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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 207, 3 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE ARCHITECT’S WIPE. ii. At the time our tale opens, many years had passed away since the tyrant of Montiel had destroyed the bridge of San Martin. Dignitaries both of Church and State had vied with each other in their endeavors to replace it by a structure worthy of it, both in beauty of outline and solidity. But the skill and care of the'most celebrated architects, Christian and Moorish alike, had been altogether wanting in success on account of the rapidity of the stream, which carried away in its impetuous course the framework of wood and the pillars of stone before the arches of the bridge could be completed. Don Pedro Tenorio, Archbishop of Toledo, to whom that city owed as much if not more than to its kings, then made application throughout all the cities and towns of Spain lor an architect capable of rebuilding the bridge of San Martin ; but for a long time without response. One day, however, a man and woman, complete strangers to the place, entered Toledo by the Cambron Gate, and after carefully inspecting the ruins of the bridge, fixed, for their residence, upon an empty house not far from them. A few hours afterwards the man might have been seen wending his way towards the palace of the Archbishop. At that time the prelate was in the habit of receiving a large concourse of Church dignitaries, savants, and others, who were attracted to Toledo by the fame of his wisdom and goodness, and with whom he delighted to surround himself. His joy was indeed great when one of his attendants informed him that an architect from another kingdom requested the honor of an interview. The Archbishop hastened to give the desired audience, and the stranger was ushered into his presence. The architect was still young, but thought and misfortune had left their traces on his countenance and rendered him in appearance prematurely grave. After kindly returning his respectful salutation, Don Pedro motioned him to a seat directly in front of his own. “ Sir,” said the stranger, “ my name, which must be entirely strange to you, is Juan de Arevalo, and I am an architect by profession.” “ You have come hither, attracted no doubt by the notice which we in Toledo have circulated throughout Spain, calling for an architect sufficiently skilful to rebuild the bridge of San Martin?” “That is so.” “ Are you aware of all the difficulties of the work ?”
“ I not only know them, your grace, but I conceive myself capable of overcoming them.” “Where have you studied?” asked the Archbishop. “ In Salamanca.”
“ And what buildings are there to which you can point in proof of your skill ?” “None.”
The Archbishop could not help showing a certain amount of disappointment and want of confidence. The stranger noticed this, and hastened to explain. “I was a soldier in my youth, but illness rendered me unfit for the hardships of a military life; and returning to Castille, my native country, I devoted myself with ardour to the study of architecture, first of all theoretically and then practically.” “ I regret extremely that you are not able to specify any building in proof of your ability,” remarked the Archbishop. “ There are some both on the Tormes and the Douro which should speak in my praise, though the credit of them is claimed by others.” “ I do not understand you.”
“ I was poor and unknown,” said the Stranger, “ and when, unaided, I found myself in a position to gain food and renown, J was compelled to content myself with the food and leave the i-enown to others.”
“ I am very sorry indeed that you have no credentials wherewith to satisfy us that if we confide in you we shall not trust in vain.” “ I have one which at all events may satisfy your grace.”
“ And that is ?” “ My fife.” “ Explain yourself,” cried the Archbishop.” “ When. the supports of the centre arch of the new bridge of San Martin are removed, the architect who designed it will be found standing on the keystone of the arch.”
“ I agree to your terms,” replied the Archbishop, quite won over by the selfconfidence of the stranger. “ And I will fulfil them,” returned the”arehitect.
The archbishop held out his hand to the visitor, and the latter returned to his house with a look of evident joy.
The lady who had accompanied Juan de Arevalo to Toledo, young and still lovely, in spite of the traces of suffering on her face, awaited him with anxiety, and hurried to meet him at the door.
“ Catalina, my own ?” exclaimed the architect, embracing his wife “ amidst the monuments of art which beautify Toledo, there will be one destined to transmit to posterity the name of Juan de Arevalo.”
No longer could the Toledans say, as they approached the Tagus by its rugged and almost precipitous banks, where in former days artificial caves had marked the gardens of Florinda —no longer could the Toledans say : “ Here was the bridge of San Martin, for a new bridge, securely surrounded with massive supports and endless scaffolding, was already raised on the ruins of the old one.
The Archbishop, Don Pedro Tenorio, and the Toledans, high and low, overwhelmed with all sorts of presents the fortunate and clever architect who had succeeded in spanning the river in spite of its furious current, and notwithstanding the hazardous nature of the stupendous work. On the eve of the Festival of San lldefonso, patron saint of the city, Juan de Arevalo announced formally to the Archbishop .that in order to complete his work there! remained _ only the removal of the scaffolding from the.three arches of the bridge, the openings of which were still blocked up with in-
tricatc and yet sturdy masses of pine wood.
The satisfaction of the Archbishop and the people was extreme. It is true that the removal of all the framework on which the massive but artistically chiselled blocks of stone appeared to rest was a work of great danger, but the tranquil air of the architect, who was committed to await the perilous ordeal on the keystone of the centre arch, inspired everyone with confidence. The solemn benediction and opening of the new bridge of San Martin was announced to take place on the following day, with prayers and glad peals from all the bells of Toledo. From the heights which overlook the course of the Tagus, the Toledans beheld with joy and emotion their beloved Cigarrales, which had for so many years remained sad, solitary, and almost deserted, but, ere the setting of another sun, were, they fondly hoped, destined to recover their pristine cheerfulness and beauty. It was toward midnight, when Juan Arevalo ascended the scaffolding of the centre arch of the bridge, with the object of seeing that everything was in readiness for the ■ morrow’s critical work, and as he slowly mounted upwards he gleefully hummed the refrain of some familiar song. Suddenly the song ceased from his lips, the joy disappeared from his countenance, and he returned to his house full of sadness and despair, Catalina, his devoted and faithful wife, ran with cheerful face and loving words to meet him on the threshold of their home, but as she saw the look of anguish on her husband’s countenance her cheeks caught the palor of his.
“ Tell me, for Heaven’s sake,” she cried, “ are you ill ? ” “ No, dear love,” replied Juan, endeavoring to conceal his despair. “ You cannot deceive me,” replied his wife. “Your face alone tells me that it is so.”
“ The night is cold, and my work has been too much for me ”
“ Come, then, come to the fire,” interrupted Catalina, “ where the warmth and your supper will restore you to health and gladness.” “Gladness!” murmured Juan in a tone of deep dejection, whilst his wife turned to prepare his supper by the hearth, on which the old chips crackled and sparkled merrily in the blaze. Juan made a great effort to conceal his sadness and want of appetite, but he could not succeed.
“ For the first time in your life you are hiding something from me,” said Catalina at last. “Am Ino longer worthy of that love and confidence which up to now you have ever bestowed upon me ?” “ Do not add to my trouble, Catalina, by doubting my love for you.” “ There can be no love wheie there is no confidence.”
“ For your sake and mine do not seek to know the secret that I am hiding from you,” cried Juan. “ Your secret is one of sadness, and I must know it, so that I may comfort you in your sorrow.” “ Comfort me ! Alas, that is impossible, Catalina.” “To love such as mine nothing is impossible.” “Very well, then; so be it. Tomorrow I shall forfeit my honor and my life, for I shall be swept away by the river together with that structure which I have reared with so much mingled anxiety and hope.” “ No, no !” cried Catalina, throwing her arms round her husband and stifling in her breast the grief which his words had caused her.
“ Yes,” said he; “at the moment when my confidence in my work was at its height, I discovered that an error in my calculations will assuredly cause the downfall of the bridge of San Martin, and of him who planned and built it.”
“ The bridge may be buried in the stream, but not you, my husband, my love ! I will go down on my knees to the noble Cardinal and beseech him to prevent your carrying out this horrible contract.”
“ You will but ask in vain, for, even should your prayer be granted, I will not live dishonored.”
“ Then you shall preserve both life and honor,” replied Catalina, firmly. IV. Day was about to break, and Catalina appeared to slumber, whilst her husband, worn out by grief and toil, had fallen into a deep heavy sleep which almost approached unconsciousness.
Catalina got up noiselessly, scarce daring to breathe, made her way to the kitchen, and climbed out through the window' w’hich looked on to the Tagus. It w’as still dark, and a star here and there broke the gloom. Towards the bed of the Tagus no sound was to be heard but the rushing of the river, and the moaning of the wind as it sw'ept through the scaffolding of the bridge of San Martin. Catalina, before making her exit through the window, had seized from the smouldering embers on the hearth a brand still burning, and noiselessly closing the window after her, she set out, holding her breath even, lest a sound should escape her. Whither was she going? On whrt errand was she bound ? Did she take the burning brand with her to light her on her way amidst the surrounding darkness? In spite of the obscurity around her and the dangers of the path, perilous even in the broad glare of day, along w'hich she was hastening, Catalina was careful to conceal under her cloak the light which alone could show her the windings of the precipitous track she w-as traversing w’ith a speed marvellous in one so delicately framed. (7 o be continued. )
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 207, 3 December 1880
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