Roderigo, son of the corregidor of Madrid, was a pleasure-bent, reckless youth. One night, while roaming about the outskirts of the city with two young noblemen, he acted on a rash and outrageous impulse. When a pretty girl came along, accompanied by her elderly parents, Roderigo decided to have some fun; on the spur of the moment he determined to kidnap her. After a bit of urging he won the somewhat reluctant cooperation of Louis de Castro and Diego, who restrained the distraught mother and father while Roderigo carried off the protesting maiden. Taking her to his apartment in the corregidor’s palace, Roderigo yielded to his lust and raped her. Meanwhile, back on the road, Louis learned to his dismay that the mistreated family was that of Pedro de Cortes, an influential Spanish don. Worse still, the girl stolen by Roderigo under the cloak of night was Clara, the object of Louis’ own affections.
Clara, overcome by shame, asked Roderigo to kill her, whereupon he sullenly strode from the apartment. While he was gone, Clara examined the room for any clues to the identity of her attacker. From the window she saw below a starlit garden containing a curious alabaster fountain. In the chamber itself she discovered a precious crucifix, which she quickly concealed in her bosom as she heard Roderigo’s footsteps approaching once more.
Beginning to feel repentant for his deed, Roderigo readily agreed when Clara asked him never to speak of her ravishment and to take her back to the road where he met her. Afterward, meeting the anxious Louis, Roderigo denied harming the girl. Nevertheless, he found himself falling in love with her. To avoid seeking her out again, he planned to leave Madrid for studies in Salamanca.
At an inn of Madrid, the gipsies danced and sported for their admiring following. Disguised as their leader was Alvarez de Castilla, banished from Spain in previous years for the death of Louis de Castro’s father. With Alvarez was his wife Guiamara and her niece Constanza, both supposed to have been lost earlier in a shipwreck. Constanza, called Pretiosa among the gipsies, was the great attraction to their audiences. Young and very beautiful, she was a magnet for the young gentlemen of the city. Deeply in love with her was John, son of a Spanish nobleman. Constanza, half in play, told him that if he would turn gipsy for two years she would requite his love; and he immediately took steps to comply with her conditions.
When Louis tried to tell Clara of his love, she skillfully managed to parry his proposal of marriage. To her father, Louis revealed that Fernando, the corregidor, wished to pardon and recall Alvarez from banishment. To this proposal he had sought the agreement of Louis, and Louis now requested the...
(The entire section is 1129 words.)