and thought that all the young fellows who came after Katie were after her. The worst of them was a chap named Lopez, who calls himself a captain in the Spanish army--a poor, pitiful beggar whom I shall have to horsewhip. And, by-the-bye, that reminds me--I expect to be called out to-morrow or next day."
"Called out? how?"
"Oh, by this pitiful fellow Lopez;" and Ashby related the incident at the Madrid station.
"By Jove!" said Harry, "this is lucky. I'm glad I came upon you at such a time. You won't have to trust to a bungling Spaniard to be your second."
"The worst of it is," said Ashby, "I believe that this Russell is one of the most infernal villains that ever lived, and that he is concocting some scheme against Katie."
"A scheme! how?"
"Well, I'll tell you. I saw from the first that he was hostile to me. Possibly this may have been my own fault, for I saw the fellow was a beastly cad, not at all fit to be Katie's guardian. Why, he's a tailor! think of that--a tailor! that's all he is. By Jove! only think--a tailor! and Katie's guardian! Do you suppose I was going to stand any nonsense from a tailor?"
"By Jove! no--not unless you're deep in his books," said Harry; "and even then, when you're away from home you ought to be a free man. So you rather slighted the guardian, did you?"
"Well, I told him to go to the devil; and the fellow took offence, you know."
"H'm--odd, too," said Harry. "Why should he take offence at such a simple remark?"
"Don't know, I'm sure," said Ashby; "but there it is, you see. However, that makes no difference. I've defied him and threatened him."
"Why, because the infernal scoundrel is deep in some plan to get hold of Katie's money."
"Katie's money? Oh, she has money, then?"
"Of course--about thirty or forty thousand pounds. Most of this, I believe, is in Spanish bonds, in which Westlotorn was foolish enough to invest."
"Not very good just now, hey?"
"Oh, they'll be good ultimately. At any rate, old Russell's bound to get hold of all this and keep it for himself, and I'm resolved that he shall disgorge. He's got half a dozen plans. One plan is to try to get her to marry his son, an infernal redheaded, cock-eyed cad of a fellow--a tailor too. Another plan is to put her off in some out-of-the-way place here in Spain, where no one will ever hear of her. Another plan is to ship her off to America; another is to keep her in seclusion in his own home, where no one will ever see her; while another is to dispose of the Spanish bonds in such a way as to make it appear that they are a dead loss."
"You seem to be very deep in Russell's plans," said Harry. "He could not have told you all this himself. If he did, he must be of an uncommonly confiding disposition."
"He tell me!" said Ashby. "Of course he didn't. I found it all out--no matter how. Oh, the fellow's a desperate swindler--he'll stick at nothing. But, at any rate, he knows that I have my eye on him, and he'll hardly dare to do anything against Katie's interest so long as I am near enough to watch over her."
"You and Russell must have had rather interesting conversations. Did you ever tell him your suspicions?"
"They're not suspicions, they're facts. Tell him--of course I did, and that's one reason why he hates me. He knows perfectly well that I see through and through him. We had a row at the station, just before leaving Madrid, because I came down to see Katie off; and he's now on the watch to prevent me from seeing her again."
"And what do you propose to do about it?"
"Oh, I've arranged it all. I'll tell you. I wrote a letter, and handed it to her just as we were leaving Madrid, asking her to meet me at Biarritz, naming a place. I have friends there, and I will take her to their house. The English chaplain can marry us. We will then cut off to England. On the arrival of Russell I will go to him and demand my wife's property. If he refuses to disgorge I will at once commence legal proceedings against him, and by way of preliminary I will give the scoundrel a horsewhipping."
"This arrangement is all very well; but what about the lady? Will she consent?"
"Consent? Why, she'll jump at the chance," said Ashby, confidently.
"She must be very fond of you."
"Fond of me? Why, she's perfectly infatuated about me."
"Good!" said Harry. "Well, my boy, I'm your man. You want me for war and for peace, so here am I--your second at the duel and your groomsman at the wedding."
HOW THE RAILWAY TRAIN COMES TO A SUDDEN STOP.
Very early on the following morning Ashby was up and out. He walked over the town in all directions, with a strange, furtive watchfulness in his eyes, as though on the lookout for some one. Who was the object of his search? Was it Katie, whose answer to his proposal had not yet been given? Was it Dolores, whom he had tracked on the previous evening? Or was it his rival Lopez, with whom he had yet to stand in mortal conflict? Whichever it was did not appear, for Ashby was doomed to be unsuccessful, and to return to his inn a baffled man. Barely time enough was now left him to snatch a hasty repast, after which he hurried to the station.
The place was thronged. Passengers were arriving, and the train was filling rapidly. Ashby stood, as he had stood on the previous day, watching. Singularly enough, Lopez also, like himself, was again on the lookout, for he could see him scowling in the distance. No words, however, passed between them, and the challenge which Lopez had threatened was not yet forthcoming. At length the patience of both was rewarded.
A cab drove up. The broad face of Russell was seen through the window. The rest of the party were inside. But, to Ashby's amazement, he saw Harry Rivers riding outside with the driver. As the cab stopped, Rivers leaped lightly down, and opened the cab door himself. Then old Russell got out. Then Harry assisted Mrs. Russell to descend. After this he assisted Katie out of the cab, and Ashby saw that she looked as fresh, as bright, and as blooming as a rose, that she showed not a trace of care or anxiety, and that she was as sprightly and coquettish as ever.
"Confound the fellow!" growled Ashby to himself, as he wondered how Harry had found them out and made their acquaintance, envying him also his good luck. But the climax had yet to come. There was one passenger more. This one also was assisted out of the cab by Harry. To the utter stupefaction of Ashby, this one was Dolores.
So overwhelmed was Ashby that he stood without motion, having quite lost all that presence of mind and coolness which usually distinguished him. It was wonderful enough to find Harry hand in glove with the Russells, but to find Dolores there along with Katie was a knock-down blow. It made his situation so confused and full of complications that he could not think of any course of action. So he stood, and he stared, and the party came along on their way to the train. As they approached Katie looked at him with a bright smile, full of tender meaning, and a flush passed over her face. Dolores, on the contrary, allowed her dark eyes to rest on him for an instant, and then looked down. This troubled him, for at that moment it happened that he was longing for a smile from Dolores. Still, he was glad to get that look from Katie. The fact is, the fellow was too ridiculous, for he actually wanted a smile from each of them.
As they passed Harry dropped behind.
"Look here, Ashby," said he; "where in Heaven's name have you hid yourself all the morning? I thought you wanted to find Miss Westlotorn."
"So I did," said Ashby, in a rueful tone.
"Why, confound it, man, she was close by us all the time. When I went out I found your dear friend, old Russell."
"Russell!" cried Ashby; "but how did you get acquainted with him?"
"Acquainted!" cried Harry. "Man alive! By Jove! a man ought to know his own tailor, oughtn't he? I didn't think of it last night. I thought your Russell was a different man: the name is common enough, you know. People generally dodge their tailors, but I'm not proud, and I don't owe him very much; and, besides, this is Spain, and he can't dun me. Moreover, he was in a street row, and I helped him out with my Spanish. What the mischief does he mean by coming with his family to Burgos with no other language than English? But, by-the-bye, old fellow, I must hurry: I'm going to join their party and travel in their carriage. Hope you'll enjoy yourself as well as I intend to. I would have excused myself, only, you know, when there's a chance of travelling with a couple of such pretty girls as those, only a madman would decline."
All this Harry poured forth in a torrent of words, and before Ashby had a chance of making a remark he was off. Ashby watched him, and saw him enter the carriage where Katie and Dolores had gone with the Russells; and then, drawing a long breath, he went slowly to the train and took his seat. There was only one other occupant of the carriage where he sat. This was a priest. He wore a broad-brimmed hat; his eyes were concealed by spectacles: he had also a heavy brown beard and mustache. So engaged was he in reading his breviary, that as Ashby entered he did not look up or take any notice of him whatever.
Lopez, also, had seen the whole proceeding, and had put on it his own interpretation. As Ashby entered the train so did he, and soon the whole of these people whose fortunes were so entangled were whirling along to the North.
Ashby sat buried in gloom, with his heart full of bitterness and wrath; of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. He had hoped to see Katie. He had counted quite confidently on meeting once more with Dolores. He had felt sure of Harry Rivers. But now all three had failed him; and, what was worse, all three had drifted away from him in one another's company, and appeared to be perfectly indifferent to him, and perfectly happy without him.
The priest was unsociable, and kept reading his breviary as though his life depended upon it. Yet this made no difference to Ashby. He did not desire to make any new acquaintances or talk small-talk with strangers. He preferred to be left to his own thoughts, dismal as they were. He was in no mood for conversation, for his mind was full of material for meditation, conjecture, wonder, and bewilderment.
Why, he thought, had Dolores deserted him? How had she become acquainted with Katie? And Harry--to which of these two was he making himself so infernally agreeable? Whichever it was, it seemed equally bad. Ashby felt bitterly resentful against all of them. Katie seemed to be the worst. She might have contrived, he thought, to give him some sign. But then he recollected that on the previous evening he was tracking Dolores, when he ought to have gone on Katie's trail. As for Dolores, he thought that she might at least have shown herself when he was wandering through the streets in the morning hours. But perhaps she expected to find him in the neighborhood of Katie. Evidently he himself had acted like a fool in leaving the hotel. As for Harry Rivers, he could not help feeling as though this was the worst of all. Harry had it now all his own way: a gay, careless, impulsive dog--a fellow who would forget the whole world while under the influence of a pair of bright eyes--a fellow who was even now, perhaps, trying to cut him out. The miserable humbug, also, by a most abominable chance, had both these girls. Both! Insatiate monster! would not one suffice?
Thus Ashby chafed, and fumed, and, I am sorry to add, swore terribly; but all the while the train kept rolling on and on, until at length the Ebro valley was reached. Here the scenes that opened to view were most attractive. Far away on either side was a broad plain, dotted with towns and villages, and filled with olive-groves and vineyards, where cattle, and sheep, and goats grazed peacefully, and shepherds, goatherds, and vine-dressers stared lazily up as the train rolled by. The distant horizon was everywhere terminated by lofty mountains--on the south, the circling range of the Sierra de Grados; on the north, the long line of the Pyrenees and the Asturian mountains, their sides covered with foliage, their summits crowned with snow. It was a ground, too, which was rich in associations of history and romance, the arena of gallant struggle and heroic effort for many and many an age; a place that called up memories of Hannibal, with his conquering armies; of Rome, with her invincible legions; of Charlemagne, with his Paladins; of Abd-er-Rahman, with his brilliant Saracens; of the steel-clad Crusaders; of the martial hosts of Arragon; of the resistless infantry of Ferdinand and Isabella; of the wars of the Spanish succession; of the redcoats of Wellington; through all the ages down to the time of this story, when Don Carlos was standing among these northern mountains, as Pelajo stood more than a thousand years ago, leading on his hardy warriors to battle against all the rest of Spain.
So the train rolled on--past the numerous stations; past the towns and villages; past the long groves and vineyards; past the barren, sandy tracts; past the hill-sides, with shepherds, and flocks, and herds; past the roads, with long trains of mules; past the peasants lolling over walls and fences--so the train passed on, mile after mile and hour after hour; but nothing of all this was noticed by Ashby, who sat buried in his gloomy reverie, from which he was unable to rally, until at length the train came to a sudden full-stop.
About such a sudden and abrupt stop there was something very singular indeed. No station was near. The country seemed wild and deserted, and no cause was likely to stop the train at such a place except some serious accident.
The priest started up with a quick movement, thrust the breviary into his pocket, and peered cautiously out of the window, looking first backward and then forward. It was this movement that first roused Ashby. He too started up and looked out.
The sight that he saw was so startling that it served most effectually to chase away all morbid fancies, and give him something to think about of a far more serious character.
HOW THE WHOLE PARTY COME TO GRIEF, AND ARE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE.
It was, in truth, a strange and startling sight that met Ashby's eyes as he looked out of the window. The train had been stopped in the middle of a plain, where the road ran along an embankment about three feet high. A crowd of armed men were here, gathered about the locomotive, and already forming lines along each side of the train. All looked shabby, none had any pretensions to uniforms, and their appearance was not sufficiently picturesque for brigands. In fact, they looked like a gang of goatherds who had just taken to brigandage.
"A hard lot," muttered Ashby to himself.
Soon the tatterdemalions reached the spot, and extended their lines on both sides to the end of the train. At every window they shouted, "Back! back! Be quiet, and no harm will be done!" Shouting such words as these, they aimed their guns so recklessly and with such furious gestures at the windows, that the passengers all shrank back, not only into their seats, but even into their boots.
The lines of armed men thus stood guarding the train, while the passengers cowered inside. After a time a cry was heard from some one who was passing along, and who, as he passed, kept shouting into each carriage,
"This train has been stopped in the name of his Majesty King Charles. All passengers are ordered to come out forthwith. Arms and weapons of all kinds must be left behind. Resistance will be punished with death. God save the King!"
After this the guards came and opened all the doors, and the passengers stepped forth in obedience to orders. Of these there were about a hundred altogether, and each one remained on the spot where he alighted, and was forbidden to move in any direction. From where Ashby stood he could see the whole crowd--the prisoners and their captors. He saw a group alighting from a carriage a little ahead. First came Harry Rivers, stepping out quite gayly, as though it was a picnic. On reaching the ground, he turned and assisted the ladies to descend. This he did by the simple yet pleasing process of lifting them down bodily--first Katie, then Dolores. At this sight Ashby gnashed his teeth with jealous rage. Then came Russell, whom, it is perhaps unnecessary to state, Harry did not lift down. Nor did that gallant and chivalrous youth venture to lift down Mrs. Russell, being at that particular moment engaged in conversation with Katie.
Dolores, having descended, stood apart, and her dark-glancing eyes, as they wandered searchingly about, fell full upon Ashby. It was a glance full of that same deep, earnest meaning which he had noticed in the morning; and so she stood looking at him, too far away to speak, while Ashby looked at her also. After a time Harry's roving eyes rested upon his friend, and with a laugh he drew Katie's attention to him. At this Katie looked, and smiled brightly, and nodded her pretty little head half a dozen times. To Ashby this seemed like mockery. Katie, he saw, could very well bear this separation, which was so painful to himself, and could laugh and be happy with others, and could, perhaps, jest about his own melancholy face. So Ashby bowed sulkily, and turned away his head.
It was rather a novelty--this sort of thing. Brigands in every age had stopped travellers, but then they had always been in coaches or carriages, on horseback or on foot. Never before had they tried to stop a railway train. And yet in the progress of civilization the world had to come to this. The manners of man easily accommodate themselves to the inventions of man, and highway robbery can be done as easily on a railroad as on a carriage road. Nevertheless, these particular men who stopped this particular train were not brigands: on the contrary, they were soldiers, forming part of the army of one who called himself King of Spain--in short, Carlists.
The passengers were now ordered to come forward for examination, one by one. Here, on a little knoll, on one side of the locomotive, stood the leader of the band. He was a stout, thick-set man, with dark hair and bushy beard. Around him were a score or so of armed men. The rest of the band stood guarding the train. One by one the passengers came forward. Each one was then ordered to hand over all the money, jewellery, watches, or other valuables which he possessed. This was to be a contribution to his Royal Majesty King Charles, who was in sore need of such contributions from all his loving and loyal subjects, in order to carry on the war against the rebels who were resisting him. Against such a command as this there could be no protest, and from it no appeal. No one offered to do either. Gold, silver, copper, dirty paper-money, watches, rings, brooches, pins, bracelets, trinkets of male and female use, were thrown promiscuously down into a large basket which stood at the feet of the Carlist chief, who loftily disdained searching any one, assuring them that he trusted to their honor as Spaniards.
Then came the turn of the Russell party. First the Paterfamilias disgorged. It was a well-filled wallet, and Russell flung it down without a word. His watch followed. Then came some trinkets from the ladies; then Harry's purse and watch. After this they were about to move away to where the other passengers had gone, but the Carlist chief stopped them.
[Illustration: "The Two Friends Were Comfortably Seated In The Rooms Of Harry Rivers."]
[Illustration: The Capture Of The Train.]
"By the command of his Most Gracious Majesty King Charles," said he, "you are to be detained."
"May I inquire for what cause?" asked Harry.
"Because you are foreigners," said the Carlist chief.
Harry translated this to Russell, whose face assumed a sickly pallor. To him this was terrible.
The Carlist chief then directed them where to go, and two of the band led them to the spot.
Other Spaniards now followed, and deposited their superfluous cash in peace, without being detained. Then came the priest. He threw down a very lean wallet. No notice was taken of him, and he followed the others. These were all gathered in a group, and though conversation had not been prohibited, they were all quite silent, as was perhaps natural. Among them was Lopez, who had come there among the first. He stood there silent, watchful, and attentive. He regarded the Russell party in particular, and marked their arrest.
It was now Ashby's turn. He came up and threw down his purse and watch. The Carlist chief scrutinized him carefully, and then said,
"Señor, you, being a foreigner, are to be detained for a future examination."
"May I join the other foreigners?" asked Ashby.
The Carlist chief shook his head.
"Pardon me, señor, but His Majesty has issued strict orders, which must be obeyed. Each foreigner must be examined by himself. The regulations are very stringent."
With this he directed one of his men to lead the prisoner away; and Ashby, who for a moment had hoped that he would be able to join the Russell party, now, to his great chagrin, found himself led away to another place too distant to allow of any communication with his friends.
The mere fact of this arrest was not so bad to Ashby, since the others were in the same case precisely; but in this continued separation from them he found material for fresh suspicion and renewed jealousy. Katie seemed to him to be altogether too bright, and lively, and joyous. He could see that she was laughing and talking with Harry quite merrily. This separation, which brought sorrow to him, evidently brought joy to her. Was she, then, after all, a mere shallow flirt? Had all her love been feigned? Was it possible that she could so soon forget? With these thoughts, and others like them, this idiotic youth persisted in tormenting himself.
At length the examination was ended, and at its close the Carlist chief improved the occasion by addressing a few words to the Spaniards. He reminded them that Don Carlos was their rightful king; that this contribution was no more than his due; that they, one and all, ought to cherish a lively affection for his sacred person; that they ought to continue this good work which they had begun by sending more; and that the king would be graciously pleased to accept whatever they might contribute. In his own person the gallant chieftain thanked them, and also in the name of His Majesty, for their generous contributions. Finally, he informed them that His Majesty, in his boundless pity and compassion, had graciously permitted them to resume their journey. The only exception to this permission was that of a few foreigners, who were detained, lest there might be spies among them. Against gentry of this sort, His Majesty's government had to be particularly on their guard. The country was swarming with them. They generally pretended to be news correspondents, but in reality they were paid agents of the enemy. If any such should be caught, they would be shown no mercy.
With this address he dismissed the Spanish portion of the passengers, who hastily re-entered the train. The English prisoners were allowed to retain their luggage. Accompanied by some Carlists, they chose out what they thought needful, and this was set aside. Russell took nearly all of his. Meanwhile others of the band went through the train, and helped themselves to whatever seemed useful. Among the things thus selected as useful were the mail-bags, which, like the foreigners, were taken away for further examination.
After this the obstructions were removed from the road, the engine started, the train went on its way, and the prisoners saw it no more.
HOW HARRY AND KATIE MANAGE TO ENJOY THEMSELVES IN THEIR CAPTIVE STATE.
The train moved off; and as the puffing and panting of the engine, the rumble of the wheels, and the shriek of the whistle died away in the distance, the captive passengers felt desolate indeed, for it seemed as though hope itself had been taken from them.
The Carlist chief then spent some time in examining the contributions of the loyal subjects of King Charles. These appeared to give him much satisfaction, and, after due inspection, were gathered up and deposited in a stout oaken chest.
He now turned his attention to the prisoners, and briefly examined them as to their nationality, residence, etc. Harry acted as general interpreter, so that there was no difficulty in coming to a full understanding. The chief informed them that they would have to be conveyed to another place for fuller examination. He deplored the necessity of this, and advised them to be patient, telling them that they should be put to as little trouble as possible, and that all would no doubt turn out well in the end. This he said first to the Russell party, and afterward to Ashby. The Russell party had nothing to say, except old Russell himself, who said, perhaps, more than was prudent under such delicate circumstances. He chafed and fumed, all in English, and muttered something about British ironclads and writing to the Times. He also made some vague threats about the wrath of England, and made the statement that Britons never would be slaves. But this was in English, and Harry did not think it worth while, on the whole, to translate it to the Carlist chief. Nor did Harry feel very much inclined to say anything on his own behalf. There was, indeed, nothing to be said; and, besides, he happened to be enjoying himself very much with the young ladies.
The Carlist chief made the same statement to Ashby, who once more tried to effect a communication with his friends.
"Will you allow me now, Señor Captain," he said, "to join the other foreign prisoners? They are my fellow-countrymen, and, in fact, my intimate friends."
"Certainly, señor," said the Carlist chief, graciously. "For my own part, I have no objection--that is, for the present. But I must first see what they have to say about it."
He did so.
Ashby would have gained his wish if it had not been for Russell. When the Carlist chief informed them that the other Englishman wished to join them, Russell made Harry translate this to him. The moment that he understood the request, he burst forth into a passionate tirade against Ashby; and all the rage and fury that might be due to this misadventure was now poured forth upon Ashby's head.
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