WHEREIN IS RELATED THE PLEASANT STORY OF THE MULETEER, TOGETHER WITH OTHER STRANGE THINGS THAT CAME TO PASS IN THE INN
Ah me, Love's mariner am I
On Love's deep ocean sailing;
I know not where the haven lies,
I dare not hope to gain it.
One solitary distant star
Is all I have to guide me,
A brighter orb than those of old
That Palinurus lighted.
And vaguely drifting am I borne,
I know not where it leads me;
I fix my gaze on it alone,
Of all beside it heedless.
But over-cautious prudery,
And coyness cold and cruel,
When most I need it, these, like clouds,
Its longed-for light refuse me.
Bright star, goal of my yearning eyes
As thou above me beamest,
When thou shalt hide thee from my sight
I'll know that death is near me.
The singer had got so far when it struck Dorothea that it was not fair to let Clara miss hearing such a sweet voice, so, shaking her from side to side, she woke her, saying:
"Forgive me, child, for waking thee, but I do so that thou mayest have the pleasure of hearing the best voice thou hast ever heard, perhaps, in all thy life."
Clara awoke quite drowsy, and not understanding at the moment what Dorothea said, asked her what it was; she repeated what she had said, and Clara became attentive at once; but she had hardly heard two lines, as the singer continued, when a strange trembling seized her, as if she were suffering from a severe attack of quartan ague, and throwing her arms round Dorothea she said:
"Ah, dear lady of my soul and life! why did you wake me? The greatest kindness fortune could do me now would be to close my eyes and ears so as neither to see or hear that unhappy musician."
"What art thou talking about, child?" said Dorothea. "Why, they say this singer is a muleteer!"
"Nay, he is the lord of many places," replied Clara, "and that one in my heart which he holds so firmly shall never be taken from him, unless he be willing to surrender it."
Dorothea was amazed at the ardent language of the girl, for it seemed to be far beyond such experience of life as her tender years gave any promise of, so she said to her:
"You speak in such a way that I cannot understand you, Senora Clara; explain yourself more clearly, and tell me what is this you are saying about hearts and places and this musician whose voice has so moved you? But do not tell me anything now; I do not want to lose the pleasure I get from listening to the singer by giving my attention to your transports, for I perceive he is beginning to sing a new strain and a new air."
"Let him, in Heaven's name," returned Clara; and not to hear him she stopped both ears with her hands, at which Dorothea was again surprised; but turning her attention to the song she found that it ran in this fashion:
Sweet Hope, my stay,
That onward to the goal of thy intent
Dost make thy way,
Heedless of hindrance or impediment,
Have thou no fear
If at each step thou findest death is near.
No joy of triumph doth the faint heart know;
Unblest is he
That a bold front to Fortune dares not show,
But soul and sense
In bondage yieldeth up to indolence.
If Love his wares
Do dearly sell, his right must be contest;
What gold compares
With that whereon his stamp he hath imprest?
And all men know
What costeth little that we rate but low.
Knows not the word "impossibility;"
And though my suit
Beset by endless obstacles I see,
Yet no despair
Shall hold me bound to earth while heaven is there.
Here the voice ceased and Clara's sobs began afresh, all which excited Dorothea's curiosity to know what could be the cause of singing so sweet and weeping so bitter, so she again asked her what it was she was going to say before. On this Clara, afraid that Luscinda might overhear her, winding her arms tightly round Dorothea put her mouth so close to her ear that she could speak without fear of being heard by anyone else, and said:
"This singer, dear senora, is the son of a gentleman of Aragon, lord of two villages, who lives opposite my father's house at Madrid; and though my father had curtains to the windows of his house in winter, and lattice-work in summer, in some way — I know not how — this gentleman, who was pursuing his studies, saw me, whether in church or elsewhere, I cannot tell, and, in fact, fell in love with me, and gave me to know it from the windows of his house, with so many signs and tears that I was forced to believe him, and even to love him, without knowing what it was he wanted of me. One of the signs he used to make me was to link one hand in the other, to show me he wished to marry me; and though I should have been glad if that could be, being alone and motherless I knew not whom to open my mind to, and so I left it as it was, showing him no favour, except when my father, and his too, were from home, to raise the curtain or the lattice a little and let him see me plainly, at which he would show such delight that he seemed as if he were going mad. Meanwhile the time for my father's departure arrived, which he became aware of, but not from me, for I had never been able to tell him of it. He fell sick, of grief I believe, and so the day we were going away I could not see him to take farewell of him, were it only with the eyes. But after we had been two days on the road, on entering the posada of a village a day's journey from this, I saw him at the inn door in the dress of a muleteer, and so well disguised, that if I did not carry his image graven on my heart it would have been impossible for me to recognise him. But I knew him, and I was surprised, and glad; he watched me, unsuspected by my father, from whom he always hides himself when he crosses my path on the road, or in the posadas where we halt; and, as I know what he is, and reflect that for love of me he makes this journey on foot in all this hardship, I am ready to die of sorrow; and where he sets foot there I set my eyes. I know not with what object he has come; or how he could have got away from his father, who loves him beyond measure, having no other heir, and because he deserves it, as you will perceive when you see him. And moreover, I can tell you, all that he sings is out of his own head; for I have heard them say he is a great scholar and poet; and what is more, every time I see him or hear him sing I tremble all over, and am terrified lest my father should recognise him and come to know of our loves. I have never spoken a word to him in my life; and for all that I love him so that I could not live without him. This, dear senora, is all I have to tell you about the musician whose voice has delighted you so much; and from it alone you might easily perceive he is no muleteer, but a lord of hearts and towns, as I told you already."
"Say no more, Dona Clara," said Dorothea at this, at the same time kissing her a thousand times over, "say no more, I tell you, but wait till day comes; when I trust in God to arrange this affair of yours so that it may have the happy ending such an innocent beginning deserves."
"Ah, senora," said Dona Clara, "what end can be hoped for when his father is of such lofty position, and so wealthy, that he would think I was not fit to be even a servant to his son, much less wife? And as to marrying without the knowledge of my father, I would not do it for all the world. I would not ask anything more than that this youth should go back and leave me; perhaps with not seeing him, and the long distance we shall have to travel, the pain I suffer now may become easier; though I daresay the remedy I propose will do me very little good. I don't know how the devil this has come about, or how this love I have for him got in; I such a young girl, and he such a mere boy; for I verily believe we are both of an age, and I am not sixteen yet; for I will be sixteen Michaelmas Day, next, my father says."
Dorothea could not help laughing to hear how like a child Dona Clara spoke. "Let us go to sleep now, senora," said she, "for the little of the night that I fancy is left to us: God will soon send us daylight, and we will set all to rights, or it will go hard with me."