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CHAPTER IX.

LUIS DE CASTRO.

"Tiene este caso un no sé que de sombra de adventura de Caballeria."-DON QUIJOTE.

I need not tell enlightened Englishmen-commenced Don Luis- that the name I bear is no common one. The Casería which you there see, and all the shady glens we here look down upon, were granted to the renowned De Castro, whose valour so materially aided the Catholic kings, of blessed memory, in the pious work of extirpating the vile followers of the Arabian Impostor from the soil of Spain; and the patrimony thus acquired by my ancestor's sword has been handed down from generation to generation to me,-too likely, alas! to be the last of the race to inherit it.

I married early in life, and was blessed with several children. Alonzo, the first-born, was the only one permitted to reach maturity,-but

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I repine not. They were all healthy, and every thing a parent could wish. Years rolled on unmarked by any events of importance. Our days were passed in attending to our herds; our evenings, in singing and dancing to the notes of the wild guitar. Our festivals were devoted to the exhilarating sport we have this morning been following; nor did we, amidst our happiness, neglect to offer up our thanks to the Omnipotent Deity, who,- through the propitiating influence of our patron saints-was pleased to pour his blessings upon us.

But a storm arose, which, for a time, shook our happy country to its foundation. Spain became the object of a vile tyrant's insatiable ambition. The perfidious Corsican, under the specious plea of friendship, marched his licentious legions into our devoted country: and having, by shameless deceit, first possessed himself of all our strongholds, threw off the mask, and treated us as a conquered nation.

This favoured province was, for some considerable time saved from the desolation that wasted the rest of Spain, by the heroism of one of her sons:-the brave Castaños hastened to place himself at the head of the national troops, and in the defiles of the Sierra Morena, captured a whole French army. But jealousy and intrigue the greatest enemies our country had to contend against caused his services to be

requited with ingratitude. Another French army advanced, but we had not another Castaños to oppose it. The enemy forced the barriers with which nature and art had defended the province, and, like a swarm of locusts, spread over and consumed the rich produce of its fertile fields.

The mountaineers of Ronda and Granada, engaged in the vile contraband trade which the disorganized state of the country favoured, were slow to take up arms against the invaders, but "Io y mi gente" (I and my people) were early in the field, harassing their parties conveying supplies to the siege of Cadiz, as well as protecting the surrounding country from their predatory visits; and our secluded Casería afforded a secure retreat to the inhabitants of the plain, when forced to abandon their hearths.

I will not take up your time with the account of the various encounters we had with the enemy -they are well known throughout the Serranía -but will confine my narrative to what more particularly concerns my son.

On one occasion, fortune presented him with an opportunity of saving a party of the king's troops, who had got entangled in the intricacies of the Serranía; his knowledge of the country having enabled him to lead them clear of their pursuers, and bring them safely to the Casería. Disappointed of the prey they had so confi

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dently calculated upon, and uneasy at a body of disciplined troops being added to our guerilla, and established so close to them, the enemy determined on sending a large force to root us out of our fastness. We, on our parts, hoping that the French were unconscious of the place where the troops had found a refuge, were meditating an attack upon their post of Alcalà, when the storm burst suddenly upon our heads, and, but for the devotedness and presence of mind of my gallant son, would have involved us all in one common destruction.

Alonzo had gone off to reconnoitre in the direction of Tarifa, a rumour having reached us that the enemy had invested that place; and we were anxiously awaiting his return to decide upon our plans, when, soon after nightfall, a lad belonging to the Venta de Tabilla arrived at the Casería on my son's horse, and in hurried words, informed me that a large body of French troops was advancing upon the house.

The enemy had forced this lad,-who alone had been left in charge of the Venta, to be their guide, and he had already conducted them across the swamps at the head of the Laguna de la Janda, and was within a hundred yards of the road leading from Tarifa to Casa Vieja-by keeping along which to the left, he purposed gaining the shortest road into our sequestered valley-when Alonzo crossed the path immediately in front of them.

From what we learnt afterwards it appeared, that he had been for some time watching the enemy's movements, and, guessing from the direction they had finally taken, whither they were bound, had thus purposely thrown himself in their way; resolved-cut off as he found himself from the shortest road to the Casería to take this hazardous step to save us from a surprise.

On being questioned as to his knowledge of the country, he at once offered to guide them to the Casería. "This is your way,” he said, pointing in the direction, whence he had just come, "but yonder is my house," motioning with his head towards the Cortijo de le las Habas; which, though about half a mile off, was yet visible in the dusk; "I will send my jaded horse home by the boy, and accompany you on foot.”

The commanding officer, to whom this was addressed, made no objection; in fact, he probably thought that their guide would be more in their power without his horse.

Alonzo gave his beast to the lad, saying significantly, “Juanillo, tell "Juanillo, tell my father I have fallen in with some friends and shall not be at home for some little time; be quick; make your way back to the venta without delay, as soon as you have delivered my message; and, as you value your life, -no babbling."

My son then turned off to the right, taking

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