Three young men were walking through one of the quietest streets of Alcalà. Their rich appointments and courteous demeanour marked them as belonging to the noble youths who studied at the University of Alcalà, which was as learned as Salamanca, and more fashionable, and gave a great air of dignity to the little town on the Henares, which, now in the height of its fame, consisted of streets of palaces, convents and colleges huddled together in massive splendour behind the old walls. It was midsummer, the air was tremulous with heat, and low, purple black clouds rolled up from the plains towards Madrid; beneath them shot the last rays of the fierce sun that ended in a glow of dun light on the white walls and coloured shutters of the silent houses of the silent street through which the three youths were walking in leisurely fashion, two of them with their arms interlinked and talking together, the third a little in advance with his eyes on the ground and his arms folded on his chest. At the corner of the street stood a handsome palace surrounded by a courtyard in which grew laurels and ilex. Before this the three stopped and gazed through the light yet strong iron railing that divided them from the mansion. A strange glowing light fell on the house that fully faced the west, and the domes and towers rose golden white against the deepening purple of the thundrous sky. A little hot breeze, the forerunner of a storm, stirred the stiff boughs of the laurel and slightly shook the crimson drapery of an open upper window. It was towards this window that the three young men looked, for it belonged to the apartment of the lady, Doña Aña Santofimia y Munatones, who was decided to be the most beautiful in Alcalà, and who was the object of the interest of every youth in the University, though none of them had ever spoken to her or seen her nearer than across the space of her father's courtyard. Before her window was a balcony on which stood three pots of pink roses, now in full bloom, and a bowl of growing basil that cast its feathery shadow over the white wall. More from habit than earnest feeling the three students lingered to catch a glimpse of the beauty. Presently she appeared, lifting the crimson curtain, and holding a pair of gilt scissors, on which the strong light gleamed. She wore a white skirt and a violet jacket fastened with green buttons; over her head was a muslin shawl with a silver fringe. She came out on to the balcony and cut the withered leaves from the rose bushes, scattering them on the hot air, where they fluttered a second and sank.