The Lost Diary of Don Juan

In a time of discovery and decadence, when the gold that poured endlessly into the port of Sevilla devalued money, marriage, and love itself, young Juan Tenorio was abandoned and raised by nuns. He grew up loving and worshipping all women, but a clandestine affair with one of the sisters forces him to leave the Church—and his plans for priesthood—behind forever. Juan becomes a spy, as well as the world’s greatest libertine. But far from the heartless seducer that legend recounts, he seeks liberation and redemption as much as personal pleasure and gratification. He begins to keep a diary of his greatest adventures and the Arts of Passion he has mastered. The most perilous adventure of all—the irresistible fall into the madness of love with the only woman who could ever make him forget all others—finally compels him to confess everything.

Douglas Carlton Abrams’s magical debut novel captures the heart of the Spanish Golden Age and the secret life of the world’s greatest lover—Don Juan—who came to embody the spirit of desire that would inflame the modern age.

Read sample chapters below or check out the archived The Lost Diary of Don Juan website.

Sample Chapters

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The Don Juan of Lost Diary An Account of the True Arts of Passion and the Perilous Adventure of Love A Novel Douglas Carlton Abrams ATRIA BOOKS New York loNDoN ToroNTo SYDNeY Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 3 2/12/07 3:56:33 PM Editor’s Note As an editor at the University of California Press who was responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, I received many unusual submissions, but nothing like the one you are about to read. The cover letter indicated that the manuscript was being sent to me because of an article I published in the Journal of Spanish Literature. I had reviewed the few shreds of evidence that Don Juan, the famed seducer of women, was an actual historical person who lived in southern Spain in the sixteenth century. My correspondent claimed that the enclosed manuscript was nothing less than a translation of a diary kept by this very same Don Juan and hidden for “a dozen generations in secrecy.” The package had no return address. The diary was supposedly written in Seville in 1593, during the Spanish Golden Age. king Philip II ruled the largest empire the world had ever known, and by order of the Crown, Seville was the sole port through which all the silver and gold of the Americas poured. Because of its great wealth and decadence, Seville was often called the Great Babylon of Spain. Galanteadores (the Spanish word for gallants or seducers) were common at the time, and their success may have been partly the result of the depletion of men caused by wars and colonization. Although the accuracy of historical census data is hard to judge, it was estimated that in some neighborhoods, half of all women were widowed or abandoned. ii Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 7 2/12/07 3:56:36 PM Editor’s Note A man’s life does not divide evenly into chapters; neither, apparently, did Don Juan’s diary. The letter indicated that the translator had taken the liberty of separating the text into parts and even inserting chapter titles throughout. By the dating, it seems that Don Juan often wrote what has become several “chapters” in a single sitting. I must apologize to my scholarly colleagues for these corruptions of the text, which should not be taken as original. Nor obviously should the Glossary and Notes section, which I have added to provide additional guidance to a general reader unfamiliar with the many historical terms and Spanish words remaining in the translation. Most scholars have maintained that while perhaps based on folktales, Don Juan Tenorio was nothing more than a fictional character created by the Spanish monk and playwright Tirso de Molina. This diary, if authentic, would substantiate the minority opinion, first proposed by the french scholar louis viardot in 1835, that Don Juan was an actual noble who lived in the city of Seville and on whom Molina may have loosely based his character. I have had the diary reviewed by numerous experts who could find no sign of obvious forgery; however, scholarly caution has caused me to wait until now to publish this translation. My colleagues have at last convinced me that a judgment about the diary’s authenticity is best made not by me, but by the reader. —D.C.A. June 2006 iii Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 8 2/12/07 3:56:36 PM Rumors and Lies be known and my fate will not be left to the rumors and lies already whispering through the streets of Sevilla. Many, I am sure, will try to turn my life into a morality play after I am dead, but no man’s life is so easily understood or dismissed. I would not risk inscribing my secrets in this diary had I not been convinced to do so by my friend and benefactor, Don Pedro, the Marquis de la Mota. I argued that nothing I would write could be circulated in my lifetime without my being condemned by the holy office of the Inquisition and burned at the stake. The Inquisitor himself branded this danger into my imagination just yesterday. Perhaps it is this fresh threat, or the ultimatum of the king, that has at last caused me to pick up this quill and ink these words. The Marquis insisted that it is for posterity that I should write this diary, one’s reputation being the only true immortality. But it is hardly vanity alone that causes me to write. I write in the naked pages of this diary so that the truth will  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 1 2/12/07 3:56:40 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams Thirty-six years have passed since my birth, or more correctly since my mother left me, a swaddled bundle, in the barn of the Convento de la Madre Sagrada. It is no doubt a sign of my advancing years that I have been persuaded for the first time in my life to consider how I will be remembered. Yet there is another desire that leads me to write in this diary. It is to pass on what I have learned about the Arts of Passion and of the holiness of womanhood. Since I have forsworn matrimony and have no heirs of my own blood, I must look to all who follow as my descendants and try to share with them what I have learned from the women I have been privileged to know so well. A man’s recollections always tend toward self-flattery, so I will not rely on my testimony alone and will instead write, as faithfully as possible, not only the events but the words themselves that were shouted during a duel or whispered during a passionate embrace. It is this same pride that leads me to begin my account with the most daring seduction I have ever undertaken. My ambition was nothing less than to free the king’s chaste and lonely daughter from her imprisonment in the royal palace of the Alcázar—for a night. I knew that if I were caught, it would be my privilege as a noble to place my head on the executioner’s block and avoid the shame of the gallows. A man’s ambition, however, like his fate, is not always known to him in advance, and as I left the arms of the widow elvira, I had no hint of the danger that I would embrace last night.  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 2 2/12/07 3:56:40 PM A Flicker of P assion “O my maroon doublet as I dressed quickly. I was late, despite having been warned by the Marquis that my very life depended on my presence at the king’s audience. I had every intention of arriving on time, but this resolve melted when I discovered that the young woman in my arms this afternoon had been widowed by the sea. her loneliness and her desire had not been soothed in all the five years since her husband’s death. “Just one,” she added, her lips now inclining toward mine. I looked at her smiling face, and her black hair, disheveled by our earlier desire. her clear brown eyes reflected the flames of the candles that encircled the altar of her bed. how could I refuse her? I held her cheeks with the tips of my fingers and came closer, approaching her face slowly, anticipation being everything. I brushed her lips gently with mine and then tickled the corner of her mouth with the tip of my tongue. I knew not to smother her with kisses so ne more kiss,” elvira said, pulling gently on the sleeve of  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 3 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams she would have to defend herself from my assault. I sipped the moist nectar of her mouth as she opened her petals to me. our mouths fused together, her thirst palpable and her breath short. with our tongues and lips, we drank from each other a cordial as sweet as honey. when I pulled back at long last, she hovered in midair, her eyes still closed but her thirst quenched. I stroked her soft cheek with my forefinger. “I am sorry I cannot give you more than an evening’s entertainment,” I said, “but that is all that I can give any woman.” “Don Juan, you gave me more than my husband ever did. I’d heard that in your eyes, a woman sees her true beauty for the first time.” She swallowed. “It was not a lie.” I smiled and bowed my head, knowing that each woman’s soul is a singular treasure. It was while growing up as an orphan in a convent that I first discovered these riches that few men have the privilege to behold. It was in the words as much as the kisses from hermana Teresa’s mouth that I learned to hear the quiet whispers of a woman’s joys, fears, and longings. The clang of the local church bells was like a rod snapping against my skin. My coachman, Cristóbal, knocked on the door impatiently. I knew my opportunity to honor the king and win his protection was quickly slipping through my fingers. “I am sorry to have to leave so abruptly,” I said as I placed my plumed black hat on my head. “where I go is not nearly as enjoyable as where I have been.” She lay back in her bed with a confirming smile. I grabbed my cape and sword before darting out of her house. Cristóbal was a head taller than I but thinner, and his limbs were askew like those of a scarecrow. he crossed himself nervously, as he always did when he saw me after one of my seductions. “Another widow, my lord?” he said with a wince. “I suppose you believe the priests—that a widow should live like a nun until she joins her husband in heaven. let me tell you a secret, Cristóbal. A woman’s desire does not die before her last breath.” he blushed and said, “The audience, my lord.”  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 4 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan “what are we waiting for?” I said with a smile, and stepped into the carriage. “Quickly now!” Cristóbal urged my mare, no doubt worried for my life, but not just my life. A dead man has no need for a coachman. Bonita knew our urgency just from the force of Cristóbal’s rarely raised voice and galloped through the narrow streets of lebrija, the wheels of the black carriage scraping against the whitewashed walls. Unlike other coach drivers, Cristóbal never used a whip, and he had a way of whispering into a horse’s ear that made her do whatever he wanted. while he had this skill with horses, he was terrified of women. he had always had this fear, ever since I first found him in the Arenal, when he was a boy of twelve. he had run away from his family and was looking for work, and I was looking for a coachman but could not afford a full-grown one. I was no more than twentytwo at the time, and I became something of an older brother to him as we grew into manhood together. The carriage sped along the rough dirt road back to Sevilla, the wheels spinning dust in every direction. After less than two hours of hard riding, I could see through the carriage window the beautiful walls of Sevilla, burned pink and red by the light of the summer sunset. from within the city, the Giralda erupted to the heavens. At the crown of the tower stood a bronze woman, our city’s symbol of faith, a cross in one hand and a palm frond in the other. Next to the bell tower, the round moon, one day past full, already rested on the Cathedral like a satisfied woman reclining in her heavenly bed. Black smoke suddenly eclipsed the moon as we approached a massive crowd gathered on the Prado de San Sebastián, just outside the city walls. The charred scent of burning flesh offended my nose and turned my stomach. I looked around nervously, but there was no other road to take, and Cristóbal knew it was too late to turn back. Bonita was forced to stop, as we were now surrounded on all sides by a crowd watching a hellish spectacle, mouths agape with terror and eyes ablaze with fascination. roped to tall stakes were half a dozen men and women. Two  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 5 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams stood defiantly, while the bodies of the rest slouched lifelessly. The dead had chosen to confess their heresy and in return received the mercy of garroting before their burning. Beneath them, piles of kindling and logs fueled great bonfires that engulfed them and even reached the crosses atop each stake. within the flames, I saw the face of a boy, certainly no older than I was when I arrived in Sevilla at the age of sixteen. whether commoner or noble, all of the heretics wore the sanbenito gown painted with devils and flames. Although I did not know their crimes, some were no doubt followers of luther. one woman had red hair, and this alone may have caused her to be denounced as a witch. roped and burning on other stakes next to them were the wooden statues that allowed those who had fled or died in the torture chambers to be burned in effigy. Not even in death did one escape the fury of the Inquisition. The ornate statues looked as real as those figures of our lord Jesus paraded during holy week and had been carved by the same sculptors. It was of utmost importance to the inquisitors that the semblances be exact; these artists were so skillful that even tears on the faces of the sculptures looked as if they were falling down their cheeks. The screams of the still-living victims filled my ears as the flames licked their skin. “ride on!” I said to Cristóbal, unwilling to spend another moment in this diabolical place. But we could not move—not only because of the thickness of the crowd but because soldiers of the Inquisition were now blocking our way. The soldiers wore metal-studded red vests over their chain-mail shirts, wide black leather belts fastened around their waists, and shining steel helmets on their heads. They carried crossbows that were fired with a trigger, making them extremely deadly. Several soldiers approached our carriage. only then did I see who stood behind them. “Ah, Don Juan, have you come to see what your future holds?” inquired fray Ignacio de estrada. he had deep lines in his cheeks, and his temples seemed pressed into his head as if in a vise. he did not wear the black robe and regal pointed hat with a purple plume that most inquisitors wore. Instead, he wore only the black and white  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 6 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan habit of a Dominican friar. he wore no hat, just the bald head and halo of hair favored by any tonsured monk. Around his neck hung a roughly fashioned cross made of olive wood. Although now in his fifties, the Inquisitor still had the broad shoulders of a vigorous warrior of God. It was this man who was most responsible for the horror that was occurring all around me. while the inquisitors always turned their victims over to the civil authorities to deny responsibility for their executions, everyone knew who demanded that the kindling be lit. fray Ignacio has always seen himself as a holy crusader, sending to their deaths all who offend faith or public decency. he had risen quickly in the hierarchy of the Inquisition and was now second only to the Inquisitor General himself. I had known fray Ignacio since he had been my teacher at the monastery. his lessons did not endear him to me. “even the greatest sinners,” he added with a smile that was impossible to distinguish from a sneer, “cannot escape the wrath of God forever.” I breathed deeply and tried to hold my tongue. I could not. “futures are famously hard to predict, Your Reverence.” “Not yours, Don Juan,” he said through gritted teeth. “As soon as your favor with the king runs out, I will personally see to it that you are punished for each and every one of your sins.” “The greatest sinners are always punished last, Your Reverence. Now, with your permission, the king is waiting.” “So am I,” the Inquisitor said, but bowing to the king’s authority, he flicked his wrist for the guards to let us through. The soldiers and the sea of people parted as Cristóbal nervously coaxed the mare forward. The Marquis had taught me many years ago never to show weakness to an opponent, but as soon as we were out of view, I collapsed back against my seat and sighed in relief. we galloped again, and as we descended a final hill to the city, I could see the welcoming embrace of its gates. Yet across the riverbanks stood the stone Castillo de San Jorge, the headquarters of the Inquisition, like a beast laying siege to our city.  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 7 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams “Quickly now! Quickly!” Cristóbal urged, shaking the reins as we careened through the gates of the city. Bonita raced the remaining distance to the Alcázar, the carriage lurching back and forth on the cobblestones, until at last we arrived at the Puerta del león. After presenting myself, I was permitted to enter through the heavy wooden doors that stood the height of two men. rushing into the interior palace, I finally arrived at the Salón de embajadores. Noble well-wishers filled the room, and the whisper of court gossip and political intrigue filled the air. The walls were tiled and plastered in the knotted geometric designs of the Moors. Black marble columns with gold capitals skirted the room, spanned by horseshoe arches. I looked up in awe at the gold dome that glittered like the star-filled sky. It was here in this audience chamber that, long ago, king Pedro the Cruel decided to kill his own brother for falling in love with the princess whom he himself was to marry. I wondered whether I also would be sentenced to death in this chamber.  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 8 2/12/07 3:56:43 PM The Desire of a W oman called by name to the presence of the Crown. As I walked to the far end of the room, a hush came over the crowd. All craned to hear my reception. I kneeled before our aging king. his green eyes were sharp and suspicious, as always, but his tired and gray-bearded face looked all the closer to the grave. he suffered from gout, which must have made his journey from Madrid unbearable, and his right leg rested on a folding chair that had been given to him by the emperor of China. only the king’s bankrupt treasury, the result of too many wars and an endless empire, could have forced him to greet the treasure ships that were on their way to Sevilla. I knew that the king despised the pretension and deceit of court as much as I did, and he did not try to hide his boredom. our pious king slouched in the straight-backed mahogany throne that was as austere as he was. his grown daughter, Infanta Doña Isabel Clara eugenia, stood T he audience was coming to its conclusion, and I was  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 9 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams behind him. It was an open secret that she was the king’s closest adviser and favorite child. Doña Isabel had her father’s intelligent green eyes, but her full, youthful face was much warmer. her brown hair was pulled back tightly into a bun. She wore a black bonnet encircled with pearls and decorated with a white ostrich feather and jeweled pin. I waited with my head bent forward, as if anticipating the executioner’s blade. The orange-and-apricot-scented fragrance of the Infanta’s perfume calmed my nervous breath. ruffling the stilted silence, the enormous figure of the Marquis stepped from the crowd to introduce me. A bear of a man, he had a powerful chest that was the width of two, yet he moved nimbly toward the throne. his size and his speed made my mentor and friend a deadly opponent in a duel. he was dressed in black, like the king, but his fashionable clothes were laced with silver and gold thread. The tips of his waxed mustache pointed up, and his serpentine beard spiraled down. his receding hairline revealed much of his scalp, and his nose and cheeks were red, as always, the result of many fine meals and innumerable bottles of wine. he had once told me that there comes a time in a man’s life when food looks more desirable than a woman. I had prayed that for me such a day might never come. “Your Majesty, it is my privilege to present to you Don Juan Tenorio, your faithful subject.” “The Inquisitor will be the judge of his faith,” the king mumbled, sending a twitter of amusement through the crowd and an ominous shiver down my spine. “By the stories that have been circulating at court,” the king said, now turning his gaze toward me, “I would have thought that you were some kind of demon.” “Just a man, Your Majesty,” I said. “The rumors at court will turn any man into a demon.” I glanced up and saw that the king was unable to repress a thin smile. he was more a victim of the gossip and pettiness at court than anyone. “I was told,” he continued, “that you would announce your engagement tonight.” My face must have shown my surprise as I glanced over at the Marquis, whose raised eyebrows revealed 0 Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 10 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan that he had not been the source of this rumor. “was I misled?” the king asked. “My enemies deceive you, Your Majesty. I have not fallen in love.” The Infanta leaned forward and whispered something in his ear. “My daughter says that marriage need not have anything to do with love.” “Your daughter has your wisdom, Your Majesty,” I said as my eyes looked beyond him to those of the Infanta. Although now twenty-seven, she still lived with her elderly father. her mother, who had been married to our king at the age of fifteen to unite Spain and france, had died two years after Doña Isabel was born. even her younger sister and only confidante, Catalina, had been married off to the Duke of Savoy eight years ago. The Infanta no doubt would accept marriage without love, if the suitor had the right title, which I certainly did not. “It displeases the Crown that you have not partaken in the holy Sacrament of Marriage,” the king said irritably, and then looked away. “Your Majesty’s pleasure is my only concern,” I replied, flashing a meaningful look at the Infanta. her eyes stared back at me over her fan, and her lips opened almost imperceptibly. Twenty-seven years is too long for a woman’s undeniable passions to wait for the politics of royal alliances, I thought, as she looked away modestly. “Then the Crown commands you,” the king replied emphatically, “to find a suitable wife. The modesty of the nobility requires it . . . as does our holy Inquisition. Next month at court, I will hear whom you have chosen.” he held out his hand limply. I kissed it and backed away, recalling the words of the Inquisitor and the inferno I had just witnessed. our ailing king was increasingly unable to restrain the ever greater power of the Inquisition. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” the Marquis said, speaking for me. “You have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job.” The king bowed his head slightly, forced to be gracious to a  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 11 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams powerful marquis. I backed away and was swallowed up by the sea of people who now returned to their gossiping as quickly as they had stopped. I kept my gaze down, uncomfortable among my betters, and hid in the back of the room as countless others tried to ingratiate themselves with the king. I stood next to one of the black marble columns, furtively looking at the Infanta. In her silver brocade gown, she looked like a matron and not like the maiden she still was. The arms of her dress hung down like the wings of an angel, and her neck was confined by a lace ruff, as were her wrists. Around her waist she wore a jeweled belt, like a girdle, that came to a sharp point, covering her chastely. Most women can perceive a stare as if it were the whisper of words, and the Infanta was no different. She turned and looked at me, then replied in the secret language of the fan. She held the delicate black lace just below her beautiful green eyes and long black eyelashes, a possible sign that she wanted to see me in private. This was not the first time she had looked at me over her fan during a royal audience. It was only my fear and weakness that had prevented me from answering her. The Marquis must have seen the exchange of glances and now approached me with the famed courtesan Alma on his arm. “I don’t know if the king was referring to his own daughter,” he whispered with a mischievous smile, “when commanding you to partake in the holy Sacrament of Marriage.” his eyebrows were arched, as always, his small eyes missing nothing, plotting everything. he saw what no one else could, and he knew me as no one else did. his thin lips, so prized by the nobility for their cold restraint, smiled as he twisted his beard in his fingers. “You know that matrimony is the furthest thing from my mind,” I whispered back, as we stood beneath one of the horseshoe arches. Alma’s black ringlets framed her blue eyes, which always burned like the hottest part of a flame. The beautiful symmetry of her face spread into a smile at my reply. “Matrimony,” she ventured, “is not in our dear Don Juan’s vocabulary.” Although separated by a decade,  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 12 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan Alma and I had both been born in the small town of Carmona. She had been my greatest student, as I had been the Marquis’s. “Matrimony had better enter your vocabulary,” the Marquis said to me, “if you wish to stay in the good graces of the king. Nevertheless, I know quite well what your interest is in the Infanta, and I know what her interest is in you.” “really?” Alma replied for me. “oh, yes,” the Marquis whispered. “Poor Doña Isabel is so terribly lonely and longing for companionship.” “And how would you know that?” I asked. “from a letter that she wrote to her sister,” he said even more quietly, then quoted under his breath, “ ‘how I long to be married, to be made a woman, to know what a husband’s tender hand might feel like.’ ” The Marquis regularly intercepted the royal mail, and I had at one time stolen letters for him as his spy. Although I knew he would have used his false seal to refasten the letter and send it on to its intended recipient, I chastised him for stealing such a personal confidence. “And what business of yours are the Infanta’s fantasies?” I asked. “It is important for a loyal counselor to the king,” he parried, “to know about all affairs of state.” The king and Infanta were retiring after their long journey, and the guests were slowly leaving. “This seduction will be worthy of the diary I gave you,” the Marquis whispered in my ear, “but please be careful. Your execution would pain me terribly.” The Marquis excused himself, eager to talk with the king as he was leaving. “I know it is your rule never to ‘satisfy’ yourself with a virgin on your first encounter,” Alma said, lingering behind. “A self-serving rule that always leads to a second encounter.” “And eternal gratitude,” she added, “as pleasure is awakened in her skin before the inevitable pain.” “Indeed, although pleasure and pain are often impossible to separate.”  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 13 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams “My point exactly,” she responded. “when the Infanta’s pleasure has been attended to, perhaps I could relieve your pain.” She brushed her fan against my codpiece, sending a shiver through my body. “I know why you are the greatest courtesan in Sevilla, and it is not only your beauty. You know a man’s needs before he does.” “You taught me to read the unspoken needs that are more than skin-deep,” she replied. we were the last two to leave the audience chamber, and we continued our whispering as we walked through the colonnades of the Patio de las Doncellas. “You were a gifted student.” “Shall I keep my morning ‘uncommitted’?” I breathed in the sweet-smelling jasmine blossoms and replied, “I am no longer your teacher, Doña Alma, as the Marquis is no longer mine.” “A teacher always has more to teach.” “Need I remind you that it is also my rule not to buy affections that should be freely given?” “for you, Don Juan, I would not charge.” “You are most generous, but I seek something that no prostitute or courtesan can offer. Now I am afraid you must excuse me.” I ducked behind one of the double columns. Alma glanced back with an arched eyebrow. I had little time to consider her further, however, as all my senses turned to the dangers that surrounded me. A flicker of doubt lit through my body, and I felt my legs pulling me toward Alma and the rest of the guests disappearing around the corner. My right leg began to shake, as it always did when I foolishly endangered my life. Several guards passed the paired columns behind which I was hiding. The Infanta’s face with her eyes looking beseechingly over her fan came to mind. how could I refuse her invitation? I had taken a vow to pursue the liberty of womanhood, and I could not let her remain trapped in her tower of loneliness. out of my sleeve I pulled the leather mask that I was never without. It had served me so well over the years, first when I was a burglar, then when I was a spy, and now in my even more danger-  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 14 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan ous intrigues. The black band with its two oval eyelets would hide my identity if I were seen before I reached the Infanta’s bedchamber. It was not long before all the guests were gone and the courtyard was silent. I moved out into the moonlight that illumined the stone portico. My hands burned with apprehension and anticipation. The warm midnight breeze did nothing to cool my fever as I stepped between the columns. fortunately, my days as a burglar now served me well, and I was grateful that the cork soles of my boots hushed my careful steps. As I turned the corner, a flash of moonlight reflected off the rounded helmets and steel breastplates of two royal guards. I froze. Groping behind me, I felt the cool tile wall and tried to flatten my body against it like a shadow. My heart was pounding as if someone were knocking urgently at a door that would not open. These sentinels were guarding the greatest treasure of the king, his daughter’s modesty. In their gloved hands they held ax-topped lances that allowed them to impale and behead intruders. They stared in my direction. My black boots, cape, and mask hid me in the shadows. The maroon doublet and trunk hose I always wore at night were equally invisible in the dark. only the silver blade of my sword risked revealing me. The guards headed in my direction. I quickly stepped into an empty room, hiding behind one of the carved mahogany doors. I tried to quiet my breathing when I felt and then saw one of the guards thrust his head into the room. he was so close I could smell the acrid sweat under his heavy uniform and hear his heavy breathing. The door creaked; I knew that he would certainly discover me. I closed my eyes, held my breath, and tried to disappear through the wall. “I must be seeing ghosts,” he said to the other, backing away. They continued talking. I sighed and began to breathe again. I knew that if I were patient, the two soldiers would eventually be forced to leave. No man other than the king was allowed to spend the night in the palace. Not even the royal Guard could be trusted with the chastity of the king’s daughter. I did not have to wait long before I saw the two guards being es-  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 15 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM Douglas Carlton Abrams corted out by a third. The moon, half eclipsed by a cloud, winked at me encouragingly, and I continued toward the royal apartments. Soldiers would be stationed outside, and there were still many guardians who could sound a deadly alarm. The door to the stairway up to the royal apartments was of course locked. I removed my dagger, and once again the skills I had learned in my youth served me well. I pressed the tumbler in the lock and heard the bolt pin slide open. Gold sconces held tapers whose flames danced and cast apparitions around me. I climbed each step slowly and began to search the halls, following my instincts deeper into the palace. All of my senses were straining for signs of danger and clues to the Infanta’s presence. If I opened the wrong door, I could find myself in the king’s own bedchamber. As I crept around a corner, I smelled the sweetness of orange and apricot. It was the rare ottoman perfume that I had perceived in the audience chamber. The scent grew stronger as I approached a low double door. like most in the Alcázar, the doorway had the ornate stuccowork and the Arabic script left by the Moors, who had once patrolled these halls when the emir’s harem was as sequestered as our king’s daughter. There was a round gold handle on each door, and I approached with my hand outstretched, already grasping at my success. I felt the rush of air and then heard the squeaking hinge as the door swung open. I was caught off balance, stumbled, but then leapt into the room across the hall. Through the crack in the door, I saw the Infanta’s dwarfed and feebleminded dueña waddle out of the room. The vigilant chaperone wore a white wimple over her head and a rosary that hung down as a necklace. In her hand she held delicate red leashes, at the ends of which were the Infanta’s two small monkeys, one gray and one brown. The gray one had a shock of white hair on its head that fell back behind its ears and made it look like an elderly chaperone. These clever animals were the king’s best sentinels. Their sense of smell was keener than the dueña’s sense of sight, and the vigilant  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 16 2/12/07 3:56:46 PM The Lost Diary of Don Juan creatures stopped at the slightly opened door where I stood nervously. They shrieked and tried to reach inside with their tiny hands. I knew that if the dueña entered the room, my head would be presented to the Infanta like John the Baptist’s. Sweat was dripping down my back. I reached frantically into my pouch for a coin, which I thrust into the tiny hand that was groping inside the door. This quieted the monkey momentarily as he no doubt examined his treasure. every sentinel has his price. The two monkeys immediately started quarreling over the prize and screeching anew at each other. “Stop that! what did you find? Give me that! Come, you little beasts!” the dueña said, then added, as much to herself as to them, “She doesn’t want us to help her, so we won’t.” I breathed deeply and calmed my shaking fingers. when I could no longer hear her footsteps, I slid back into the hallway. The dueña’s near-disastrous exit had confirmed that this was indeed the room I was looking for. The door handle to the Infanta’s room was cold and smooth. I stopped and glanced around quickly to make sure that I had not been seen. I pushed the handle, hoping she had not yet locked it. It yielded to my touch, and I quietly slipped inside.  Lost Diary_final_sc.indd 17 2/12/07 3:56:47 PM