Don Diego pronounced this declaration of love as good as anything to be found in the "Morte d'Arthur."
His daughter said I was laughing at her, but Don Diego said he was certain that I was in earnest, and that I had known her before taking her to the ball.
"You are utterly mistaken," said Donna Ignazia, with some degree of fire.
"Your father is wiser than you, senora," I replied.
"What! How and when did you see me?"
"At the church where I heard mass, and you communicated, when you went out with your cousin. I followed you at some distance; you can guess the rest."
She was speechless, and her father enjoyed the consciousness of his superior intellect.
"I am going to see the bull fight," said he; "it's a fine day, and all Madrid will be there, so one must go early to get a good place. I advise you to go, as you have never seen a bull fight; ask Don Jaime to take you with him, Ignazia."
"Would you like to have my companionship?" said she, tenderly.
"Certainly I would, but you must bring your cousin, as I am in love with her."
Don Diego burst out laughing, but Ignazia said, slyly,
"It is not so impossible after all."
We went to see the splendid but barbarous spectacle in which Spaniards take so much delight. The two girls placed themselves in front of the only vacant box, and I sat behind on the second bench, which was a foot and a half higher than the first. There were already two ladies there, and much to my amusement one of them was the famous Duchess of Villadorias. She was in front of me, and sat in such a position that her head was almost between my legs. She recognized me, and said we were fortunate in meeting one another; and then noticing Donna Ignazia, who was close to her, she congratulated me in French on her charms, and asked me whether she was my mistress or my wife. I replied that she was a beauty before whom I sighed in vain. She replied, with a smile, that she was rather a sceptical person; and turning to Donna Ignazia began a pleasant and amorous discourse, thinking the girl to be as learned in the laws of love as herself. She whispered something in her ear which made Ignazia blush, and the duchess, becoming enthusiastic, told me I had chosen the handsomest girl in Madrid, and that she would be delighted to see us both at her country house.
I promised to come, as I was obliged to do, but I begged to be excused naming the day. Nevertheless, she made me promise to call on her at four o'clock the next day, telling me, much to my terror, that she would be alone. She was pretty enough, but too notorious a character; and such a visit would have given rise to talk.
Happily the fight began, and silence became general, for the Spaniards are passionately devoted of bull fighting.
So much has been written on the subject that my readers will pardon my giving a detailed account of the fight. I may say that the sport is, in my opinion, a most barbarous one, and likely to operate unfavourably on the national morals; the arena is sometimes drenched in the blood of bulls, horses, and even of the unfortunate picadores and matadores, whose sole defence is the red rag with which they irritate the bull.
When it was over I escorted the girls--who had enjoyed themselves immensely--back to the house, and made the ugly cousin stay to supper, as I foresaw that they would again sleep together.
We supped together, but it was a melancholy affair, for Don Diego was away, and I did not feel in the humour to amuse my company.
Donna Ignazia became pensive when, in reply to a question of hers, I said that it would be absolutely rude of me not to go to the duchess's.
"You will come with me some day," I added, "to dine at her country house."
"You need not look for that."
"Because she is a madwoman. She talked to me in a way that would have offended me if I did not know that she fancied she was honouring me by laying aside her rank."
We rose from table, and after I had dismissed my man we sat on the balcony to wait for Don Diego and to enjoy the delicious evening breezes.