“It is at number five, Calle de la Merced, but they will await, E. M.”
“And the other carriage that is on the road?” Marcos asked the man. “The carriage which brings the caballero—has it arrived in Saragossa?”
“Not yet,” answered the driver. “I have heard from one who passed them on the road that they had a second mishap just after leaving the inn of The Two Trees, where their Excellencies took coffee—a little mishap this one, which will only delay them an hour or less. He has no luck, that caballero.”
The man looked quite gravely at Marcos, who returned the glance as solemnly. For they were as brothers, these two, sons of that same mother, Nature, with whom they loved to deal, fighting her strong winds, her heat, her cold, her dust and rivers, reading her thousand and one secrets of the clouds, of night and dawn, which townsmen never know and never even suspect. They had a silent contempt for the small subtleties of a man’s mind, and were half ashamed of the business on which they were now engaged.
As the man withdrew in obedience to Marcos’ salutation, “Go with God,” the clock struck twelve.
“Come,” said Marcos to his father, “we must go to number five, Calle de la Merced. Do you know the house?”
“Yes; it is one of the many in Saragossa that stand empty, or are supposed to stand empty. It is an old religious house which was sacked in the disturbances of Christina’s reign.”
He walked to the window as he spoke and looked out.
The house had been thrown open for the first time for many years, and they now occupied one of the larger rooms looking across the garden to the Ebro.
“Ah! you have ordered the carriage,” he said, seeing the brougham standing at the door, and the rusty gates thrown open, giving egress to the Paseo del Ebro.
“Yes,” answered Marcos in an odd and restrained voice. “To bring Juanita back.”
The makers of history Number Five Calle de la Merced is to this day an empty house, like many in Saragossa, presenting to the passer-by a dusty stone face and huge barred windows over which the spiders have drawn their filmy curtain. For one reason or another there are many empty houses in the larger cities of Spain and many historical names have passed away. With them have faded into oblivion some religious orders and not a few kindred brotherhoods.
Number Five Calle de la Merced has its history like the rest of the monasteries, and the rounded cobblestones of the large courtyard bear to-day a black stain where, the curious inquirer will be told, the caretakers of the empty house have been in the habit of cooking their bread on a brazier of charcoal fanned into glow with a palm leaf scattering the ashes. But the true story of the black stain is in reality quite otherwise. For it was here that the infuriated people burnt the chapel furniture when the monasteries of Saragossa were sacked.