THE title of the courageous maid who helped to defend the walls of her native Zaragoza against the assault of the French invaders, has already become a household word among us. The troubles of the early part of Queen Isabella's reign elicited another instance of feminine constancy, which has likewise received its tribute of local celebration, though exhibited in a more confined and womanly sphere.
Two sisters, Jacinta and Isabella, lived in Zaragoza with their brother, Don Froilan. Among their acquaintance were two intimate friends, Don Pablo and Don Matias, who both held commissions in the National Militia. Don Matias was a handsome, generous young man, and a general favourite, but also somewhat light-hearted and unscrupulous. Don Pablo, on the other hand, was of a more solid, thoughtful character, rather respected after long acquaintance than liked at first sight. Now the characters of the two sisters, Jacinta and Isabella, were very much like those of their two friends; Jacinta being light and thoughtless, and Isabella steady and reflective; yet in spite of this, Don Pablo was more fascinated by Jacinta's brilliant qualities than by Isabella's good and careful ways; while Isabella's good sense had taught her to prefer such a character as Don Pablo's. And it was with a bleeding heart she saw it agreed between him and her giddy sister that they were to be united for ever. Her sisterly affection, however, forbid her to do more than sigh in secret, and sigh she did many a day; not only for her own loss, but for Don Pablo, whom she sincerely respected. For her light-hearted sister, in spite of her engagement to him, used to continue to be very merry with Don Matias too.
Just before the day appointed for the wedding, an émeute broke out at some little distance, and the Zaragoza Militia was ordered out to quell the disturbance. The world of Zaragoza turned out to see the military array; and Don Froilan took his sisters on to the Cosa , along with the rest; and while Jacinta chatted merrily with both Don Pablo and Don Matias, as if they were going out to a review instead of to fight, Isabella, impressed with the danger of the situation, and the chance of never seeing her dear friend again, could hardly bring herself to bid them adieu.
Time passed on, and no certain tidings came of the fate of the two officers. Every day there were conflicting reports, but nothing reliable as to individual results.
At last a day came when the Zaragoza regiment returned, covered with laurels and with hardly any losses from its ranks.
The Cosa was thronged with people welcoming the safe return of their fellow townsmen. Jacinta was soon in earnest conversation with Don Matias, while Isabella leant against a tree for support, as her gazing eyes vainly sought Don Pablo.
Soon the truth was learnt from Don Matias. After waiting about in the cover of houses and trees and hillocks for the insurgents for some time, they had come to an open engagement with them, in which they were in a short time entirely routed by the gallant Militia, who came off with only two killed and half a dozen wounded--but one of those two left for dead on the field was no other than Don Pablo! It needed all Isabella's fortitude and self-command to avoid showing greater agony at this announcement than was consistent with her having no nearer tie than that of an intended sister-in-law, while Jacinta, who had no self-control, burst into a fearful excitement of grief.
Taking Isabella's assumed calmness of manner for indifference towards the absent, the young officer within a few hours of his return began paying her attentions. Jacinta's jealousy at this quenched all her light grief for Don Pablo, and Don Matias soon found that his suit would have far more chance of fortune with her. With characteristic fickleness he lost no time in urging it in the quarter where it met with favour, and pushed it so warmly that their marriage was fixed for an early day, being but a month from that on which Don Pablo was believed to have fallen.
To faithful Isabella's intense disgust, not only was the wedding so hurried on, but all Zaragoza was invited to a grand ball to celebrate the occasion. Dressed in deep mourning she refused to have any thing to do with the festivity; but, on the contrary, ordered a funeral service to be celebrated in the church to the memory of her lost hero.
It was just at this juncture, while the music of the marriage-ball  was sounding merrily through the open windows of Don Froilan's house, and the solemn doble  was ringing from a neighbouring church, that Don Pablo, healed of his wounds, and choosing the cool of the evening for his journey, came through the streets of Zaragoza, well wrapt up in his military cloak, intending to make straight for the house of his affianced bride. He stopped, however, at the barbiere's to have his hair and beard, long neglected during the campaign, made presentable. The barbiere is an institution in Spain which almost supplies the place of an English club. Men go in to submit to the barber's attentions, and while they are under his hands, or waiting their turn, they have leisure to discuss with each other the news and gossip of the day.
Don Pablo was, as we have said, a serious man; his habits were reserved and homely, he had never cared for the barber's gossip, and his habit had been to manage his shaving arrangements at home, so he was no acquaintance of the barber. Accordingly, he came in on this occasion unrecognized.
"Strange are the vicissitudes of human life!" he exclaimed, as he seated himself in the barber's chair--for he was somewhat of a philosopher. "Marriage-music and funeral-bells sounding at the same time--what a strange lesson!"
"Stranger still," broke in the prattling barber, "if your worship knew what reference each bears to the same person!"
"To the same person!" rejoined Don Pablo; "how can that possibly be?"
"Why, the bells are for a funeral service for a distinguished officer, lost in the late encounter; and the merry music is for the marriage of his betrothed to a brother-officer!"
Don Pablo started as if he had been shot. The barber noticed his emotion. "Your worship doubtless knows the officer of whom I speak," replied the barber.
"Ye--es, I do--o!" stammered Don Pablo, relieved to find the barber had not hit nearer the mark. "You speak of Don Pablo, of course?"
"Of course I do!" exclaimed the barber; "no one has spoken of any one else these last days. And here come some of his friends round the corner; if you want to hear them speak of him you have only to listen. I'll warrant he is the subject of their talk."
"I should like to hear what they say," said Don Pablo, whose curiosity was strongly excited by these revelations about himself; "but it might embarrass them to see so near a friend to him as I was, here."
"Step to this unlighted window, and you will hear all without being seen."
Don Pablo did as he was bid, and readily distinguished a group of his acquaintances, with Don Froilan in their midst, standing at the barber's door, lighting their cigars .
"How now, Don Froilan!" exclaimed Don Lupercio; "a ball at your own house in honour of your sister's wedding, and you out here!"
("Ah, poor fellow!" said Don Pablo to himself, "he won't countenance his sister's fickleness. He was always a great friend of mine.")
"Why, to tell you the truth," replied Don Froilan, "the first part of a ball is always dull work. I have set them going, and I'm off to the opera. I always enjoy the second act of an opera; it's the cream of the whole. I shall just skim that off, and then run back to the best of the ball."
("So," said Don Pablo, sadly, "this is the man I have so often helped through his difficulties! And I really thought he cared for me!")
"Now, really!" said Don Mariano, "I thought you were going to say that you had come out to attend the funeral service for your friend Don Pablo----"
("Ah, yes, that would have been more like a friend!" sighed Don Pablo.)
"A--a--funeral service? no--no, I'm not fond of that sort of thing, it's so melancholy! And then what's the use--if the fellow died, as I've no doubt he did, without so much as saying an 'Our Father,' what's the use of praying for him?"
("The atrocious calumny!" exclaimed Don Pablo; "and not one of them to say a word in my defence!")
An awkward pause ensued, which was broken by the gallant young Don Antonio: "And while we are wasting our time here, your sisters are dancing away and charming every one, as usual!"
("Dancing away while the church bells are tolling for poor me!")
"My sisters--eh? No--o, not exactly; that is, only one of them. Jacinta is dancing, of course; but Isabella--a--won't--a--come in. I believe she's gone to the church instead."
("So, indeed, there's one of them at least who hasn't forgotten me! And one, too, whose remembrance is more worth having than all the others' put together!")
"Indeed!" replied Don Lupercio; "but I thought it was the other sister who had been more attached to him."
"Attached? ah, yes--in one way; that is, she was engaged to him; but as to attachment, that is, of the heart--between you and me--it was Isabella who cared for him. Jacinta, you see, only wanted to be married, and Don Matias will do just as well for that--ha, ha, ha!"
"You don't surprise me," responded young Don Antonio, who generally knew which way the ladies' inclination turned. "Something of this I suspected too."
"And I," added Don Mariano.
("Fool that I was!" growled Don Pablo; "all these butterflies saw it, and I never ventured to think of it! I looked on her as a priestess, a goddess--I never ventured to think of her in any other way. She was always so grand and grave; and Jacinta was so accessible.")
"But, good evening, gentlemen! I shall really miss the opera, if I stand chatting any longer," broke in Don Froilan.
They dispersed: Don Froilan bending his steps towards the opera, and the rest towards the ball-room. Meantime, sadly veiled in black, and attended by Ramon, the old and trusty family-servant, Isabella crossed the street, and entered the church as the last tolls were sounding.
"There she goes to pray for me--it is true enough!--while others are dancing!" exclaimed Don Pablo, rapturously. "But I'll have my joke with Don Froilan yet."
"Barber!" he cried, "send me a notary, quick! I've some important business which must be transacted instantly."
"On the instant, your worship!" replied the barber. "There is one lodging, luckily, in the sixth floor of this very house."
Ten minutes' conference with the notary settled the affair. Then he bid him run with the paper to Don Froilan's box at the theatre , and took up his station again at the window, to have the happiness of seeing Isabella once more as she came out of the church, and also to take the chance of enjoying the effect of the paper he had sent to Don Froilan. Nor did he wait long. In less time than he would have thought possible, Don Froilan came running out of the opera, hurrying to take his place at the funeral service, and give a public token of his attention to the deceased. But the doors were closed, and Don Pablo's thoughts were diverted from her brother by the sight of Isabella, pale and haggard, her eyes worn with tears, coming out of the church, leaning on Ramon's arm.
"What! is it too late?" cried Don Froilan, stumbling against her on the steps in the dark. "Oh dear, how hard! and I made such haste to come!"
"But why this sudden haste, brother?" replied Isabella, contemptuously. "This morning you chid me for disturbing the ball!"
"Hush, child! if I did it, it was to please Jacinta--it was quite, quite against my own inclination. Oh, why wasn't I by to assist him in his last moments?"
"But why all this sudden grief now?"
"Sudden! it's not sudden; you know I always loved him as a brother; and here's the proof of how well he loved me. A notary has just brought me a will he left with him before he went to the war, constituting me his heir to all he had, dear fellow!"
Isabella pushed by him with a movement of disdain, which perfectly delighted Don Pablo, and made her way mournfully into the house, attended as before by Ramon.
Don Pablo lost little time in following her. Who could be proof against so much constancy? If he had looked on her as an inaccessible divinity before, he felt sufficient encouragement now to tell her that he thought so.
The faithful Ramon was very ready to lend his assistance, and Don Pablo having taken him into confidence he dexterously managed to break the good news of his resurrection to his young mistress, who consented to come down to the ball-room and confront her brother and sister on Don Pablo's presenting himself there too. The consternation caused by his appearance was of course very great. Some of the ladies nearly fainted. Don Froilan guessed the trap he had fallen into, and turned away to cover his shame as well as disappointment at the loss of the inheritance. Jacinta and Matias hid their faces behind her fan; while Isabella and Pablo joined their loving hands amid the joyful congratulations of their assembled friends.