One night, after a sultry summer’s day, an old hidalgo of Toledo walked out to take the air by the river’s side, along with his wife, his little boy, his daughter aged sixteen, and a female servant. Eleven o’clock had struck: it was a fine clear night: they were the only persons on the road; and they sauntered leisurely along, to avoid paying the price of fatigue for the recreation provided for the Toledans in their valley or on the banks of their river. Secure as he thought in the careful administration of justice in that city, and the character of its well-disposed inhabitants, the good hidalgo was far from thinking that any disaster could befal his family. But as misfortunes commonly happen when they are least looked for, so it chanced with this family, who were that night visited, in the midst of their innocent enjoyment, by a calamity which gave them cause to weep for many a year.
There was in that city a young cavalier, about two-and-twenty years of age, whom wealth, high birth, a wayward disposition, inordinate indulgence, and profligate companions impelled to do things which disgraced his rank. This young cavalier—whose real name we shall, for good reasons, conceal under that of Rodolfo—was abroad that night with four of his companions, insolent young roisterers like himself, and happened to be coming down a hill as the old hidalgo and his family were ascending it. The two parties, the sheep and the wolves, met each other. Rodolfo and his companions, with their faces muffled in their cloaks, stared rudely and insolently at the mother, the daughter, and the servant-maid. The old hidalgo indignantly remonstrated; they answered him with mocks and jeers, and passed on. But Rodolfo had been struck by the great beauty of Leocadia, the hidalgo’s daughter, and presently he began to entertain the idea of enjoying it at all hazards. In a moment he communicated his thoughts to his companions, and in the next moment they resolved to turn back and carry her off to please Rodolfo; for the rich who are open-handed always find parasites ready to encourage their bad propensities; and thus to conceive this wicked design, to communicate it, approve it, resolve on ravishing Leocadia, and to carry that design into effect was the work of a moment.
They drew their swords, hid their faces in the flaps of their cloaks, turned back, and soon came in front of the little party, who had not yet done giving thanks to God for their escape from those audacious men. Rodolfo laid hold on Leocadia, caught her up in his arms, and ran off with her, whilst she was so overcome with surprise and terror, that far from being able to defend herself or cry out, she had not even sense or sight left to see her ravisher, or know whither he was carrying her. Her father shouted, her mother shrieked, her little brother cried, the servant-maid tore her own face and hair; but the shouts and shrieks were disregarded, the wailings moved no pity, the clawing and scratching was of no avail; for all was lost upon the loneliness of the spot, the silence of the night, and the cruel hearts of the ravishers. Finally, the one party went off exulting, and the other was left in desolation and woe.