The early years of the nineteenth century were calm ones for Spain. Life there still followed the old pattern, and an almost medieval attitude toward government existed. The Church was a great power, and government officers treated their commands like petty kingdoms. Corregidor Don Eugenio was a fine example. He ruled one of the Andalusian cities like a little Caesar.
Near the city was a famous old flour mill. Lucas was its owner. There the military and the gentry visited every day to eat the miller’s good food and to talk with the miller’s beautiful wife, Frasquita.
The miller shrewdly put these daily visits to good use. He did not give his food without recompense, although he was never so blunt as to demand anything for his hospitality. If he needed some wood, a word to the bishop would secure him the right to cut some on the bishop’s grounds, or if he needed to have his taxes lowered, a word to Don Eugenio, the corregidor, would suffice. Life for him was pleasant and fruitful. His wife Frasquita was a beautiful woman who loved him deeply and sincerely despite the miller’s ugly face and the slight hump on his back. They joked together and tried to outdo each other in kindness. Only children were lacking to make their love complete.
To those who met every day under the shady grape arbor outside the mill, it became obvious that Don Eugenio had fallen in love with Frasquita. There was nothing unusual in this, for everyone who knew her was in love with her. Fortunately, the miller was not jealous of his wife; she had never given him any reason to be so. Yet where so important a person as Don Eugenio was concerned, suspicion was certain to arise.
Don Eugenio was a sight to see. He wore a huge black three-cornered hat, a scarlet cape, white stockings, and black shoes with gold buckles. His face was deeply wrinkled, for he had no teeth. On his back was a hump much larger than the miller’s, and in his breast a heart much smaller. Nevertheless, he was the corregidor, and everyone bowed to him when he passed, with his bailiff, Weasel, following always at his heels.
One day Don Eugenio came to the mill much earlier than usual, and the miller, spying him at a distance, plotted to surprise him. Knowing that Don Eugenio would try to make love to Frasquita, the miller hid in the grape arbor above the spot where the corregidor would sit. He told his wife to act as if she knew nothing of his presence there.
Don Eugenio began to talk of love, but when he tried to take one of Frasquita’s hands in his own, she knocked over his chair in pretended confusion. At that moment, the miller fell from the arbor. Don Eugenio was furious. The couple pretended that the miller, asleep in the arbor, had not overheard the silly love scene. Although the affair seemed to pass off easily, Don Eugenio planned revenge.
That night, as the miller and his wife were preparing for bed, they...
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