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Chapter XIII. The Festa at Seville

"And now, Gerald, that you have made your arrangements for the second half of the plan, how are you going to set about the first? because you said that you intended to give Donna Inez the option of flying with you or remaining with her father."

"So I do still. Before I make any attempt to carry her off I shall first learn whether she is willing to run the risks."

"But how are you going to set about it? You may be quite sure that she never goes outside the garden without having her duenna with her. If there is a chapel close by, doubtless she will go there once a day; and it seems to me that this would be the best chance of speaking to her, for I do not see how you can possibly introduce yourself into the grounds."

"That would be quite out of the question, in daylight at any rate, Geoffrey. I do not suppose she ever goes beyond the terrace by the house. But if I could communicate with her she might slip out for a few minutes after dark, when the old lady happened to be taking a nap. The question is how to get a letter into her hands."

"I think I might manage that, Gerald. It is not likely that the duenna ever happened to notice me. I might therefore put on any sort of disguise as a beggar and take my place on the road as she goes to chapel, and somehow or other get your note into her hand. I have heard Spanish girls are very quick at acting upon the smallest sign, and if I can manage to catch her eye for a moment she may probably be ingenious enough to afford me an opportunity of passing the note to her."

"That might be done," Gerald agreed. "We will at once get disguises. I will dress myself as an old soldier, with one arm in a sling and a patch over my eye; you dress up in somewhat the same fashion as a sailor boy. It is about twelve miles from here to Ribaldo's place. We can walk that easily enough, dress ourselves up within a mile or two of the place, and then go on and reconnoitre the ground."

"I should advise you to write your note before you start; it may be that some unexpected opportunity for handing it to her may present itself."

"I will do that; but let us sally out first and pick up two suits at some dealer in old clothes. There will be sure to be two or three of these in the poorer quarter."

The disguises were procured without difficulty, and putting them in a small wallet they started before noon on their walk. In four hours they reached the boundary of the Marquis of Ribaldo's estate. Going into a wood they assumed the disguises, packed their own clothes in a wallet, and hid this away in a clump of bushes. Then they again started -- Gerald Burke with his arm in a sling and Geoffrey limping along with the aid of a thick stick he had cut in the wood.

On arriving at the village, a quarter of a mile from the gates of the mansion, they went into a small wine shop and called for two measures of the cheapest wine and a loaf of bread. Here they sat for some time, listening to the conversation of the peasants who frequented the wine shop. Sometimes a question was asked of the wayfarers. Gerald replied, for his companion's Spanish although fluent was not good enough to pass as that of a native. He replied to the question as to where they had received their hurts that they were survivors of the Armada, and grumbled that it was hard indeed that men who had fought in the Netherlands and had done their duty to their country should be turned adrift to starve.

"We have enough to pay for our supper and a night's lodging," he said, "but where we are going to take our meal tomorrow is more than I can say, unless we can meet with some charitable people."

"If you take your place by the roadside tomorrow morning," one of the peasants said, "you may obtain charity from Donna Inez de Ribaldo. She comes every morning to mass here; and they say she has a kind heart, which is more than men give her father the marquis the credit of possessing. We have not many poor round here, for at this time of year all hands are employed in the vineyards, therefore there is the more chance of your obtaining a little help."

"Thank you; I will take your advice," Gerald said. "I suppose she is sure to come?"

"She is sure enough; she never misses when she is staying here."

That night the friends slept on a bundle of straw in an outhouse behind the wine shop, and arranged everything; and upon the following morning took their seats by the roadside near the village. The bell of the chapel was already sounding, and in a few minutes they saw two ladies approaching, followed at a very short distance by a serving man. They had agreed that the great patch over Gerald's eye aided by the false moustachios, so completely disguised his appearance that they need have no fear of his being recognized; and it was therefore decided he should do the talking. As Donna Inez came up he commenced calling out: "Have pity, gracious ladies, upon two broken down soldiers. We have gone through all the dangers and hardships of the terrible voyage of the great Armada. We served in the ship San Josef and are now broken down, and have no means of earning our living."

Gerald had somewhat altered his natural voice while speaking, but Geoffrey was watching Donna Inez closely, and saw her start when he began to speak; and when he said they had been on board the San Josef a flush of colour came across her face.

"We must relieve these poor men," she said to the duenna; "it is pitiful to see them in such a state."

"We know not that their tale is true," the duenna replied sharply. "Every beggar in our days pretends to be a broken down soldier."

At this moment Donna Inez happened to glance at Geoffrey, who raised his hand to his face and permitted a corner of a letter to be momentarily seen.

"An impostor!" Gerald cried in a loud voice. "To think that I, suffering from my terrible wounds, should be taken as an impostor," and with a hideous yell he tumbled down as if in a fit, and rolled over and over on the ground towards the duenna.

Seized with alarm at his approach, she turned and ran a few paces backward. As she did so Geoffrey stepped up to Inez and held out the note, which she took and concealed instantly in her dress.

"There is nothing to be alarmed at," she cried to the duenna. "The poor man is doubtless in a fit. Here, my poor fellow, get aid for your comrade," and taking out her purse she handed a dollar to Geoffrey, and then joining the duenna proceeded on her way.

Geoffrey knelt beside his prostrate companion and appeared to be endeavouring to restore him, until the ladies and their servant were out of sight.

"That was well managed," Gerald Burke said, sitting up as soon as a turn of the road hid them from view. "Now we shall have our answer tomorrow. Thank goodness there is no occasion for us to remain any longer in these garments!"

They went to the wood and resumed their usual attire, and then walked to a large village some four miles away, and putting up at the principal inn remained there until early the next morning; then they walked back to the village they had left on the previous day and posted themselves in a thicket by the roadside, so that they could see passersby without being themselves observed.

"My fate will soon be decided now," Gerald said. "Will she wear a white flower or not?"

"I am pretty sure that she will," Geoffrey said. "She would not have started and coloured when she recognized your voice if she did not love you. I do not think you need be under much uneasiness on that score."

In half an hour the ladies again came along, followed as before by their servants. Donna Inez wore a bunch of white flowers in her dress.

"There is my answer," Gerald said. "Thank heaven! she loves me, and is ready to fly with me, and will steal out some time after dark to meet me in the garden."

As there was no occasion for him to stay longer, Geoffrey returned to the village where they slept the night before, and accounted for his companion's absence by saying that he had been detained on business and would probably not return until late at night, as he would not be able to see the person with whom he had affairs to transact until late. It was past ten o'clock when Gerald Burke returned.

"It is all arranged, Geoffrey. I hid in the garden close by the terrace as soon as it became dark. An hour later she came out and sauntered along the terrace until I softly called her name; then she came to me. She loves me with all her heart, and is ready to share my fate whatever it may be. Her father only two days ago had ordered her to prepare for her marriage with Don Philip, and she was in despair until she recognized my voice yesterday morning. She is going with her father to a grand festa at Seville next Wednesday. They will stop there two nights -- the one before the festa and the one after. I told her that I could not say yet whether I should make the attempt to carry her off on her journey or after her return here, as that must depend upon circumstances. At any rate, that gives us plenty of time to prepare our plans. Tomorrow we will hire horses and ride to Seville, and I will there arrange with one of my friends at the Irish College to perform the ceremony. However, we will talk it all over tomorrow as we ride. I feel as sleepy as a dog now after the day's excitement."

Upon the road next day they agreed that if possible they would manage to get Inez away in Seville itself Owing to the large number of people who would be attracted there to witness the grand procession and high mass at the cathedral, the streets would be crowded, and it might be possible for Inez to slip away from those with her. If this could be managed it would be greatly preferable to the employment of the men to carry her off by force. Therefore they agreed that the band should be posted so that the party could be intercepted on its way back; but that this should be a last resource, and that if possible Inez should be carried off in Seville itself.

On reaching Seville they put up at an inn. Gerald at once proceeded to the Irish College. Here he inquired for a young priest, who had been a near neighbour of his in Ireland and a great friend of his boyhood. He was, he knew, about to return home. He found that he was at the moment away from Seville, having gone to supply the place of a village cure who had been taken suddenly ill. This village was situated, he was told, some six miles southeast of the town. It was already late in the afternoon, but time was precious; and Gerald, hiring a fresh horse, rode out at once to the village. His friend was delighted to see him, for they had not met since Gerald passed through Seville on his way to join the Armada at Cadiz, and the young priest had not heard whether he had escaped the perils of the voyage.

"It is lucky you have come, Gerald," he said when the first greetings were over, "for I am going to return to Ireland in a fortnight's time. I am already appointed to a charge near Cork, and am to sail in a Bristol ship which is expected in Cadiz about that time. Is there any chance of my meeting you there?"

"An excellent chance, Denis, though my route is not as clearly marked out as yours is. I wish to heaven that I could go by the same ship. And that leads to what I have come to see you about," and he then told his friend the service he wished him to render.

"It is rather a serious business, Gerald; and a nice scrape I should get in if it were found out that I had solemnized the marriage of a young lady under age without the consent of her father, and that father a powerful nobleman. However, I am not the man to fail you at a pinch, and if matters are well managed there is not much risk of its being found out that I had a hand in it until I am well away, and once in Ireland no one is likely to make any great fuss over my having united a runaway pair in Spain. Besides, if you and the young lady have made up your minds to run away, it is evidently necessary that you should be married at once; so my conscience is perfectly clear in the business. And now, what is your plan?"

"The only part of my plan that is settled is to bring her here and marry her. After that I shall have horses ready, and we will ride by unfrequented roads to Malaga or some other port and take a passage in a ship sailing say to Italy, for there is no chance of getting a vessel hence to England. Once in Italy there will be no difficulty in getting a passage to England. I have with me a young Englishman, as staunch a friend as one can need. I need not tell you all about how I became acquainted with him; but he is as anxious to get out of Spain as I am, and that is saying no little."

"It seems rather a vague plan, Gerald. There is sure to be a great hue and cry as soon as the young lady is found to be missing. The marquis is a man of great influence, and the authorities will use every effort to enable him to discover her."

"You see, Denis, they will have no reason for supposing that I have had any hand in the matter, and therefore no special watch will be set at the ports. The duenna for her own sake is not likely to say a word about any passages she may have observed between us at Madrid, and she is unaware that there have been any communications with her since."

"I suppose you will at once put on disguises, Gerald."

"Yes, that will of course be the first thing."

"If you dress her as a young peasant woman of the better class and yourself as a small cultivator, I will mention to my servant that I am expecting my newly married niece and her husband to stay with me for a few days. The old woman will have no idea that I, an Irishman, would not have a Spanish niece, and indeed I do not suppose that she has any idea that I am not a Spaniard. I will open the church myself and perform the service late in the evening, so that no one will be aware of what is going on. Of course I can put up your friend too. Then you can stay quietly here as long as you like."

"That will do admirably, Denis; but I think we had best go on the next morning," Gerald said, "although it will be a day or two before there is anything like an organized pursuit. It will be supposed that she is in Seville, and inquiries will at first be confined to that town. If she leaves a note behind saying that she is determined even to take the veil rather than marry the man her father has chosen for her, that will cause additional delay. It will be supposed that she is concealed in the house of some friend, or that she has sought a refuge in a nunnery, and at any rate there is not likely to be any search over the country for some days, especially as her father will naturally be anxious that what he will consider an act of rebellion on the part of his daughter shall not become publicly known."

"All this, of course, is if we succeed in getting her clear away during the fete. If we have to fall back on the other plan I was talking of and carry her off by force on the way home, the search will be immediate and general. In that case nothing could be better than your plan that we should stop here quietly for a few days with you. They will be searching for a band of robbers and will not dream of making inquiry for the missing girl in a quiet village like this."

"Well, we will leave that open, Gerald. I shall let it be known that you are expected, and whenever you arrive you will be welcome."

As soon as the point was arranged Gerald again mounted his horse and returned to Seville. There upon the following morning he engaged a lodging for the three days of the festa in a quiet house in the outskirts of the town, and they then proceeded to purchase the various articles necessary for their disguise and that of Inez. The next morning they started on their return to Jeres. Here Gerald made arrangements with the band to meet him in a wood on the road to Cadiz at eight in the morning on the day following the termination of the festa at Seville. One of the party was to proceed on that day to the house among the hills they had fixed upon as their hiding place, and to get provisions and everything requisite for the reception of their captive. They received another five crowns each, the remaining fifteen was to be paid them as soon as they arrived with their captive at the house.

The party remained in ignorance as to the age and sex of the person they were to carry off, and had little curiosity as to the point, as they regarded this but a small adventure in comparison to the lucrative schemes in which they were afterwards to be sharers.

These arrangements made, Gerald and Geoffrey returned to Seville, and reached that city on the eve of the commencement of the festa, and took up their abode at the lodging they had hired. On the following morning they posted themselves in the street by which the party they expected would arrive. Both were attired in quiet citizen dress, and Gerald retained his formidable moustachios and bushy eyebrows.

In two or three hours a coach accompanied by four lackeys on horseback came up the street, and they saw that it contained the Marquis of Ribaldo, his daughter, and her duenna. They followed a short distance behind it until it entered the courtyard of a stately mansion, which they learnt on inquiry from a passerby belonged to the Duke of Sottomayor. The streets were already crowded with people in holiday attire, the church bells were ringing, and flags and decorations of all kinds waved along the route that was to be followed by the great procession. The house did not stand on this line, and it was necessary therefore for its inmates to pass through the crowd either to the cathedral or to the balcony of the house from which they might intend to view the procession pass.

Half an hour after the arrival of the coach, the marquis and his daughter, accompanied by Don Philip de Sottomayor, sallied out, escorted by six armed lackeys, and took their way towards the cathedral. They had, however, arrived very late, and the crowd had already gathered so densely that even the efforts of the lackeys and the angry commands of the marquis and Don Philip failed to enable them to make a passage. Very slowly indeed they advanced some distance into the crowd, but each moment their progress became slower. Gerald and Geoffrey had fallen in behind them and advanced with them as they worked themselves in the crowd.

Angry at what they considered the impertinence of the people for refusing to make way for them, the nobles pressed forward and engaged in an angry controversy with those in front, who urged, and truly, that it was simply impossible for them to make way, so wedged in were they by the people on all sides. The crowd, neither knowing nor caring who were those who thus wished to take precedence of the first comers, began to jeer and laugh at the angry nobles, and when these threatened to use force threatened in return.

As soon as her father had left her side, Gerald, who was immediately behind Inez, whispered in her ear, "Now is the time, Inez. Go with my friend; I will occupy the old woman."

"Keep close to me, senora, and pretend that you are ill," Geoffrey said, to her, and without hesitation Inez turned and followed him, drawing her mantilla more closely over her face.

"Let us pass, friends," Geoffrey said as he elbowed his way through those standing behind them, "the lady needs air," and by vigorous efforts he presently arrived at the outskirts of the crowd, and struck off with his charge in the direction of their lodging. "Gerald Burke will follow us as soon as he can get out," he said. "Everything is prepared for you, senora, and all arrangements made."

"Who are you, sir?" the girl asked. "I do not recall your face, and yet I seem to have seen it before."

"I am English, senora, and am a friend of Gerald Burke's. When in Madrid I was disguised as his servant; for as an Englishman and a heretic it would have gone hard with me had I been detected."

There were but few people in the streets through which they passed, the whole population having flocked either to the streets through which the procession was to pass, or to the cathedral or churches it was to visit on its way. Gerald had told Inez at their interview that, although he had made arrangements for carrying her off by force on the journey to or from Seville, he should, if possible, take advantage of the crowd at the function to draw her away from her companions. She had, therefore, put on her thickest lace mantilla, and this now completely covered her face from the view of passersby. Several times she glanced back.

"Do nor be uneasy about him, senora," Geoffrey said. "He will not try to extricate himself from the crowd until you are discovered to be missing, as to do so would be to attract attention. As soon as your loss is discovered he will make his way out, and will then come on at the top of his speed to the place whither I am conducting you, and I expect that we shall find him at the door awaiting us."

A quarter of an hour's walk took them to the lodging, and Inez gave a little cry of joy as the door was opened to them by Gerald himself.

"The people of the house are all out," he said, after their first greeting. "In that room you will find a peasant girl's dress. Dress yourself as quickly as you can; we shall be ready for you in attire to match. You had best do up your own things into a bundle, which I will carry. If they were left here they might, when the news of your being missing gets abroad, afford a clue to the manner of your escape. I will tell you all about the arrangements we have made as we go along."

"Have you arranged --" and she hesitated.

"Yes, an Irish priest, who is an old friend of mine, will perform the ceremony this evening."

A few minutes later two seeming peasants and a peasant girl issued out from the lodging. The two men carried stout sticks with bundles slung over them.

"Be careful of that bundle," Inez said, "for there are all my jewels in it. After what you had said I concealed them all about me. They are my fortune, you know. Now, tell me how you got on in the crowd."

"I first pushed rather roughly against the duenna, and then made the most profuse apologies, saying that it was shameful people should crowd so, and that they ought at once to make way for a lady who was evidently of high rank. This mollified her, and we talked for three or four minutes; and in the meantime the row in front, caused by your father and the lackeys quarrelling with the people, grew louder and louder. The old lady became much alarmed, and indeed the crowd swayed about so that she clung to my arm. Suddenly she thought of you, and turning round gave a scream when she found you were missing. 'What is the matter?' I asked anxiously. 'The young lady with me! She was here but an instant ago!' (She had forgotten you for fully five minutes.) 'What can have become of her?'

"I suggested that no doubt you were close by, but had got separated from her by the pressure of the crowd. However, she began to squall so loudly that the marquis looked round. He was already in a towering rage, and he asked angrily, 'What are you making all this noise about?' and then looking round exclaimed, 'Where is Inez?' 'She was here a moment since!' the old lady exclaimed, 'and now she has got separated from me.' Your father looked in vain among the crowd, and demanded whether anyone had seen you. Someone said that a lady who was fainting had made her way out five minutes before. The marquis used some strong language to the old lady, and then informed Don Philip what had happened, and made his way back out of the crowd with the aid of the lackeys, and is no doubt inquiring for you in all the houses near; but, as you may imagine, I did not wait. I followed close behind them until they were out of the crowd, and then slipped away, and once round the corner took to my heels and made my way back, and got in two or three minutes before you arrived."

The two young men talked almost continuously during their walk to the village in order to keep up the spirits of Donna Inez, and to prevent her from thinking of the strangeness of her position and the perils that lay before them before safety could be obtained. Only once she spoke of the future.

"Is it true, Gerald, that there are always storms and rain in your country, and that you never see the sun, for so some of those who were in the Armada have told me?"

"It rains there sometimes, Inez, I am bound to admit; but it is often fine, and the sun never burns one up as it does here. I promise you you will like it, dear, when you once become accustomed to it."

"I do not think I shall," she said, shaking her head; "I am accustomed to the sun, you know. But I would rather be with you even in such an island as they told me of than in Spain with Don Philip."

The village seemed absolutely deserted when they arrived there, the whole population having gone over to Seville to take part in the great fete. Father Denis received his fair visitor with the greatest kindness. "Here, Catherine," he cried to his old servant, "here are the visitors I told you I expected. It is well that we have the chambers prepared, and that we killed that capon this morning."

That evening Gerald Burke and Inez de Ribaldo were married in the little church, Geoffrey Vickars being the only witness. The next morning there was a long consultation over their plans. "I could buy you a cart in the village and a pair of oxen, and you could drive to Malaga," the priest said, "but there would be a difficulty about changing your disguises after you had entered the town. I think that the boldest plan will be the safest one. I should propose that you should ride as a well to do trader to Malaga, with your wife behind you on a pillion, and your friend here as your servant. Lost as your wife was in the crowd at the fete, it will be a long time before the fact that she has fled will be realized. For a day or two the search will be conducted secretly, and only when the house of every friend whom she might have visited has been searched will the aid of the authorities be called in, and the poorer quarters, where she might have been carried by two or three ruffians who may have met her as she emerged in a fainting condition, as is supposed, from the crowd, be ransacked. I do not imagine that any search will be made throughout the country round for a week at least, by which time you will have reached Malaga, and, if you have good fortune, be on board a ship."

This plan was finally agreed to. Gerald and his friend at once went over to Seville and purchased the necessary dresses, together with two strong horses and equipments. It was evening before their return to the village. Instead of entering it at once they rode on a mile further, and fastened the horses up in a wood. Gerald would have left them there alone, but Geoffrey insisted on staying with them for the night.

"I care nothing about sleeping in the open air, Gerald, and it would be folly to risk the success of our enterprise upon the chance of no one happening to come through the wood, and finding the animals before you return in the morning. We had a hearty meal at Seville, and I shall do very well until morning."

Gerald and his wife took leave of the friendly priest at daybreak the next morning, with the hope that they would very shortly meet in Ireland. They left the village before anyone was stirring.

The peasant clothes had been left behind them. Gerald carried two valises, the one containing the garments in which Inez had fled, the other his own attire -- Geoffrey having resumed the dress he had formerly worn as his servant.

On arriving at the wood the party mounted, and at once proceeded on their journey. Four days' travel took them to Malaga, where they arrived without any adventure whatever. Once or twice they met parties of rough looking men; but travelling as they did without baggage animals, they did not appear promising subjects for robbery, and the determined appearance of master and man, each armed with sword and pistols, deterred the fellows from an attempt which promised more hard knocks than plunder.

After putting up at an inn in Malaga, Gerald went down at once to the port to inquire for a vessel bound for Italy. There were three or four such vessels in the harbour, and he had no difficulty in arranging for a passage to Naples for himself, his wife, and servant. The vessel was to sail on the following morning, and it was with a deep feeling of satisfaction and relief that they went on board her, and an hour later were outside the port.

"It seems marvellous to me," Gerald said, as he looked back upon the slowly receding town, "that I have managed to carry off my prize with so little difficulty. I had expected to meet with all sorts of dangers, and had I been the peaceful trader I looked, our journey could not be more uneventful."

"Perhaps you are beginning to think that the prize is not so very valuable after all," Inez said, "since you have won it so easily."

"I have not begun to think so yet," Gerald laughed happily. "At any rate I shall wait until I get you home before such ideas begin to occur to me."

"Directly I get to Ireland," Inez said, "I shall write to my father and tell him that I am married to you, and that I should never have run away had he not insisted on my marrying a man I hated. I shall, of course, beg him to forgive me; but I fear he never will."

"We must hope that he will, Inez, and that he will ask you to come back to Spain sometimes. I do not care for myself, you know, for as I have told you my estate in Ireland is amply large enough for my wants; but I shall be glad, for your sake, that you should be reconciled to him."

Inez shook her head.

"You do not know my father, Gerald. I would never go back to Spain again -- not if he promised to give me his whole fortune. My father never forgives; and were he to entice me back to Spain, it would be only to shut me up and to obtain a dispensation from Rome annulling the marriage, which he would have no difficulty in doing. No, you have got me, and will have to keep me for good. I shall never return to Spain, never. Possibly when my father hears from me he may send me over money to make me think he has forgiven me, and to induce me some day or other to come back to visit him, and so get me into his power again; but that, Gerald, he shall never do."

G. A. Henty