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the trees. The two rogues, on the contrary, finding themselves very much at their ease, continued to gossip together with great coolness, though the bull had now removed to a considerable distance. The Hidalgo, at last, resuming the use of his faculties, overheard as follows:—
"As for the chestnut trees," said Gines, "you will see the stumps of them to-night, for the Hidalgo did not choose to leave a perch for any more such birds so near his house. But there are other ways to know what goes on within, as well as by looking through the windows; and we shall soon see whether the people of this random shooter are more properly hi* servants or my own."
At this insinuation, the wretched person who sat aloft could not help uttering a half-stifled groan, which would have infallibly betrayed him, if it had not passed for the grumbling of the bull. Notwithstanding, he had to endure still worse tidings; to conceive which, suppose Gines to describe the abominable plot he had laid for the murder of the Hidalgo—two of his servants being in the pay of the banditti, and engaged to admit them in the middle of the night. The rogues did not omit, moreover, to dispose of the two daughters of the unfortunate gentleman overhead; and as their inclinations pointed differently, the one choosing the youngest, and the other the elder lady for a mistress, they soon came to an amicable understanding on this part of the design. Thus the Hidalgo, who had always intended to match his children as he would, without question even of the girls themselves, was obliged to hear them disposed of beforehand, and without having any voice whatever in the affair.
The encroaching dusk closing round, in the meantime, till the horizon was confined within a very narrow circle, the two villains at last dismounted from the bough, and proceeded on their way without any interruption from the bull, who was now scarcely visible, amid the distant shadows. As soon as the rogues were out of sight, the Hidalgo scrambled down the trunk, to the infinite relief of his limbs, which from long confinement ■ to the same posture had grown as rigid and almost as crooked as the boughs they had embraced: however, the thought of what was to take place at home soon enforced a suppleness in his joints, and he departed with a brisk shuffling pace, from what had been to him such a very bitter tree of knowledge.
The dreadful fear which had lately possessed his bosom, turning, now that he was in safety, to the most revengeful feelings, he vowed as he went along, that Gines and his gang should suffer in retaliation by the most exquisite torments. In this furious mood, with clenched hands and teeth, and terrible emphatic steps, he entered his own house, and repaired straight into the apartment of his daughters; who, seeing the flaming beacons of wrath in his countenance, were ready to swoon with dismay. It alarmed them the more, that they had not expected him to return for the night, and being ignorant of the true occasion, they were led, by certain misgivings of their own hearts, to impute his anger to a very different cause, wherefore coming together with clasped hands, to kneel down at his feet, they besought him with many tears to be moe calm and temperate.
At another time, this strange conduct would have astounded the Hidalgo, whereas, having other concerns in his mind, he did not stop to sift out the mystery, but, in as few words as he could, explained the danger that was hanging over their heads: The two terrified maidens, at this horrible report, instantly forgot all other fears, for the mere words conjured up the figures of the banditti upon the vacant air; but when the Hidalgo came to speak of the design of the robber and his comrade, how they were to make mistresses of the two ladies, they sent up together, as if from one throat, a shrill involuntary scream. Anon, running hastily to
different closets, for the greater danger always swallows up the less in this manner, they dragged forward a brace of young comely gallants, who, on their part, seemed ready enough to protect them from Gines and his associates.
The two champions, as well as the Hidalgo, were somewhat disconcerted by his abrupt introduction to each other, and the pale lily of fear that had blown on the cheeks of the damsels, was burned up by a deep crimson blush. At last one of the cavaliers, addressing himself to the Hidalgo, began to speak for both after this manner:—
"Sir, I know that you cannot behold us with any welcome; and yet, for my own part, I am heartily thankful that we are here. Notwithstanding the ungracious method of our introduction, we beg so much favour of you, as to be considered gentlemen for the present, and respecters of good manners; who desire nothing better than to make amends, by our timely ser