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'My father has fought bulls singlehanded in the arena,' said the boy. 'He is brave as a lion. He has never been defeated. He is the Conqueror of the World. How could he be conquered-by a pirate fleet of heathen Moors?'
'The East is Europe's worst danger,' said a dry voice in dusty answer.
'It was. But my grandfather drove all the Moors out of Spain after they'd ruled and ravaged here for seven hundred years. And he was not half as great a man as my father.'
'No, but his wife was,' the tutor muttered, all but sniggered, and covered it with a hasty cough, his precise tone at once correct again. 'My Prince, it is not the heathen who have conquered the Holy Roman Emperor, the "lnvincible Emperor." It is the winds and the waves of the sea. Listen to the storm raging even now against this tower.'
He stooped eagerly forward, his sharp nose peaked against the light, his black-sleeved arm swooped to draw back the heavy curtain, and in a dramatic gesture pushed aside a wooden shutter.
Outside the small panes of glass a jagged landscape leaped into shape against a frantic sky. Those were not the Guadarrama range that Prince Philip knew, but the mountains of hell.
'Look at the lightning,' insisted the tutor, a stiff man but now curiously gloating, as many a peaceable man will do in a scene of violence in which he need take no part. 'Hear the rain flailing down on the stones of the courtyard far below. These are the enemy who conquered the Emperor Charles V at Algiers, smashed his great ships to splinters against the rocks, blew his tents away like dandelion clocks on the sea-shore.' Something chilled his enjoyment in his descriptive powers.
He turned from the window and saw his Prince looking at him. Philip said coldly, 'The storms show the wrath of heaven. It is God who directs the winds and waves. "He spoke and His enemies were scattered." Do you tell me that God fought for the Moors against the Emperor my father?' Another flash, a long rending crash tore the sky across as he spoke.
'This is blasphemy,' said the boy. 'God himself denies it.' Dr. Siliceo hastily snapped the shutter to again and pulled the curtain over it, shutting out the enormous scene from the stuffy glittering little room. Candle flames in the draught, which even glass, wood, and tapestry could not suppress, winked against the silver figure writhing on the crucifix, flickered over the livid blood-pink and blue in a Flemish picture.
'Certainly,' said Dr. Siliceo severely, 'it is blasphemy for Your Highness to deny victory to your illustrious father. That is exactly what I was explaining. You must write and tell him that you understand his defeat was caused by no human agency; it was by the command not of God but of the Devil.' As so often, Philip felt himself rebuked without quite knowing why. 'I will write,' he said heavily.
Yes, he must write. Yet again.
Pen, paper, and ink. More and more paper, more and more ink, yet another pen. He was always doing it. 'He fights and I write,' Philip muttered. It was all he could do, while his father fought battles, risked his life in them. 'Emperors don't get killed in battle,' Charles V had often scoffed to those who tried to restrain him, but he had very nearly disproved it this time. His wretched troops had been mowed down in a surprise attack in the drenching night, some had broken and fled; the whole army might well have been totally destroyed if the Emperor had not seized his sword and rushed into the front ranks, rallying them by his courage alone to drive their attackers back into Algiers.
If only Philip had been there at his side! But he would have been no use; only an added responsibility and anxiety to his father. His common sense saw it clearly though bitterly.
One day he would be a full-grown man, he would be a great soldier like his father; he would have more and bigger ships than any in the world, and his armadas would avenge this defeat suffered by the armadas of Spain.
Yet the hope of doing what his father had failed to do lay heavy as lead upon his spirit. Lethargy fell on him like sleep; he longed to sleep, to die, and never to be called upon to prove himself as great a man-no, greater even-than his father. 'Let me alone, for I am not better than my fathers.'
'Let me alone,' he said aloud. That of course could not be taken literally. Dr. Siliceo retired to a corner of the room and bent his head over a book, low, lower, as his breathing grew louder. He could sleep.
To sleep, to die, to lie forever carved in marble like the beautiful young Prince Juan on his tomb at Avila, who had never had to live to be King of Spain but had died instead at sixteen. Philip would not be afraid to die. But to live; to take over the mastery of more than half the world; to make swift decisions in the heat of action; to break the power of his arrogant nobles and then seem to make friends with them, while always distrusting them; to trust no one, depend on no one, to listen to advice and take none of it-yes, Philip was afraid to live. How could he ever do it all?
He was small, he was not very clever, and two great Kings would hem him in on either side, his father's lifelong rivals, older than his father and much bigger, two crafty wicked giants, but his father had outwitted and defeated them, outrun them in the race for the Empire. They were Henry VIII of England, huge as a bull, with a bull's brutal inimical stare, in the full flush of his career of murderous matrimony; and the sly 'Foxnose,' François I of France, also well over six feet, whom his father had conquered and captured in battle and held as his prisoner for two years in Madrid. The French would never forgive it, watched always for the chance to attack Spain with every ally they could muster, even the heathen Moors.
Yes, the Very Christian King of France had actually joined forces with the fanatic enemies of Christ, with the Sultan, Soliman the Magnificent, and his slave-born sea-captain Barbarossa the Red-beard, and helped them to build up this pirate fleet at Algiers with the Moors who had been driven out of Spain. From that ancient port on the North African shore they raided the seaports of Spain, destroyed Spanish shipping and trade, and drove the wretched coast-dwellers further and further inland to the safety of the mountains.
'Three things from which no man is safe,' said the old Moorish proverb. 'Time, the sea and the Sultan.' And now the sea and the Sultan had defeated his father, and no man was safe. No man was safe until he was dead.
The boy laid down his pen on the blank sheet of paper and stared at the tortured figure on the crucifix. Yes, even He was safe in spite of His sufferings, since there had been nothing more to do but suffer unto death.
He rose and walked to the window, making no sound even when he drew back the curtain and the shutter. No lightning now pierced the dreadful night; nothing could be seen. Yet he saw something, the pale glimmer of a face framed in a nun's coif, and it was looking at him.
It could not be; the tower rose sheer from the rock, no one could be there, floating in space fifty feet above the ground. He was seeing a vision, a nun's face. Relief surged over him in an engulfing wave; God had sent him the answer to all his fears and doubts of himself in the world; He meant him to renounce the world and become a monk.
The nun's lips were moving, speaking to him; he could hear no word through the thick glass, nor could he do so, if the window were open, against the roar of the tempest. Yet he knew what she was saying to him, dead contrary to his thought. 'Go back,' she said, 'back to all you have to do.'
'I have not the strength.'
'You will have all the strength you can bear.'