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“ The Duchess informs me, it shall not be her fault, if your suit be pot favourably conveyed to the Queen.”
“ She is very kind,” replied Louis, “ but very extraordinary.-- And, did you not assure me of her influence, I would rather avoid her interference. She appears too peremptory, to be a favourite with arbitrary power: and, though some of her discourse shewed a penetrating judgement, and great vivacity in the interests of Spain ; yet, the rest was trifling; and absurdly foreign from our subject.”
Santa Cruz warned his young friend to take things as he found them; and to be as respectful to the Duchess, as to the royal presence itself. He then enquired the particulars of what had passed.
Louis informed him, that so far from her Grace seeking information relative to the Duke de Ripperda's political conduct at Vienna, she continually interrupted the narration of those proceedings,
with the strangest questions respecting the nature of his intimacy with the Empress.
And when she had received assurances and proofs, that it was purely confidential; contracted in early life; and, though continued, was ever in check to the interests of Spain; she repeated the same interrogatories again and again, with all the art and abruptness of consummate subtelty. At last, she demanded a minute description of the Empress's person saying with a smile.
“ Marquis, your next attendance at Saint Ildefonso may give you an opportunity of judging between your Queen, and this boasted Elizabeth of Germany!"
“Should you be admitted to such an audience,” observed Santa Cruz, with a smile, “ you must not disappoint the expectations of the Duchess, in giving the palm of beauty to her mistress.”
« She will be fairest to me," returned Louis, “who turns the most gracious eye on the truth of
“ Hold that principle,” rejoined his friend, " and I will not curb your sincerity.”
From this day, the aspect of many countenances changed at Saint Ildefonso. The Queen was engaged in frequent con. ferences with the King; and the ministers, who severally used to make one in all the royal consultations, were totally excluded from these. Philip kept a strict silence on their subject ; though his saddened physiognomy often declared how they perplexed him. The Queen alone wore an unaltered mien ; yet the lynx eye of de Paz could often discern suspicion in her prompt accordance at the Council; and some unknown triumph, in the smile with which she bowed in devoted deference to the judgement of her husband. What was the object of all this, and what would be its end, were equally subjects of mystery and of apprehension to the newly-seated ministers ; but not one of them suspected for a moment,
that Ripperda, whom they had exiled, or his son, whom they had immured, held any connexion with the changing scene.
In the course of a week after the interview in the pavilion, Santa Cruz re
. entered the state prison of Madrid, with the sign-manual of the King, for the release of the Marquis de Montemar, and his servant Lorenzo d'Urbino. The young inan was confined in a cell remote from his master ; in equal ignorance with him, that the same roof covered them. Their re-union was joyous on the part of Louis, but full of overflowing transport on the side of Lorenzo; for his gaolers had tortured him with reports of his master's death; and assured him, that his own imprisonment would shortly be ended by the same violent means.
The governor of the prison was en. joined to conceal the release of the Marquis de Montemar from the minislers of the King, until Philip himself
should send permission to officially announce it.
Louis was to be admitted the following morning to a private audience of the Queen. He was to go as a suppliant; and to pass from a dungeon, to his first presentation at a court, where his father had taught him to believe, he would one day be received as only second to royalty itself!
But he thought not of these circumstances. He had gained one great object, in obtaining the royal ear; and he looked with confidence to the event of the interview.
Santa Cruz was not less sanguine; and, with almost parental pride in the son of Ripperda, he conducted him to the palace, and led him into the chamber of audience. Her Majesty was alone, and seated in a chair of state. A magnificent dress shone through the large veil she had thrown over her face