Page images

bassy, not for thy, but my views. Long have I sighed for an opportunity of flying thy hated presence. It has offered, and I have greedily snatched at it. Truly I smile at the thoughtI-a boy—an infant in cunning—am sent to penetrate the soul of the mysterious Alba ! What folly—it were madness to attempt it. It is for thee, my Dolores, that I go to seek a man beneath whose gaze I quail. Strange man, who fascinates and awes. But I must flatter -humble-ingratiate myself—do all to gain the confidence of Philip's favourite. Thenthen I may, perhaps, quit my prison, andO intoxicating thought, then I shall once more behold my Dolores !"

It was profound night, and the Palace of Culemberg was brilliantly illuminated. The shouts of revelry now and then were heard by passers by. The Spanish hounds were feasting. In a distant room of the building, remote from noise and intrusion, sat two men in deep conversation. The one, grave and demure, was almost past the meridian of life-the other, was young, and his mind, as well as his body, full of elasticity.

Well, well,” observed the elder, who had attentively listened to his juvenile companion, " I see that the Duchess wishes to confer privately with me. You say she thinks I have not been frank and candid enough? To-morrow she shall not complain, I warrant. But you, Alcantara, are you satisfied with your employer ?

“I would rather serve your Grace. I am ambitious to be reckoned amongst the number of your followers. This effeminate life displeases, and with so able a master as your Grace, I may hope one day~"

To do me credit," observed Alba.

Fernando. bowed, and then entreated the Duke to engage him.

6. Your wish shall be fulfilled. teem your father, and shall be happy to serve his

Go, Alcantara, tell the Duchess I shall wait on her to-morrow-and be cautious.”

With a light heart our hero retraced his

I es


steps to the Palace - briefly narrated to the Regent that the Duke would favour her with an interview; and then retired to his chamber to dream of Love and Ambition.

According to his promise, Alba waited on the Regent.

“And has my brother not entrusted you with other instructions ?

“ I have already handed your Highness the dispatches."

“Which give no instructions. If your Grace has secret authority, why conceal it from me ? Why not aid me in preventing the flight of the citizens ?

One of those ominous smiles flickered on Alba's face.

“Sooner or later," continued Margaret, unmindful of his silence, “I must know them. Candour on your part would be a salutary balm to our present disturbance!”

My medicament will cure in the end, although its application may smart. The leech

- Ah!

is often obliged to torture his patient, ere he can eradicate the evil.”

“ Your Grace is metaphorical.” “ And your Highness pressing."

“ Pressing !" exclaimed the Regent disdainfully; “I might command !”

“Some!” replied Alba, who again smiled inauspiciously; “But no one commands Alba, save the King of Spain.”

And have I governed these provinces nine years, and lived through so much affliction, to hear this from the Duke of Alba ? Do you forget, proud nobleman, that Philip is

brother-and that the daughter of Charles the Fifth is as haughty as her Sire ? Beware of a woman's anger!”

Alba stared—rose—but on second thoughts, reseated himself.

“Since your Highness insists, I will exhibit my private instructions. They are written by the King's own hand ; and I was commanded by his Majesty to deliver them only in case of emergency."

Margaret bit her lip: by a strenuous effort


[ocr errors]

she tried to compose herself. But the hand which held the secret communications trembled as she perused them.

Having read them, she returned them to the Duke, who coolly demanded of her what she thought of his orders.

“That the immense command my brother has vested in you, will tend more to augment than diminish rebellion." “The King thinks differently."

My brother is grossly deceived.” “By whom ?

By all who surround him.” “ His Majesty's penetration guards him against your fears.

These dastards require, not a distaff, but a rod of iron, to be wielded by one who knows not to spare, but for a purpose."

Sancta Madonna! And that man ?”
“ Is Alvarez of Toledo !"

“Shame on your Grace. The descendant of the Kings of Toledo to become a cold-blooded tyrant !”

“I know my duty both to Heaven and my

« PreviousContinue »