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“I believe you have money," Estella's blotting-book bore the imsaid the general suddenly.
press of more than one death-warrant, “I have only enough,” admitted the written casually on her stationery and old man, “to take me back to Ronda, with her pen. whither, by the way, my duty calls “Will you have the goodness to deme."
spatch those at once?" was the "I think not. Your master can spare sage taken by the orderly to the genyou for a while; my mistress cannot do eral's aide-de-camp, and the gallopers, without you."
who were always in readiness, smiled At this moment Estella came back as they heard the modest request. into the room ready for her journey. “It will be pleasant to travel in the The girl had changed of late. Her face cool of the evening, provided that one had lost a little roundness and had guards against a chill,” said the gengained exceedingly in expression. Her eral, making his final preparations. “I eyes, too, were different. That change require but a moment to speak to my had come to them which comes to all faithful aide-de-camp, and then we emwomen between the ages of twenty bark.” and thirty, quite irrespective of their The moon was rising as the carriage state. A certain restlessness or a quiet rattled across the bridge of Alcantara, content are what one usually sees in a and Larralde, taking the air between woman's face. Estella's eyes wore Wamba's Gate and the little fort that that latter look which seems to indi- guards the entrance to the city, reco:cate a knowledge of the meaning of nized the equipage as it passed him. life and a contentment that it should Fle saw also the outline of Concha's be no different.
figure in the darkest corner of the carVincente was writing at the table. riage, with his back to the horses, his
"We shall want help,” he said, with- head bowed in meditation. Estella he out looking up. “I am sending for a saw and recognized, while two mounted good man."
attendants, clattering in the rear of the And he smiled as he shook the small carriage, testified by their presence to sand-caster over the paper.
the fact that the general had taken the “May one ask," said Concha, "where road again. we are going?”
"It is well,” said Larralde to himself. "We are going to Ciudad Real, my “They are all going back to Ronda, dear padre, since you are so curious; and Julia will be rid of their influence. but we shall come back-we shall come Ronda will serve as well as Toledo so back."
far as Vincente is concerned, but I will He was writing another despatch as wait, to make sure that they are not he spoke, and at a ign from him Es- losing sight of him." tella went to the door and clapped her So Señor Larralde, cloaked to the hands, the only method of summoning eyebrows, leant gracefully against the a servant in general use at that time in wall, and, like many another upon the Spain. The call was answered by an bridge after that breathless day, drank orderly, who stood at attention in the in the cool air that rose from the river. doorway for a full five minutes while Presently, indeed before the sound of the general wrote further orders in his the distant wheels was quite lost, two neat, small caligraphy. There were horsemen, cloaked and provided with half-a-dozen letters in all, curt, mili- such light luggage as the saddle can tary despatches, without preamble and accommodate, rode leisurely through without mercy, for this soldier con- the gateway and up the incline that ducted military matters in a singularly makes a short cut to the great road domestic way, planning his campaigns running southward to Ciudad Real. by the fireside, and bringing about the Larralde gave a little nod of self-confi. downfall of an enemy while sitting in dence and satisfaction, as who, his daughter's drawing-room. Indeed, having conceived and built up a great
scheme, is pleased to see each compo- and the Guadiana. At times they nent part of it act independently and passed through well-tended valleys, slip into its place.
and olives and vines The general's first thought was for seemed to grow on the same soil, but Estella's comfort, and he utilized the for the greater part of the night they long hill, which they had to ascend on ascended and descended the upper leaving the town, to make such ar- slopes, where herds of goats, half rangements as space would allow for awakened as they slept in a ring about their common ease.
their guardian, looked at them with "You must sleep, my child,” he said. startled eyes. The shepherds aud "We cannot hope to reach Ciudad Real goatherds, who, like those of old, lay before midday to-morrow, and it is as cloaked upon the ground and tended likely as not that we shall have but a their flocks by night, did not trouble few hours' rest there."
to raise their heads. And Estella, who had travelled vast Concha alone slept, for the general distances over vile roads so long as her had a thousand thoughts that kept him memory went back, who had never awake and bright-eyed, while Estella known what it is to live in a country knew, from her father's manner and that is at peace, leant back in her cor- restlessness, that these were no small ner and closed her
eyes. Had she events that now stirred Spain and really been disposed to sleep, however, seemed to close men's mouths, so that she could scarcely have done it, for the near friends distrusted one another and general's solicitude manifested itself brother was divided against brother. by a hundred little devices for her Indeed, others were on the road that greater repose. For her comfort he night, and horsemen passed the heary made Concha move.
carriage from time to time. “An old traveller like you must shift In the early morning a change of for yourself," he said gaily.
horses was effected at a large inn near "No need to seek shelter for an old the summit of a pass above Malagov, ox,” replied Concha, moving into the and here an orderly, who seemed to other corner, where he carefully un- recognize the general, was climbing folded his pocket-handkerchief, and into the saddle as the Vincentes quitted laid it over his face, where, his long their carriage and passed into the comnose protruding, caused it to fall in mon room of the venta for a hasty cup fantastic folds. He clasped his hands of coffee. upon his hat, which lay upon his knee, "It is the queen's courier," said the and, leaning back, presently began to innkeeper grandly, “who takes the snore gently and regularly, a peaceful, road before her Majesty, in order to sesleep-inducing sound, and an excellent cure horses." example. The general, whose sword "Ah!" said the general, breaking his seemed to take up half the carriage, bread and dropping it into his cup; "is still watched Estella, and if the air that so? The queen regent, you made her mantilla flutter, flew to the mean." window with the solicitude of a lover "Queen or queen
regent, she and a maternal noiselessness. Then, quires four horses this evening, excelwith one hand on hers and the other lency; that is all my concern." grasping his sword, leant back, but did “True, my friend-true. That is well not close his eyes.
said. And the horses will be forthcomThus they travelled on through the ing, no doubt?" luminous night. The roads
“They will be forthcoming," said the neither worse nor better than they are man; "and the excellency's carriage is to-day in Spain, than they were in En- ready." gland in the Middle Ages, and their In the early morning light they drove way lay over the hill ranges that lie be- on, now descending toward the great tween the watersheds of the Tagus valley of the Guadiana, and at midday,
as Vincente had foreseen, gained a is usually weak, but women dirsight of the ancient city of Ciudad ferent; and this face, with its faded Real, lying amid trees below them. complexion and tired eyes, this woman
Ciudad Real is less interesting than of the majestic presence and beautiful its name, and there is little that is hands, was both strong and sensual. royal about its dirty streets and ill-kept This, in a word, was queen who houses. No one gave great heed to the never forgot that she was woman. travelling carriage, for this is a great As it was said of the Princess Chriscentre, where travellers journeying tina, so it has been spoken of the east or west, north or south must needs queen, that many had killed thempause for a change of horses. At the selves for hopeless love of her, for this inn there were vacant rooms and that was the most dangerous of the world's hasty welcome accorded to the travel- creatures, royal coquette. Such ler at wayside houses, where none stay would our own Queen Bess have been, longer than they can help.
had not God, for the good of England, "No," said the landlord, in answer to given her a plain face and an ungainly the general's query; "we are not busy, form, for surely the devil is in it when though we expect a lady, who will pass a woman can command both love and the hour of the siesta here and then men. Queen Christina, since the death proceed northward."
of a husband, who was
than herself and, as some say, before CHAPTER XXVI.
that historic event), had played WOMANCRAFT.
woman's game with that skill which “Il est rare que la tête des rois soit faite à la men only half recognize, and had mesuré de leur couronné.”
played it with the additional incentive In the best room of the inn, where that behind her insatiable vanity lay Vincente and his tired companions the heavier stake of a crown. sought a few hours' rest, there sat She is not the first to turn the strong alone and in thought a lady of middle current of man's passion to her own de age. Somewhat stout, she yet had that liberate gain; nay, ninety-nine out of a air which arouses the attention with hundred women do it. But the majorout being worthy of the
of ity only play for a suburban villa and a beauty. This lady had, doubtless, few hundred pounds year; Queen swayed men's hearts by a word or a Christina of Spain handled her cards glance, for she still carried herself with for a throne and the countenance of au assurance, and a hundred little details ill-starred dynasty. of her dress would have told another As she sat in the hotel chamber in woman that she still desired to please. Ciudad Real, that forlornest of royal
The hour of the siesta was over, and cities, her face wore the pettish look of after the great heat of the day a cool one who, having passed through great air was swaying down on the bosom of events, having tasted of great passions, the river to the parched lowlands. It and moved amid the machinery of life stirred the leaves of a climbing helio. and death, finds the ordinary routine of trope, which encircled the open win- existence intolerably irksome. Many dows and wafted into the ill-furnished faces wear such a look in this country room a scent of stable-yard and dust. every second beautiful face in Lon
The lady, sitting with her chin rest- don has it. And these women-Heaven ing in the palm of her small, white help them!—find the morning hours hand, seemed to have lately roused her. dull because every afternoon has not self from sleep, and now had the ex- its great event, and every evening the pectant air of one who awaits a car- hollow excitement of a social function. riage and is about to set out on a long The queen was travelling incognita, journey. Her eyes were dark and tired and that fact alone robbed her progress looking, and their expression was not of a sense of excitement. She had to that of a good woman. A sensual man do without the shout of the multitude,
the passing admiration of the man in "Ah! what is it that concerns my the street. She knew that she was yet life-another plot?" she
inquired many hours removed from Madrid, shortly. where she had admirers and the next "Another plot, but one of greater imbest possession, enemies. Ciudad Real portance than those that exist in the was intolerably dull and provincial. A republican cafés of every town in your servant knocked at the door.
Majesty's kingdom. This is a wide"General Vincente, your Majesty, spread conspiracy, and I fear that craves the favor of a moment."
many powerful persons are concerned "Ah!" exclaimed the queen, the light in it; but that, your Majesty, is not my returning to her eyes, faint color department nor concern." flushing her cheek. “In five minutes 1 "What is your concern, general?" she will receive him.”
asked, looking at him over her fan. And there is no need to say how the "To
your Majesty's life toqueen spent those minutes.
night.” "Your Majesty," said the general, "To-night!” she echoed, her coquetry bending over her hand, which he gone. touched with his lips, "I have news of "To-night." the greatest importance."
"But how and where?" The suggestion of a scornful smile “By assassination, madam, in Toflickered for a moment in the royal ledo. You are three hours late in your eyes. It was surely enough for any journey, but all Toledo will be astir, man that she was a woman, beautiful awaiting you, though it be till dawn.” still, possessing still that intangible The queen regent closed her fan and fatal gift of pleasing. The woman slowly. She was, as the rapid events slowly faded from her eyes they of her reign and regency proved, one of rested on the great soldier's face, and those women who rise to the occasion. the queen it was who, with a gracious “Then one must act at once," she gesture, bade him be seated. But the said. general remained standing. He alone, The general bowed. perhaps, of all the men who had “What have you done?" she asked. deal with her, of all those military pup- "I have sent to Madrid for a regipets with whom she played her royal ment that I know. They are as my game, had never crossed that intangi- own children. I have killed so many ble boundary which many had over- of them that the remainder love me. I stepped to their own inevitable undo. have travelled from Toledo ing.
your Majesty on the road here." “It concerns your Majesty's life," “And what means have you of presaid Vincente bluntly, and calm in the venting this thing?" certainty of his own theory that good "I have brought the means with me, blood, whether it flow in the veins of madam." man or woman, assuredly carries "Troops?” asked the queen doubthigh courage.
fully, knowing where the cankerworm "Ah!" said the queen regent, whose lay hidden. humor still inclined toward those af- “A woman and a priest, madam." fairs which interested her before the “Andaffairs of state; "but with men such as "And I propose that your Majesty you about me, my dear general, what journey to Madrid in my carriage, atneed I fear?”
tended only by my orderlies, by way of "Treachery, madam," he answered, Aranjuez. You will be safe in Madrid, with his sudden smile and bow-- where the queen
require her “treachery!"
mother's care." The lady frowned. When queen "Yes; and
the remainder of your stoops to dalliance a subject must not plan ?” be too practical.
"I will travel back to Toledo in your
Majesty's carriage, with the woman be no safer for your Majesty than is and the priest and your bodyguard, Toledo. You must be safely in Madrid just as your Majesty is in the habit of before it is discovered in Toledo that travelling. Toledo wants a fight, noth- you have taken the other route, and ing else will satisfy them. They shall that the person they have mistaken for have it before dawn-the very best I you is in reality my daughter.” have to offer them."
“But she may be killed !” exclaimed And General Vincente gave a queer, the queen. cheery little laugh, as if he
ar "We may all be killed, madam," he ranging a practical joke.
replied lightly. "I beg that you will "But the fight will be round my car- start at once in my carriage, with your riage.”
chaplain and the holy lady, who is "Possibly. I would rather that it doubtless travelling with you." took place in the Calle de la Ciudad or The queen glanced sharply at him. around the Casa del Argantamiento, It was known that, although her own where your Majesty is expected to life was anything but exemplary, she sleep to-night."
loved to associate with
who, "And these persons, this woman who under the cloak of religion and an aurisks her life to save mine, who is stere virtue, intrigued with all parties she?"
and condoned the queen's offences. "My daughter," answered the gen- "I cannot understand you,” she said, eral gravely.
with that sudden lapse into familiarity "She is here in the hotel now?"
which had led to the undoing of more The general bowed.
than one ambitious courtier; "you seeni "I have heard that she is beautiful," to worship the crown and despise the said the queen, with a quick glance head it rests on." toward her companion. “How is it "So long as I serve your Majesty that you have never brought her to faithfullycourt, you who come so seldom your
have no right to deself ?"
spise me!" she interrupted passionVincente made no reply.
ately. “However, bring her to me now.” "If I despised you should I be here
"She has travelled far, madam, and now, should I be doing you this seris not prepared for presentation to her vice?" queen."
"I do not know. I tell you I do not *This is no time for formalities. She understand you." is about to run a great risk for my And the queen looked hard at the sake, a greater risk than I could ever man who for this very
interask her to run. Present her one ested one who had all her life dealt and woman to another, general.”
intrigued with men of obvious motive But General Vincente bowed gravely and unblushing ambition. and made no reply. The color slowly So strong is a ruling passion, that rose to the queen regent's face, a dull, even in sight of death (for the queen shamed red. She opened her fan, regent knew that Spain was full of her closed it again, and sat with furtive, enemies and rendered callous to blooddowncast eyes.
Suddenly she looked shed by a long war) vanity was alert in up and met his gaze.
this woman's breast. Even while Gen“You refuse!” she said, with an in: eral Vincente, that unrivalled stratesolent air of indifference. “You think gist, detailed his plans, she kept harkthat I am unworthy to-meet your ing back to the question that puzzled daughter."
her, and but half listened to his in"I think only of the exigency of the structions. moment," was his reply. “Every min- Those desirous of travelling without ute we lose is a gain to our enemies. attracting attention in Spain are wisa If our trick is discovered Aranjuez will to time their arrival and departure for