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"Losses?" said d'Aguilar. "Do I hear the wealthy John Castell, who holds
half the trade with Spain in the hollow of his hand, talk of losses?"
"Yes, Senor, you do. Things have gone ill with this ship of mine that
has barely lived through the spring gales. But be seated."
"Indeed, is that so?" said d'Aguilar as he sat down. "What a lying jade
is rumour! For I was told that they had gone very well. Doubtless,
however, what is loss to you would be priceless gain to one like me."
Castell made no answer, but waited, feeling that his visitor had not
come to speak with him of his trading ventures.
"Senor Castell," said d'Aguilar, with a note of nervousness in his
voice, "I am here to ask you for something."
"If it be a loan, Senor, I fear that the time is not opportune." And he
nodded towards the sheet of figures.
"It is not a loan; it is a gift."
"Anything in my poor house is yours," answered Castell courteously, and
in Oriental form.
"I rejoice to hear it, Senor, for I seek something from your house."
Castell looked a question at him with his quick black eyes.
"I seek your daughter, the Senora Margaret, in marriage."
Castell stared at him, then a single word broke from his lips.
"Why impossible?" asked d'Aguilar slowly, yet as one who expected some
such answer. "In age we are not unsuited, nor perhaps in fortune, while
of rank I have enough, more than you guess perhaps. I vaunt not myself,
yet women have thought me not uncomely. I should be a good friend to the
house whence I took a wife, where perchance a day may come when friends
will be needed; and lastly, I desire her not for what she may bring with
her, though wealth is always welcome, but--I pray you to believe
it--because I love her."
"I have heard that the Senor d'Aguilar loves many women, yonder in
"As I have heard that the _Margaret_ had a prosperous voyage, Senor
Castell. Rumour, as I said but now, is a lying jade. Yet I will not copy
her. I have been no saint. Now I would become one, for Margaret's sake.
I will be true to your daughter, Senor. What say you now?"
Castell only shook his head.
"Listen," went on d'Aguilar. "I am more than I seem to be; she who weds
me will not lack for rank and titles."
"Yes, you are the Marquis de Morella, the reputed son of Prince Carlos
of Viana by a Moorish mother, and therefore nephew to his Majesty
D'Aguilar looked at him, then bowed and said:
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