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In Cuba, when that lovely land
Saw Tacon reigning in his glory,
How Justice held, at his command,
Her balance with an even hand--
Learn while you listen to my story.


Miralda--such her maiden name--
Was poor and fair, and gay and witty,
Yet in Havana not a dame
In satin had a fairer fame,
Or owned a face on half so pretty.


For years she plied her humble trade,
(To sell cigars was her vocation),
And many a gay gallant had paid
More pounds to please the handsome maid
Than pence to buy his soul's salvation.


But though the maiden, like the sun,
Had smiles for every transient rover,
Her smiles were all the bravest won;
Miralda gave her heart to none
Save Pedro, her affianced lover;


Pedro, a manly youth who bore
His station well as labor's vassal,
The while he plied a nimbler oar
For passengers, from shore to shore,
Between the Punta and the Castle.


The handsome boatman she had learned
To love with fondest, truest passion;
For him she saved the gold she earned;
For him Miralda proudly spurned
The doubtful suit of men of fashion.


Of these--a giddy, gaudy train,
Strict devotees of wanton Pleasure--
Gay Count Almonté sought to gain
Miralda's love; but all in vain;
Her heart was still her Pedro's treasure.


At last the Count, in sheer despair
Of gaining aught by patient suing,
Contrived--the wretch!--a cunning snare,
By wicked force to win and wear
The prize that spurned his gentler wooing.


One day a dashing Captain came,
Before the morning sun had risen,
And, bowing, begged to know her name.
"Miralda." "Faith! it is the same.
Here, men, conduct the girl to prison!"


"By whose authority?" she said;
"The Governor's!" "Nay, then 't is folly
To question more." She dropped her head,
And followed where the Captain led,
O'erwhelmed with deepest melancholy.


The prison seems a league or more
From poor Miralda's humble shanty;
Was e'er such treachery before?
The Count Almonté's at the door,
To hand her down from the volanté!


"Ah!--coward!" cried the angry maid;
"This scurvy trick!--if Tacon knew it,
Your precious 'Captain,' I'm afraid,
Would miss, for once, his dress-parade!
Release me, Count, or you may rue it!"


"Nay," said the Count, "that may not be;
I cannot let you go at present;
I'll lock you up awhile," said he;
"If you are lonely, send for me;
I'll try to make your prison pleasant."


Poor Pedro! guess the lad's dismay--
His stark astonishment at learning
His lady-love had gone away,
(But how or whither none could say),
And left no word about returning!


The man who wrote that "Love is blind"
Could ne'er have known a genuine lover;
Poor Pedro gave his anxious mind
Miralda's hiding-place to find,
And found it ere the day was over.


Clad in a friar's garb, he hies
At night to where his love is hidden,
And, favored by his grave disguise,
He learns that she is safe--and flies,
As he had entered, unforbidden.


What could he do? he pondered long
On every plausible suggestion;
Alas! the rich may do a wrong,
And buy their quittance with a song,
If any dare the deed to question!


"Yet Rumor whispered long ago,
(Although she's very fond of lying),
'Tacon loves justice!'--may be so;
Quien sabe?--Let his answer show!--
I'll go and see--it is but trying!"


And, faith, the boatman kept his word;
To Tacon he the tale related,
Which, when the Governor had heard,
With righteous wrath his breast was stirred.
"Swear, boy," he said, "to what you've stated!"


He took the oath, and straight began
For speedy justice to implore him:
Great Tacon frowned, "Be silent, man!"
Then called the guard--away they ran--
And soon the culprit stood before him!


Miralda too was standing near,
To witness to his dark transgression;
"Know you, my lord, why you are here?"
"Yes, Excellencia, it is clear
That I must plead an indiscretion."


"The uniform your servants wore
In this affair--how came they by it?
Whose sword was that your Captain bore?
The crime is grave." "Nay, I implore
Your clemency--I can't deny it."


"This damsel here--has any stain
By act of yours been put upon her?"
"No, Excellencia; all in vain
Were bribes and threats her will to gain--
I here declare it on my honor!"


"Enough!" the Governor replied,
And added, in a voice of thunder,
"Go, bring a Priest!" What can betide?
To shrive? to wed? who can decide?
All stood and mused in silent wonder.


The Priest was brought--a reverend head,
His hands with holy emblems laden.
"Now, Holy Father, please to wed,
And let the rite be quickly sped,
Senor Almonté and this maiden!"


Poor Pedro stood aghast! With fear
And deep dismay Miralda trembled;
While Count Almonté, thus to hear
The words of doom that smote his ear,
His sudden horror ill dissembled.


Too late! for in that presence none
Had dared a whisper of negation.
The words were said--the deed was done--
The Church had joined the two in one
Ere they had breath for lamentation!


The Count rode off with drooping head,
Cursing his fortune and his folly;
But ere a mile his steed had sped,
A flash!--and lo!--the Count is dead!--
Slain by a murderous leaden volley!


Soon came the officer who bore
The warrant of his execution,
With, "Excellencia, all is o'er;
Senor Almonté is no more;
Sooth!--'t was a fearful retribution!"


"Now let the herald," Tacon said,
"(That none these doings may disparage),
Proclaim Senor Almonté dead;
And that Miralda take, instead,
His lands, now hers by lawful marriage!"


And so it was the lovers came
To happiness beyond their dreaming,
And ever after blessed the name
Of him who spared a maiden's shame,
And spoiled a villain's wicked scheming.