It seemed that after my mother fled to England with my father, de Garcia persecuted my grandmother and his aunt with lawsuits and by other means, till at last she was reduced to beggary, in which condition the villain left her to die. So poor was she indeed, that she was buried in a public grave. After that the old woman, my informant, said she had heard that de Garcia had committed some crime and been forced to flee the country. What the crime was she could not remember, but it had happened about fifteen years ago.
All this I learned when I had been about three months in Seville, and though it was of interest it did not advance me in my search.
Some four or five nights afterwards, as I entered my employer’s house I met a young woman coming out of the doorway of the patio; she was thickly veiled and my notice was drawn to her by her tall and beautiful figure and because she was weeping so violently that her body shook with her sobs. I was already well accustomed to such sights, for many of those who sought my master’s counsel had good cause to weep, and I passed her without remark. But when I was come into the room where he received his patients, I mentioned that I had met such a person and asked if it was any one whom I knew.
‘Ah! nephew,’ said Fonseca, who always called me thus by now, and indeed began to treat me with as much affection as though I were really of his blood, ’a sad case, but you do not know her and she is no paying patient. A poor girl of noble birth who had entered religion and taken her vows, when a gallant appears, meets her secretly in the convent garden, promises to marry her if she will fly with him, indeed does go through some mummery of marriage with her—so she says—and the rest of it. Now he has deserted her and she is in trouble, and what is more, should the priests catch her, likely to learn what it feels like to die by inches in a convent wall. She came to me for counsel and brought some silver ornaments as the fee. Here they are.’
‘You took them!’
’Yes, I took them—I always take a fee, but I gave her back their weight in gold. What is more, I told her where she might hide from the priests till the hunt is done with. What I did not like to tell her is that her lover is the greatest villain who ever trod the streets of Seville. What was the good? She will see little more of him. Hist! here comes the duchess—an astrological case this. Where are the horoscope and the wand, yes, and the crystal ball? There, shade the lamps, give me the book, and vanish.’
I obeyed, and presently met the great lady, a stout woman attended by a duenna, gliding fearfully through the darkened archways to learn the answer of the stars and pay many good pesos for it, and the sight of her made me laugh so much that I forgot quickly about the other lady and her woes.