The Last Look, A Tale of the Spanish Inquisition, by W.H.G. Kingston.
It is in the middle of the sixteenth century, and in Spain, where the Inquisition, and subsequent torturing and burning to death by the Catholic Church, of those who would not agree to its tenets, is getting under way.
An Archbishop calls at the house of a former friend of his, a woman who had refused him in love. The woman is the widow of a great nobleman. The Archbishop is chatting to his former friend's daughter, and is thinking how like the child is to what she had been. Unfortunately the child artlessly gives away the fact that the family had now adopted Protestantism, due perhaps to her father having met Luther while on visits to Germany.
Some years later the child is now grown up, and has two suitors, one of whom is a rich Catholic, and the other is a much poorer man but a Protestant. She and others are meeting at the house of a woman who often has such clandestine all-Protestant meetings, when they hear that a person they all know has gone mad and has run around telling everyone about these Protestant meetings. The Inquisition of course, with spies everywhere, hears all about it. From then onward the story takes many of them to the jails of the Inquisition, and some are burnt at the auto-da-fe, a ritualised torture ceremony ending in death at the stake.
The book is short, only three hours to read, but very tensely written by this great author. Audiobook recommended.
THE LAST LOOK, A TALE OF THE SPANISH INQUISITION, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
AN UNWELCOME VISITOR.
The beauty of Seville is proverbial. "Who has not seen Seville, has not seen a wonder of loveliness," say the Spaniards. They are proud indeed of Seville, as they are of everything else belonging to them, and of themselves especially, often with less reason. We must carry the reader back about three hundred years, to a beautiful mansion not far from the banks of the famed Guadalquiver. In the interior were two courts, open to the sky. Round the inner court were marble pillars richly carved and gilt, supporting two storeys of galleries; and in the centre a fountain threw up, as high as the topmost walls, a bright jet of water, which fell back in sparkling spray into an oval tank below, full of many-coloured fish. In the court, at a sufficient distance from the fountain to avoid its spray, which, falling around, increased the delicious coolness of the air, sat a group of ladies employed in working tapestry, the colours they used being of those bright dyes which the East alone could at that time supply. The only person who was moving was a young girl, who was frolicking round the court with a little dog, enticed to follow her by a coloured ball, which she kept jerking, now to one side, now to the other, laughing as she did so at the animal's surprise, in all the joyousness of innocent youth. She had scarcely yet reached that age when a girl has become conscious of her charms and her power over the sterner sex. The ladies were conversing earnestly together, thinking, it was evident, very little of their work, when a servant appearing announced the approach of Don Gonzales Munebrega, Bishop of Tarragona. For the peculiar virtues he possessed in the eye of the supreme head of his Church, he was afterwards made Archbishop of the same see. Uneasy glances were exchanged among the ladies; but they had scarcely time to speak before a dignified-looking ecclesiastic entered the court, followed by two inferior priests.
One of the ladies, evidently the mistress of the house, advanced to meet him, and after the usual formal salutations had been exchanged, he seated himself on a chair which was placed for him by her side, at a distance from the rest of the party, who were joined, however, by the two priests. The young girl no sooner caught sight of the Bishop from the farther end of the hall, where the little dog had followed her among the orange trees, than all trace of her vivacity disappeared.
"Ah, Dona Mercia, your young daughter reminds me greatly of you at the same age," observed the Bishop, with a sigh, turning to the lady, who still retained much of the beauty for which the young girl was conspicuous.
"You had not then entered the priesthood; and on entering it, and putting off the secular habit, I should have thought, my lord, that you would have put off all thoughts and feelings of the past," answered Dona Mercia calmly.
"Not so easy a task," replied the Bishop. "A scene like this conjures up the recollection of days gone by and never to return. You—you, Dona Mercia, might have saved me from what I now suffer."
"You speak strangely, Don Gonzales," said Dona Mercia. "Why address such words to me? Our feelings are not always under our own control. I know that you offered me your hand, and the cause of my rejecting your offer was that I could not give you what alone would have made my hand of value. I never deceived you, and as soon as I knew your feelings, strove to show you what were mine."
"Indeed, you did!" exclaimed the Bishop, in a tone of bitterness. "You say truly, too, that we cannot always control our feelings. My rival is no more; and did not the office into which I rashly plunged cut me off from the domestic life I once hoped to enjoy, what happiness might yet be mine!"
"Oh, my lord, let me beg you not to utter such remarks," said Dona Mercia, in a voice of entreaty. "The past cannot be recalled. God chasteneth whom He loveth. He may have reserved for you more happiness than any earthly prosperity can give."
A frown passed over the brow of the priest of Rome.
The lady of the mansion, anxious to turn the current of the Bishop's thoughts, and to put a stop to a conversation which was annoying her— fearing, indeed, from her knowledge of the man, that it might lead to some proposal still more painful and disagreeable—called her young daughter, Leonor de Cisneros, to her. Dona Leonor approached the Bishop with downcast looks.
"You are wonderfully demure now, my pretty maiden," he remarked in a bantering tone, his countenance brightening, however, for an instant as he spoke to her; "but you were gay and frolicking enough just now, when I entered. How is that?"
"It becomes me to be grave in your presence, my lord," was the answer.
"But you are generally happy and joyous, are you not?" asked the Bishop.
"Yes, especially when I think of the good and loving Master I desire to serve," answered the young girl, innocently.
"Who is that?" asked the Romish priest, not guessing whom she could mean.
"The Lord Jesus Christ, who died on Calvary that I might be washed from my sins by His precious blood there shed for me," answered the young girl, promptly.
"Ah! but you love the Holy Virgin, the immaculate Mother of God, too, do you not?" asked the priest.
"Yes, indeed, I do love the Holy Virgin, for she was blessed among women, and nurtured and brought up the dear Jesus, who died for me and for her too, that we might be saved," said Dona Leonor, without hesitation.
"Ah! what! do not you pray to the Holy Virgin, little maiden?" asked the priest, looking at her sternly. "This must be looked to," he muttered to himself.
"Why should I pray to her, when I have the gentle loving Jesus, to whom I may go in prayer at all times and in all places?" she asked with simplicity, and with a tone of surprise that the priest should not agree with her.
"And you do not pray to the saints either, then, perhaps?" he asked, before the girl had finished the last sentence.
"Oh, no! they are dead and cannot hear me. I pray only to the good Jesus, who always is ready to hear me; for He loves me more than my dear father did, or even than my mother can," answered Dona Leonor.
"These are not Catholic doctrines, young lady," said the Bishop in a tone of harshness he had not yet used. "Who taught them to you? They smack strongly of heresy."
"I do not know what heresy means," answered Dona Leonor, in an artless tone. "My dear father taught me what I know about the loving Jesus— that He is the only friend in whom human beings can really trust. It was the sure knowledge of this which comforted him through his illness, and made his deathbed so happy and glorious. He told us to meet him in heaven, and I do hope to meet him there some day. The thought of that makes me extremely happy, whenever it comes to my mind."
"You hold very strange doctrines, child," said the Bishop, sharply. "Has your mother embraced them?"
"I know nothing about doctrines, my lord," answered Dona Leonor. "I think that my mother must hope to meet our dear father in heaven, or she would be very miserable; and I am sure she cannot hope to get there except through her trust in the blood of Jesus. I hope, my lord Bishop, that you expect to go there by that sure and only way."
"I cannot expect to go there except by the way the Church points out, and I cannot even know that there is a heaven except through what the Church teaches," answered the Bishop, in a voice that sounded somewhat husky. "That is the true Catholic doctrine, maiden, which it behoves all Spaniards to believe, and which they must be compelled to believe. You understand, maiden. Tell your mother what I say. But here she comes."
Dona Mercia, wishing to escape from the remarks of her former admirer, had joined the rest of her guests, and afterwards retired to give some direction for their entertainment, little dreaming of the dangerous turn the conversation between her daughter and the Bishop would take.
"Ah, Dona Mercia, I find that your daughter is a little heretic, and holds in but slight respect the doctrines of the Church. As she tells me she was instructed in them by her late father, and as he must have imbibed such abominable principles during his visits to Germany from that arch-heretic Luther, I trust that they have proceeded no farther. But let me advise you to be cautious, Dona Mercia, and to inculcate Catholic principles into the mind of your daughter. Remember that from henceforth the eyes of the Inquisition will be upon you."
"My lord Bishop, I have ever endeavoured to do my duty to my God, to my child, and to all around me," answered Dona Mercia, meekly, unconsciously placing her hands across her bosom. "I trust that I have no cause to tremble, should the eyes of the whole world be upon me."
"The eyes of the Inquisition are more piercing than those of the whole world combined," answered Don Gonzales, in a low voice, which came hissing forth from between his almost clenched lips, in a tone which was calculated to produce more effect on the mind of the hearer than the loudest outburst of passion.
When the Bishop rose from his seat, he approached the rest of the company with a smiling aspect, and addressed them with that dignified courtesy for which Spaniards have ever been celebrated. Few would have guessed the feelings which were even then agitating his bosom; still, the party felt relieved when he and his softly-spoken, keen-eyed attendants took their departure.
At the time our story commences, the inquisitors scarcely suspected how far the opinions they so much dreaded had extended. They had satisfied themselves hitherto with burning Jews, Moors, and the poorer class of Christians, whose opinions did not agree with those of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, when Don Gonzales Munebrega, soon after his arrival at Seville on ecclesiastical business, paid the visit which has been described to Dona Mercia de Cisneros, he was considerably startled at hearing her young daughter utter expressions which showed that she had been taught doctrines of a heretical character. The whole family were in his power. He had once loved Dona Mercia; she had rejected him. How should he now use that power? Tumultuous feelings agitated his bosom as he mounted the richly-caparisoned mule which stood ready to convey him to the convent where he lodged.
This was not the only visit he paid to Dona Mercia; but, though courteous to her guest, she was ever on her guard, and carefully kept Leonor out of his way. For once in his life he was baffled. Whenever he paid his visits the same caution was observed. At length he was compelled to take his departure from Seville. Years rolled on, but he never forgot the remarks made to him by the young Leonor de Cisneros. He had hated her father, he had been rejected by her mother. It is difficult to describe the feelings with which he regarded the daughter, still less those which he had entertained for the mother. Were they holy and pure? The lives of thousands of cardinals, bishops, and priests of all degrees, is the best answer to the question.
Don Gonzales Munebrega was rising in the Church. He had become Archbishop of Tarragona. His heart had become harder and harder; in reality an infidel—an alien from God—a hater of all that was pure and holy, he thought that he was becoming devout. He was resolved that if he was not on the right way to heaven, no one else should get there by any other. The war was now to begin against heresy and schism—terms abused, especially the latter, at the present day almost as much as in the darker days of Popish supremacy. There are to be found clergymen of the Church of England who can, unconcernedly, see many of their flock going over to the Church of Rome, whom they have possibly led half-way there; and yet should any of the rest of their congregation, disgusted with their Ritualistic practices, or fearing the effect of their false teaching on their children, strive to set up an independent place of worship, or to join any already established body of Christians, anathemas are hurled at their heads, and they are told that they are guilty of the heinous crime of schism—schism, in the sense they give it, a figment of sacerdotalism, priestcraft, and imposture. But does the crime of schism not exist? Ay, it does; but it is schism from the true Church of Christ, the Church of which He is the head corner-stone, the beautified in Heaven, the sanctified on earth; from God's people, who are with Him in glory, who are with us here below, who are yet to be born; from the glorious company of the redeemed; from Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world, the risen Saviour, the one Intercessor between God and man. Those are guilty of trying to create schism who tell God's people—trusting to the same precious blood shed on Calvary—that it is a crime to worship together, to commemorate the Lord's death together, to put out the right hand of fellowship, to call each other brethren; ay, those are the causers of schism, against whose evil machinations Christian men have cause to pray.
But we must return to Spain. The year 1552 arrived. During it an auto-da-fe was celebrated at Seville, but as only a few poor Moors and Jews were burnt, it did not create much sensation; still there was no lack of spectators to see the burning. Several criminals were condemned to do penance on the occasion, and among them was the once celebrated preacher, Dr Egidius, whose crime was being true to his Lord and Master. The high conical cap and yellow robe in which he appeared could not make him ridiculous in the eyes of many of his fellow-citizens, even of those who did not sympathise with his opinions. At length he was liberated, and once more mixed with his friends at Seville. It was necessary, however, for him to be very cautious, lest, as his movements were watched, he should draw suspicion on them. Soon after he was released, he set out for Valladolid, where his wounded spirit was much refreshed by finding the progress the Gospel had made in that city and its neighbourhood. Over-fatigued by his return journey, he died shortly after his arrival in Seville. God, however, did not leave His Church in Seville without a minister. Constantine Ponce de la Fuente, on the death of Egidius, obtained the post of Canon-Magistrate in the Cathedral of Seville, previously held by him. This made him the principal preacher in the place, and gave him great influence, which he used in spreading the truth of the Gospel. He published numerous evangelical works suited to the understanding of the least educated of his countrymen. His system was not so much to attack the errors of Rome, as to bring the light of the Gospel to shine on their minds through his addresses and writings. In Valladolid and the surrounding towns and villages, men of talent and eminence were equally zealous in spreading Protestant opinions. They were embraced by the greater part of the nuns of Santa Clara and of the Sistercian order of San Belem, and converts were found among the class of devout women, called in Spain beatas, who are bound by no particular rule, but addict themselves to works of charity. One of the most active propagators of the reformed doctrines in the surrounding country was Don Carlos de Seso, who had for important services been held in high honour by Charles the Fifth, and had married Dona Isabella de Castilla, a descendant of the royal family of Castile and Leon. These few examples are sufficient to show the progress made by the Reformation at that time among the highest and most intelligent classes of the community in Spain—made, too, in spite of the ever-watchful eyes of the officers of the Inquisition, and notwithstanding the almost certain death with torture, and by fire, which would be the lot of any denounced by its familiars.
In Spain, in those days, as at present, it was the custom for ladies of rank to receive guests at their houses on certain days of the week. Dona Mercia de Cisneros was holding such a reception one evening. Guests of all opinions came. There were a large number of Protestants; they knew each other to be Protestants, but to the rest of the guests their opinions were unknown. Among the guests were two young men who, though apparently strangers to each other, were attracted by the same object—admiration for Dona Leonor, the youthful daughter of the house. Don Francisco de Vivers, the elder of the two, was an inhabitant of Seville, of considerable wealth and excellent family. He was considered amiable and generous; and was, moreover, handsome and agreeable in his manners, dressed well, and possessed a house and equipages surpassed by few. He was not at all insensible of his own qualifications for winning a young lady's heart, and was, therefore, greatly puzzled at discovering that Dona Leonor seemed insensible to them. Don Francisco loved the world and his wealth far too much to give his heart to God; and Dona Leonor had resolved not to marry any one who would not make up his mind to do so. Possibly too, he might scarcely have heard of the reformed doctrines; he was a firm Roman Catholic. It was a faith which exactly suited him. He found it so easy for a person of his wealth to clear off any sins which might trouble his conscience.
The other young man who has been spoken of seemed to be a stranger in the place, though several affectionate greetings which he received showed that he was not so altogether. He was dressed in black, the usual costume of a lawyer in those days, and though not so handsome as Don Francisco, his broad forehead, clear eye, and firm mouth, showed that he was far his superior in intellect. Dona Leonor no longer turned away her head when he approached her, as she had done when Don Francisco drew near, but received him with a friendly smile, while an acute observer might have discovered that a blush suffused her cheek while he spoke. Don Francisco watched him at a distance, and an expression denoting angry jealousy came over his countenance as he saw the intimate terms which existed between the two. He little dreamed, however, of the cause of the earnest love which one felt for the other: it was the pure holy faith which both enjoyed, the same common trust, the same hope, the same confidence in the one ever-loving Saviour. They believed that they were to be united, not only for a time, but for eternity. Their acquaintance had commenced during a visit Dona Leonor had paid to some relatives residing in the town of Toro, of which place Antonio Herezuelo, the young man who has been described, was an advocate. It soon ripened into affection. No barrier existed between them, for the acute lawyer had already been converted to the truth, and, head and heart alike convinced, held firmly to it as the anchor of his soul. Dona Mercia did not oppose their union, for she perceived that Antonio Herezuelo possessed courage, determination, and a superior intellect, beside a gentle and loving disposition—qualities calculated to secure her daughter's happiness, and which would enable him to protect her during the troublous times which she feared might be coming on Spain. She knew well what had happened, and what was occurring in the Netherlands, as did all the educated persons in Spain; but that did not prevent those who had the Gospel offered to them from accepting its truths, or from endeavouring to make them known among their companions. Those who were in the Church, and whose position enabled them to preach, promulgated Gospel truth openly, while laymen spoke of it to their friends in private, or addressed small assemblies of persons who appeared disposed to receive it.
A NARROW ESCAPE.
The young couple, now formally betrothed, appeared everywhere together in public, and it was understood that before long their marriage would be solemnised. Many of the places, however, frequented by people of their rank, they avoided—the bull-fights and the religious spectacles— the one tending to brutalise the people, the other to foster the grossest superstition. Among the houses at which they visited at Seville was that of the widow Dona Isabel de Baena. Her guests, however, it was understood, only came by invitation. Most of them approached her house cautiously—sometimes alone, or only two or three together—generally when it grew dusk, and muffled in their cloaks so that their features could not be discerned. Often there was a large assemblage of persons at Dona Isabel's house thus collected, though the spies of the Inquisition had not observed them assembling. Though sedate and generally serious in their manner, they were neither sad nor cast down; indeed, a cheerfulness prevailed among the company not often seen in a Spanish assembly. Dona Leonor was there with her mother. Don Antonio Herezuelo set out from his lodgings with the purpose of going there also. He had not gone far when, suddenly turning his head, he found that he was closely followed. Under ordinary circumstances this would have caused him little concern, but at present he knew the importance of being cautious. He remembered that by going down a lane near at hand he might return home again. This he did, and walking on rapidly, got rid, as he supposed, of his pursuer. After remaining a short time he again sallied forth, and taking a circuitous way to Dona Isabel's house, arrived there safely, and, as he hoped, without being observed. Leonor had become anxious about him. She told him so when he arrived.
"Do not on similar occasions fear, my beloved," he answered, with that brave smile which frequently lighted up his countenance. "God protects those who put their whole trust in Him—not a half trust, but the whole entire trust."
"Yes, I know, and yet surely many of those who were tortured and suffered in the flames in the Low Countries put their trust in Him," answered Leonor. "I shudder when I think of the agonies those poor people must have endured."
Again that smile came over Herezuelo's countenance. "Sometimes He requires those whom He loves best, and who love Him, to suffer for Him here, that He may give them a brighter crown, eternal in the heavens— the martyr's crown of glory," he answered.
"Ah, yes, I know that thought should sustain a person," she remarked; "yet all tortures must be hard for poor, frail human bodies to bear."
"Yes, if people trust to their own strength and courage they will mostly shrink at the time of trial, but if they trust to the strength God gives them, they will as surely bear with fortitude whatever He may allow to be layed on them," was the answer. "Not one, but a hundred such assurances He gives us in His holy Word. 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' He says to all who trust in Him, as He said to the Apostle Paul. It is not moral, nor is it physical courage which will sustain a person under such circumstances. No, dear one, it is only courage which firm faith, or rather, the Holy Spirit of God, can give."
"I know that—I feel that; yet it is very dreadful to think that those we love and honour may be brought to undergo such suffering."
"Not if we remember that they may thus be enabled to honour and glorify their loving Lord and Master," answered Herezuelo. "But see, here comes Don Carlos de Seso, one of the noblest of our band of evangelists. I heard that he was about to visit Seville. To him I owe my knowledge of the truth. He has, since his marriage with Dona Isabella de Castilla, who is, you know, a descendant of the royal family of Castile and Leon, settled at Villamediana, near Logrono. His evangelistic efforts at that place have been as greatly blessed as they were at Valladolid; and among many others, the parish priest of his own village has been converted to the truth. At Pedroso also, the parish priest, Pedro de Cazalla, has been brought to a knowledge of the truth, and now preaches it freely in his own and the neighbouring villages. Oh, it is glorious work; would that this whole nation might receive the Gospel!"
"Say rather the whole earth," said Leonor. "If Spain becomes the mistress of the world, she will spread everywhere the glorious light of truth."
"But if she puts out that light, she will as surely spread darkness and error," observed Antonio, with a sigh. "See, De Seso is about to address us. Let us pray that, whatever God in His wisdom orders, we may believe in His justice, and submit to His will."
A large number of persons had by this time assembled in Dona Isabel de Baena's rooms. Among them, strange as it may seem, were a considerable number of monks, and even several nuns, though such rather in their outward garb than in reality. The latter belonged to the nunnery of Saint Elizabeth, while the monks had come from the Hieronomite convent of San Isidoro del Campo, situated about two miles from Seville. There was also present Domingo de Guzman, a son of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and preacher of the Dominican monastery of Saint Paul. As soon as he had embraced the reformed principles, he became more zealous in propagating them. Such, indeed, was generally the case with all those in prominent positions who embraced the Gospel. They were in earnest. They had counted the cost, and well knew that should the Inquisition discover their proceedings, the stake would be their doom. Both Don Carlos de Seso and Don Domingo de Guzman addressed the congregation of earnest believers on this occasion. They prayed also with all the fervour of true believers, and hymns were sung of praise to Him who had called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. Don Carlos had deplored the want of books, and of Bibles especially, by which the truth might the more rapidly be made known, and had prayed that God would supply that want. Scarcely was the service concluded, when there was a commotion among the guests, and it was announced that a brave Christian friend, Julian Hernandez, after undergoing many dangers and difficulties, and great fatigue, had arrived with a supply of the books which were so much required.
A short time afterwards there was a cry of Julianillo, or little Julian, and a remarkably small but stoutly built man, dressed as a muleteer, entered the room. The guests crowded eagerly around him to hear his adventures. He had many to relate. How often he had narrowly escaped capture with his precious burden! but the Lord had preserved him. Had he been taken, he and his books together would have been committed to the flames. God had determined that the seed of those books should take root in the hearts of many natives of Spain, to bring forth fruit to His glory. Julianillo's success made him resolve to set forth again to bring a fresh supply across the Pyrenees. Some of the more timid of his friends advised him not to make the attempt. "Satan and his priests will not like me to bring them," he answered laughingly. "Those Testaments and Luther's writings are the arms they dread more than anything else. That makes me feel sure that I am doing God's work in bringing them, and that He will take care of me while I am so employed." A brave and faithful answer, little Julian. Oh, what noble, true hearts there were in Spain in those days! and though many were crushed and destroyed, still some survived, and their descendants at the present day may yet become the salt of their native land—lights set on a hill to enlighten their long benighted countrymen.
Before the guests separated another short prayer was offered up, and a Gospel hymn was sung. Scarcely had the notes of the last verse died away, when a servant who had been sent out on a message hurried into the room. "Bad news! bad news!" he exclaimed. "We are all lost; the cause of the pure faith is lost; the inquisitors will have their way."
The guests gathered round the man with anxious looks, for they knew well that at any moment they might be placed in the perilous position he announced.
"The widow Dona Maria Gomez is the cause of it all," the man answered, to the eager questions put to him. "She is acquainted with every one of us, and we all thought her a true Christian. Every one here is also acquainted with the learned Doctor Francisco Zafra. The poor lady had, it appears, gone mad, and had been placed by her friends under Doctor Francisco's care. As he is with us, this would not have been of much consequence, had not Dona Maria managed to escape from his custody. Now, horrible to relate, she has made her way to the Inquisition at Triana, and has denounced all the Protestants in Seville. As she was making her way to the Inquisition, she cried out what she was going to do, accusing all her former friends, and declaring that she should have no rest till she had seen every one of them committed to the flames. Doctor Zafra has never even been suspected by the inquisitors of favouring the Lutherans. Now, as he will be among the first denounced by the wretched widow, he has no chance of escaping. What shall we do? what shall we do?"
"Do!" exclaimed a voice; "put our trust in God, and act like men! Do! pardon me for speaking, senors—keep together and defy our enemies!"
It was Julianillo who uttered these brave words.
"But then we may all be captured together like fish by one net," observed a gentleman.
"Let us pray, friends, for guidance and protection to the loving Saviour whom we serve," said Don Carlos de Seso. "He will direct us, and enable us to undergo whatever He may think right for His own honour and glory."
Don Carlos setting the example, the whole party sank on their knees, while he offered up a deeply fervent, though short, prayer for the assistance all needed. Refreshed, the company arose.
"I cannot agree with our friend Julianillo that it will be wise to keep together," observed the lawyer Herezuelo. "Should the unhappy widow bring the accusation she threatened, and the officers of the Inquisition find us all together, they will naturally suspect that the information is well founded. No; let us retire each one to his own house, avoiding observation as much as we can. There let us be together in spirit, praying for each other. We should fear no harm when God is with us."
Another short prayer was offered up and the Christian friends left the house as they had come—two and three together, in different directions, hoping thus to avoid observation. The monks returned to their convent, not, however, without having first been supplied with books from the rich stores which Julianillo had brought, and for which their brethren within its walls were eagerly looking. All the other guests went laden in the same way, and thus the Holy Bible and the works of Luther, and others, were quietly and secretly distributed throughout the surrounding towns and villages. Herezuelo begged that he might accompany Dona Mercia and her daughter to their home, for it was fearfully possible that even on their way they might be seized by the officers of the Inquisition and carried off to its dungeons. The last to leave the house was Julianillo. The lady of the house inquired where he was going.
"To bring to my famishing countrymen a fresh supply of food for the soul," he answered.
"But surely you have done enough, Julianillo. You run a fearful risk of losing your life," observed the lady.
"Enough, Signora! enough service to our loving Lord and Master!" exclaimed the little muleteer. "Oh, no, no! As long as there are persons in Spain desiring to learn about the blessed Jesus, so long will I try to bring them books which tell them about Him. And as to fearing the dangers which may overtake me, I am in the hands of One who can protect me through far greater than are in my path at present; and should He ever require me to witness to the truth of His gospel, I know that He will give me strength to undergo all the trials and torments with which its foes may seek to afflict me."
Brave Julianillo! He went along the street singing a joyous air. To the words, however, he wisely did not give utterance. He took the way to the lodgings of the advocate, Herezuelo. Don Antonio had not arrived. After waiting some time, Julian became anxious. Could he have been seized by the officers of the Inquisition? It was too likely. Herezuelo had, he knew, openly preached the doctrines of the Reformation in his part of the country. At last, Julian thought that he might possibly be at Dona Mercia's. "Why did not that occur to me before?" he said to himself. "Of course, if I knew that there was danger, I should stay by the side of my intended wife."
He hurried off to Dona Mercia's abode. He was at once admitted. He found the family in some consternation, for it was reported that Doctor Zafra had himself been seized, and, if so, there could be little doubt that he would be put to the torture and made to confess that the persons denounced by the poor mad woman were really guilty of entertaining Lutheran opinions. Herezuelo was endeavouring to comfort his friends. He could not but feel that the reports were possibly true. Of human help, therefore, he could not speak. An attempt to flee from the country would be hopeless, but he could point to Jesus Christ, to the God of mercy and love.
"Ah, my dear friends," observed Don Antonio, "never let us forget that He has redeemed us and washed our sins away; and if He thinks fit to call us to Himself, even through fiery trials, He will give us strength to endure all that we may be called on to suffer, that we may glorify His name."
"Just the remark I lately made, senors," observed Julianillo, who at that moment entered the room. "Satan tries to frighten us, and to make us believe that He is stronger than our Master; but praised be God, we know that we serve One all-powerful to save, and who can, if He will, crush Satan under His foot."
"The truth, brave Julianillo," exclaimed Herezuelo, who in the volunteer muleteer found one whose heart sympathised cordially with his own. "And what do you propose doing?"
"Wait till daylight, and see what comes of this matter," answered Julianillo. "Those who fly will be the first suspected. Doctor Zafra is a wise man. Sense may be given to him to outwit the inquisitors, or should he fail to do that, he will, I have hopes, suffer torture rather than betray his friends. In the meantime, cavalheros, let us be wise, and seek for strength and endurance from the Giver of all power and might."
Following the advice of the muleteer, or rather the example of the apostles of old, those assembled knelt down in prayer, thus gaining strength and courage for what they might have to undergo. Oh, that Christians at the present day would remember that by earnest, frequent, persevering prayer, mountains will be removed, guidance obtained, difficulties overcome!
The greater part of the night was thus spent in prayer. As soon as the morning dawned, and people were once more passing to and fro in the streets, Herezuelo and Julianillo went forth to try and ascertain the fate of Doctor Zafra, on which apparently their own and that of so many of their friends depended. Should the mad widow's story be believed, there could be no doubt that such an auto-da-fe would take place as had seldom been witnessed in Spain. They kept at a distance from each other, lest being seen together they might be suspected; thus, though fearless for themselves, wisely taking every precaution to avoid danger.
Herezuelo, as he walked along, thought of his beloved Leonor, so delicate, so gentle, so faithful. He himself was ready to undergo any torture the cruel inquisitors might think fit to inflict on him, but how would she be able to endure their barbarities? His heart rose in his bosom as he thought of this, and he could not help praying that a power might arise by which the foes of freedom would be driven from the land. At first he thought of an arm of flesh, carnal weapons—that some hero might arise who would liberate long-enslaved Spain; but, by degrees, a better spirit exerted its influence. "Through the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, can error, superstition, tyranny alone be conquered." He said to himself, "Ah! Julianillo is a greater hero than I am or can ever become, inasmuch as he does more to spread the Holy Bible throughout Spain than any other man."
Hour after hour the friends waited in the neighbourhood of the Inquisition, in vain endeavouring to ascertain what had become of the widow and Doctor Zafra. In despair, they were about returning, when a caleche appeared, in which sat the doctor, with the widow by his side. He seemed calm and unconcerned, his attention being apparently wholly occupied in calming the agitation of the poor woman. Not a glance did he bestow on either the advocate or Julianillo. They had good hopes that the inquisitors had been satisfied; or, thought Herezuelo, "Can the doctor have become a traitor; and is he allowed by the inquisitors to go free that he may the more readily entrap others into their toils?" It was too probable that such an idea was correct; but Herezuelo quickly banished it as ungenerous from his mind, and hurried back to Dona Mercia's house with the satisfactory information that Doctor Zafra was free. Julianillo arrived soon after, and expressing his belief that all were safe, stated that he intended to re-commence his perilous expedition to Germany. Still some hours must elapse before the truth could be ascertained for a certainty, as it would not be safe to visit Doctor Zafra's house till dark. Much of the interval was spent in reading the Scriptures and in prayer. At length the truth was known. The sagacious Zafra, on being summoned, went boldly to the inquisitors, with a fearless, self-satisfied countenance. He laughed when the names of those denounced by the widow were read over to him.
"She has been mad for many a day, and a strong proof of her madness is that she should have picked out persons the most unlikely in Spain to be guilty of such heresies," he replied. "Devout and exemplary I know they are; and those among them with whom I am acquainted are especially lovers of the true faith, and are persons in whom I have unbounded confidence." The inquisitors, on hearing this, were so fully convinced that the poor widow's representations had no other foundation than the visionary workings of a disordered brain, that they allowed the learned doctor to depart with her under his charge. Thus was the danger to the infant Church at Seville for the time mercifully removed, and while it gained strength to endure the coming persecutions, the number of Christ's true disciples was much increased.
SIGNS OF DANGER.
Two years had passed away. Leonor de Cisneros had become the wife of Antonio Herezuelo, the advocate; they had settled at Toro, but occasionally made visits to Seville and to Valladolid, where they enjoyed the society of other Protestants—many of them illustrious, both by birth and talents, among the nobles of Spain.
The year 1558, fearfully memorable in Spain, at length commenced. Philip was about to return to his paternal dominions. Charles the Fifth was in his retirement in the convent of Saint Juste. The Inquisitor-general, Valdes, became more than ever certain that heresy was extending. Herezuelo and Dona Leonor were at Valladolid. They were at their lodgings in that city when a certain Juan Garcia, a goldsmith, was announced. He was well-known there as a sincere Protestant. It was his office to summon the brethren to meet together for prayer and sermon. The advocate, who knew him to be a true man, welcomed him cordially, and promised to attend the meeting. It was to be held at the house once occupied by Dona Leonor de Vibero, the mother of Doctor Cazalla. She herself had been dead for some few years, as were several of her children; but her house had been continued to be used, as it now was, as a meeting place for Protestants. Juan Garcia had a good deal of information to communicate with regard to the progress made by Protestant principles. He was very sanguine as to the success of the cause; and as the members of the Church had so long evaded the lynx eye of the inquisitors, he had every reason to hope that they would continue to do so. In his rounds he encountered Julian Hernandez, the persevering Bible importer. A warm greeting passed between the two friends. Julianillo was on the point of starting on another expedition, and could not attend the meeting that night. His heart would be with his co-religionists, and his prayers would ascend with theirs as he followed his mules over the sierra.
"The time may come, ere long, when we may worship together in public, and the books which I now bring in small numbers with difficulty and danger, may arrive in shiploads and be sold openly," he added, as he shook his friend's hand.
The goldsmith shook his head.
"That time is, I fear, a long way off," he answered; "yet it behoves us, nevertheless, to pray for it."
Juan Garcia, having performed his duties, returned to his home. He was not happy there. His wife, Maria Vallanegra, did not entertain his opinions. Now, it could have mattered very little what Maria thought on the subject, had she not gone to confession, where, not content with confessing her own sins, she took upon herself, at the instigation of the priest, to confess her husband's also. What the priest said to her it is not necessary to repeat. She had had the same sort of things said before, and had not been shocked. He now, however, before he allowed her to depart, brought the enormity of her conduct fully before her, and told her that he could not afford her absolution, because she was married to one who held heretical notions, unless she could manage to get him duly punished. She had made her confession; but, after all, she had to go home without receiving absolution. She had observed that her husband was away from home occasionally for some hours, and not engaged in business; also, he occasionally remained out at night for a considerable time, and declined telling her where he had been. She had made a statement to that effect to the priest, together with her suspicions that Lutheranism had something to do with the matter.
"Then obtain all the information you can; and if you discover anything of importance, not only shall you receive absolution for all your yet unpardoned sins, but you shall receive a handsome reward, and a plenary indulgence for the future," answered the confessor. "Exert your woman's wit. Think of the indulgence you will obtain, and if your husband is, as you suspect, a heretic, he is utterly unworthy of your consideration. You cannot wish to associate with him in this world; and in the next, if you go to heaven, you must be ever separated from him."
Thus exhorted, the wretched Maria returned to her home. She knew that her husband had a secret, and she resolved to discover it. If he should prove to be a Lutheran, it would be a pious act for her to deliver him up to justice. She procured a mantilla, such as is worn occasionally by tradesmen's wives, and even ladies when going to confession, of a manufacture different from that which her husband was accustomed to see her wear. To throw him off his guard, she lavished on him far more affection than was her custom, and pretended to forget that she had ever complained of his leaving home without telling her where he was going. More than once she put on her mantilla to follow him, but before he had got far she lost sight of him in the crowd. At length, one evening, when the weather was rainy, and there were fewer people abroad than usual, she saw he was preparing to go out; and managing to leave the house before him, she concealed herself within an archway, whence she could watch which way he went. He came out; she followed him stealthily, but quickly. He called at several houses, she noted them carefully; then he went on till he came to the mansion of the Cazalla family. He was admitted at a side door. She took up her post at a spot whence she could watch the door. Her labours were to be rewarded. Scarcely had her husband entered than several other persons arrived, and then more and more, by twos and threes. Many of them she saw by their dress and carriage, as the lights their servants carried fell on them, were evidently persons of rank. She wished that she could venture to follow them into the house, to learn more about the matter. Still, the information she had gained might prove of the greatest value. The next morning she hurried off to inform her father confessor of her discovery. He told her to keep secret what she had seen; and the next time her husband went out at that hour, to come instantly and let him know.
The next prayer-meeting took place, and Maria gave timely notice of it to her father confessor, Fre Antonio Lobo. Had he been addicted to giving expression to his feelings, he would have rubbed his hands with satisfaction; he merely cautioned Maria to be silent as the grave as to what she had told him, and immediately set off to give the long wished-for information to his superiors. The Chief Inquisitor, the stern Archbishop, three other dignitaries appointed by the Holy Father the Pope to assist him in the extirpation of heresy by the destruction of heretics with fire and sword, and several other high officers, were seated in the council hall of the Inquisition when Father Antonio Lobo appeared among them. Some of them, like anglers, who, having been long unsuccessful in their attempts to hook their finny prey, declare that there are no fish in the lake, had inclined to the opinion that their countrymen were too staunch adherents of the Pope ever to be led astray by the doctrines of Luther.
"It may be as you suppose, Fre Ignacio," observed the Grand Inquisitor to one of his assistants, who had made a remark to that effect. "But remember that it is our duty to seek diligently for all who may be opposed to our order and system, and to destroy them without compunction, with their wives and children, so that none of the viper's brood remains to sting us."
The stern expression visible on the countenances of those he addressed, as the light from the brass lamp which hung from the vaulted roof fell on them, showed that they were fully ready to carry out his advice to the extreme. A grim smile played over their features when Fre Antonio made his report.
"I knew that before long we should gain the tidings we desired," observed the Chief Inquisitor. "In capturing a few we must take care that the rest do not escape us. Officers must be placed to watch all those who come forth from the Cazalla palace, and they must be followed to their homes and never again lost sight of. Meantime, messengers must be despatched forthwith throughout the kingdom, and all the ramifications of this most accursed heresy traced out, so that on a given day all the heretics which exist in it may be seized together and brought to punishment. We must surround the whole brood with our nets, and let not one escape."
The proposal was thoroughly in accordance with the wishes of most of the council. No time was lost in carrying out the proposed plan. Through the assistance of the artful Maria, who continued, in spite of his caution, to worm out some important secrets from Juan Garcia, every Protestant in Valladolid was discovered and marked for destruction. Officers and familiars of the Inquisition were also placed on the highways leading to the frontiers, so that any suspected person attempting to escape from the country might be captured.
The Protestants, meantime, continued to preach the truth, and hold their meetings as before, not, however, without a sense of the danger in which they were placed. How the feeling came on them they were not aware. Still it did not make even the most timid wish to abandon their principles, but rather drew them nearer to God, and made them more and more sensible of their entire dependence on Him. The difficulties encountered by those attempting to escape from the country were very great. Few persons experienced greater than did the monks of San Isidoro, near Seville. Nearly all the convents in its neighbourhood had been leavened with the reforming principles. They had been originally introduced into that of San Isidoro by the celebrated Doctor Blanco, who afterwards for a time abandoned them, or rather, it may be said that a timid disposition made him conceal them. He taught his brethren that true religion was very different from what it was vulgarly supposed to be; that it did not consist in chanting matins and vespers, or in performing any of those acts of bodily service in which their time was occupied, and that if they desired to have the approbation of God, it behoved them to have recourse to the Scriptures to know His mind. After a few years a still more decided change took place in the internal state of the monastery. An ample supply of copies of the Scriptures, and of Protestant books in the Spanish language having been received, they were read with avidity by the monks, and contributed at once to confirm those who had been enlightened, and to extricate others from the prejudices by which they were enthralled. In consequence of this, they and their Prior agreed to reform their religious institute. Their hours of prayer, as they were called, which had been spent in solemn mummeries, were appointed for hearing prelections on the Scriptures; prayers for the dead were omitted, or converted into lessons for the living; papal indulgences and pardons, which had formed a lucrative and engrossing traffic, were entirely abolished; images were allowed to remain, as they could not have been removed without attracting notice, though they received no homage; habitual temperance was substituted in the room of superstitious fasting; and novices were instructed in the principles of true piety, instead of being initiated into the idle and debasing habits of monachism. By their conversation also abroad, and by the circulation of books, these zealous monks diffused the knowledge of the truth through the adjacent country, and imparted it to many individuals who resided in towns at a considerable distance from Seville.
THE STORM BREAKS.
The advocate Herezuelo returned one afternoon to his lodgings in good spirits. He had been pleading an important cause, which he had gained— right against wrong—the cause of a widow and her children; on one side helplessness and poverty, on the other power and wealth. It had been held that the widow had no prospect of success till the young advocate undertook her cause.
Leonor rejoiced with her husband. He had been prompted by no expectation of fee or reward; but simply from a desire, through love of his blessed Master, to assist the distressed. It was a happy evening to both of them. They sat in a balcony overlooking an orange-grove, the soft air they breathed made fragrant by the sweet-scented flowers. The stars shone brilliantly in the clear sky; and as, their hands clasped together, they gazed upwards into the immeasurable space, they felt what happiness would be theirs, could they be allowed to wing their flight in company to that blessed region where all is peace, and quiet, and joy.
"But we may yet have work to do on earth in our Master's service, dear one," observed Antonio. "Let us be content to remain till He calls us, and let our earnest prayer be that He will then, in His loving mercy, summon us together. It would be grievous to be parted from you, my beloved Leonor, even for a brief season."
"I pray that, through God's mercy, that day may never come," said Leonor, looking with deep affection at her husband. "Oh, let us not think even such an event possible."
They were interrupted by the arrival of a visitor. Several other friends had called to congratulate Herezuelo on his success. The fresh visitor was in the garb of a laic; but when he threw back the cloak which concealed his features, the advocate and Dona Leonor saw before them their friend Don Domingo de Roxas, the well-known prior and preacher, a son of the Marquis de Poza.
"I have come to bid you farewell, dear friends," he said. "It may be for a short time—it may be for ever. This is no safe country for one who has preached the truth openly as I have done, and I have, therefore, resolved to escape to Geneva, where I hope to remain till happier times come for our poor benighted Spain. On my way I must visit our beloved brother, Don Carlos de Seso, and, it may be, induce him to accompany me, for I fear that neither is he safe while the inquisitors are seeking for victims to satisfy their thirst for blood."
"We may say, rather, that while those miserable slaves to the tyranny and superstition of Rome think that any remain who have been freed from that hideous system they will endeavour, by every cruelty they can devise, to destroy them, if they cannot bring them back to slavery," observed Herezuelo. "Of all the men in existence, I pity the officials of the papal system, and more especially the inquisitors and their families, be they cardinals, bishops, or other ecclesiastics, however wealthy and powerful. While we endeavour to counteract their designs, and to escape from their power, let us pray that their hearts may be turned from darkness to light, and that they may learn to know, love, and imitate that same Jesus whom they now persecute."
"Amen! I pray for them likewise," said Don Domingo. "But I must not delay. I came to advise you, my friend, to quit Valladolid. It is no longer a safe place for you, for even were your religious opinions not suspected, you have made mortal enemies of those whom you so signally defeated at law this morning."
"You are right, my friend; and we purpose, God willing, leaving this city for Toro to-morrow morning by daybreak," answered Herezuelo. "We shall not be out of danger even there; but I have duties to perform at that place, and I shall at all events be at my post."
"I wish you had arranged to start to-night," said Don Domingo. "The delay of a few hours is dangerous. If, indeed, you can discover an excuse for leaving the country altogether, let me entreat you to do so. The storm I see coming may blow over; but you are a man of note, and as the tallest trees are the most quickly blown down, you would be the first assailed."
"I have no fancy for fleeing from danger, and feel disposed rather to face my enemies, and argue the case with them," observed the advocate.
"The only arguments they trust to are the rack and the stake," answered Don Domingo. "Against them your eloquence will avail you nothing. Trust not to any one of the Romish priesthood, nor to those under their influence; they are sworn foes of true religion and liberty, and the more enlightened they believe you to be the more eager they will be for your destruction."
These and other arguments used by Don Domingo at length induced Herezuelo to agree to set forth on his journey immediately that he could procure a conveyance for his wife and her attendant. Don Domingo himself offered, indeed, to remain and assist them; but of this the advocate would not hear, and the friends departed, the former taking the road for Calahora, where he hoped to meet with De Seso.
Don Domingo, who was dressed as a Spanish cavalier of rank, attended by a servant, pushed on at a rapid rate. He was no coward, but he knew full well what the Inquisition had in store for him should he be taken, and he wished to escape their treatment. He avoided as much as possible all inns and places resorted to by the public, and kept, when he could, out of the high road. He hoped thus to reach De Seso, and to persuade him to bear him company in his flight.
Calahora was reached without interruption. The noble De Seso was very unwilling to believe the reports which Don Domingo brought him.
"You go, my friend; but I cannot carry my wife and young children, and will not desert them," he answered.
No arguments would move him. He did not even think that the inquisitors would venture to interfere with persons in his position.
Reluctantly Don Domingo left his friends to proceed on his journey. Hoping to avoid observation, he turned out of the high road, with the intention of continuing his journey during the moonlit hours of the night. He had not gone far when he saw approaching him a man riding a tall mule, and leading a string of five or six pack mules.
The muleteer was jogging on, to all appearance, carelessly singing what sounded like one of the plaintive ditties then become common in Spain, though learned from the Moors. There was something, however, in the tone, and in a few of the words that reached the ear of Don Domingo, which made him look hard at the muleteer.
"My friend, if I mistake not, Julianillo!" he exclaimed. "What brings you this way?"
"Evil times, Don Domingo; for I know you in spite of your disguise," answered Julianillo. "I received notice from a trusty friend that all the passes are guarded, and that I shall not have a chance of escaping, nor will you. For the present, if we would be safe, we must lie concealed. Come with me; we shall not be the first Christians compelled, for the truth's sake, to take shelter in the caves of the earth; nor shall we be the last. I wish that we could give notice to more of our brethren, who might join us."
The arrangements proposed by Julianillo were now concluded; and, followed by Don Domingo, he led the way down a road, or bridle path rather, which branched off to the right. Scarcely had he turned aside when the noise of horses' feet coming rapidly along the road was heard. Don Domingo's servant, who was some little way behind, came spurring on crying out, "Flee, master, flee! They are officers of justice! They are in pursuit of us!"
The advice was followed, but the path was rough. Don Domingo's horse stumbled, and in another instant he and his servant found themselves in the power of the officers of the Inquisition. Their mouths were instantly gagged, and a dark cloak and hood were thrown over their heads, completely concealing their figures and features. Some of the horsemen pushed on, but after a short time returned, and Don Domingo had the satisfaction of believing, from some of the expressions they let fall, that Julianillo had escaped. As far as he could judge, his steps were retraced till the party reached the neighbourhood of Calahora; they were then joined by another band of horsemen escorting prisoners. He had too much reason to fear that his friend De Seso was one of them. Among the prisoners were several females—of that he was certain. He longed to ascertain if his suspicions were correct. So strictly, however, was each individual prisoner guarded, that he might never have ascertained the truth, had not a storm suddenly burst on the heads of the escort. Shelter was not far off, and while the horsemen were pushing on to gain it, one of the party made a bold attempt to escape. He had grasped the rein of one of the female's horses, when a flash of lightning made it rear, and he had great difficulty in saving the rider from being thrown to the ground. In doing so, his hood became disarranged, and the features of De Seso were revealed. The officers of the Inquisition immediately seized him and secured him more carefully, while he and the lady were separated.
"Alas! my noble friend is in the same condition as myself," thought Domingo. "May God in His mercy support him; but he suffers not alone. He will feel the sufferings of his beloved wife even more than his own. And we, alas! alas! are but a few, perhaps, out of many hundred Christians now in the power of these monsters of the Inquisition."
The unfortunate prisoners were allowed no rest, were permitted to communicate with no one, but were hurried on till they reached the portals of that mansion of horror and despair—the Inquisition. But was it to them an abode of despair? No! A power more than human supported them. That strength which never fails those who put their faith in God held them up; for God has promised that His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will be with them who trust in Him in all their troubles and afflictions.
As soon as they passed through the gates, each of the prisoners was conducted blindfolded to separate cells. Into these dark and foul holes delicate women and men, accustomed to all the refinements the age afforded, were thrust indiscriminately. No couch, no chairs, even, were allowed them; when weary of standing, they were compelled to sit down on the hard, cold and damp flag-stones. Scarcely a ray of light was admitted into their dens; the only sounds which ever reached their ears being occasionally the groans and cries of their companions in suffering. The system pursued by the inquisitors was too generally known to allow them a ray of hope that they would escape without the most fearful torture, or the alternative of giving evidence to condemn those nearest and dearest to them.
Antonio Herezuelo and his wife Leonor knelt in prayer after their friend had left them. On rising from their knees, they decided not to make the attempt to escape.
"We cannot flee from the country, and the alguazils of the Inquisition can as easily find us at our house as in the city of Valladolid, should they suspect us of holding to the true faith," said Antonio, calmly. "Our Heavenly Father knows what is best, and He may require us to testify to the truth of the doctrine we have learned of Him through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and let us rejoice rather than grieve if we are so honoured. Oh, my beloved Leonor, be firm, whatever happens; cling to the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. Never allow that saint in heaven or priest on earth has the power to come between us and our one great loving Mediator, who stands at the right hand of God, pleading that He paid once and for all a full and complete ransom for us. Never acknowledge that by the word of a man bread and wine can be changed into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, of that Lord who is now in heaven, standing at the right hand of God, pleading that body broken, that blood flowing freely for all of us; pleading that all-sufficient, all-perfect, all-complete sacrifice made once, and never to be repeated, on Calvary. Never dishonour that Saviour, that precious blood-shedding, by acknowledging that it was insufficient to wash away all stains of sin, and that the fires of purgatory are required to cleanse the soul from sin, and to make it pure and holy, and fit to enter the presence of God. Oh, never acknowledge that any being in heaven or in earth has a heart more loving, more gentle, more merciful than the heart of Jesus, or that there exists a being, create or uncreate, who will more willingly hear our prayers, and bear them to the throne of grace—not even His mortal mother, who, though blessed among women, herself required, as being a daughter of Adam, to be sprinkled by His blood to obtain salvation. Do not own that sinful man, though he be called a priest, can absolve his fellow-sinner from sin, or that prayers can avail for those who have passed away without accepting the perfect salvation offered them here on earth. Die rather than be guilty of that gross idolatry of worshipping the elements of bread and wine, unchanged and unchangeable as they must ever be; and above all things hold fast to God's blessed testament to fallen man, and refuse to acknowledge any doctrine which cannot be clearly proved from its whole and entire tenor."
"Husband, dear husband, I will," answered Leonor, solemnly. "Set me the example, and I shall be firm."
"Dear wife, trust not to my example, but seek strength from the Holy Spirit. He will guide and support you. Your husband is but a frail man. Dearly as I love you, there is One who loves you more; trust Him."
Much more passed between them. How solemn was that conversation! What deep, earnest, true love did Herezuelo exhibit to his young wife! It was interrupted by a sound which a quick ear only could have detected. It was that of footsteps stealthily ascending the stairs. Herezuelo arose, and unconsciously placed his hand on his sword, as the door burst open, and several dark and masked figures entered the room.
"Antonio Herezuelo and Leonor de Cisneros, you are our prisoners," said one who appeared to be in command of the rest; "you are summoned to appear before the tribunal of the Holy Office to answer to certain charges which will there be made known to you."
Antonio, though brave as a lion, saw that resistance was useless. "If you will allow my wife time to put on her walking dress, we shall be ready to accompany you," he answered, with as firm a voice as he could command; but when he turned round to speak to Leonor, she was not to be seen, though he caught sight of a figure closely enveloped in a dark cloak, borne rapidly along a passage leading from the room by two of the alguazils. He attempted to follow, being sure that it was his wife thus forcibly carried off; but the moment he moved he found himself seized, and his arms pinioned behind him, while two men stood on either side of him with pistols presented at his head. In vain he struggled; in vain he attempted to free himself. The cords which bound him were drawn tighter and tighter. He was in the hands of those who had long utterly disregarded human misery and suffering.
In vain he pleaded, in vain he petitioned that he might see his beloved wife, even for a few moments, that he might have some parting words with her. He spoke as to men who were deaf. Not the slightest answer by word or sign did they give him, but immediately proceeded to examine all the cases and drawers and boxes in the room. They then went to the sleeping apartment, searching it throughout, and taking possession of every scrap of written paper, as well as of all the books they could find. There were gestures of triumph and satisfaction exhibited when a Bible and hymn-book were drawn forth. Antonio fancied that he could see the dark eyes of the familiars flashing under their hoods as they handed the books to each other. The advocate knew well the language those eyes spoke. "Here we have evidence which will convict him without doubt; no hope for him, no prospect of escape." Yet he stood calm and motionless, striving by a mighty effort to quell the agitated feelings of his bosom, and to seek strength from the only Source whence it could be obtained. He seemed as though he had succeeded, when a faint cry reached his ear. He knew the voice; it was that of his wife. In an instant he had torn asunder the bonds which held him; he had dashed on either side the cowled alguazils who crowded round, and at a bound dashed through the doorway, down the passage whence the sound proceeded.
"Leonor! Leonor! I come to you," he cried out; but as he uttered the words, a blow from a heavy staff on the forehead laid him senseless on the ground. When he returned to consciousness, it was to find himself in a narrow, dark, and noisome cell, which he well knew must be one of the secret prisons of that fearful institution, the Inquisition. He had often heard of the horrors those gloomy walls could reveal. He knew that thousands of his fellow-creatures had been confined within them; that very many had never again seen the light of day; that others had been brought forth as spectacles to be mocked at, dressed in fantastic costumes, and thus had been committed to the flames.
On the hard flag-stones he knelt down, and then, in close communion with his God, he obtained a strength and courage which no human power could have given him. Hour after hour, and day after day, passed away, and he remained alone in darkness, a cowled figure entering occasionally, and as quickly retiring, without uttering a word or making a sign. When not engaged in prayer, his thoughts were with Leonor; and even when thus engaged, they often turned to her, and she became their chief and absorbing subject, that she might have strength, that she might have courage to hold to the truth.
At length the moment arrived when his powers of endurance were to be put to the test—his faith, his courage. The door opened, and six familiars, with their countenances masked, and their figures concealed by dark robes, entered his cell. His eyes, long accustomed to darkness, could scarcely endure the light from a torch which one of them carried, but he saw that they made signs to him to rise and accompany them. He knew that to disobey would be useless. Rising from the ground on which he had been resting, he endeavoured by earnest prayer to nerve himself for the fearful ordeal through which he might have to go.
Antonio Herezuelo was only one of many who on that unhappy night were seized by the officers of the Inquisition and dragged off to prison. In consequence of the information given by the wife of Juan Garcia, eighty persons were immediately apprehended in Valladolid, among those who had been present at the meetings; and in Seville and its neighbourhood two hundred were betrayed into the hands of the inquisitors by the treachery of a pretended member of the Protestant Church, and the superstitious fears of another. The first, suspecting that some of his acquaintances entertained Lutheran opinions, insinuated himself into their confidence for the express purpose of learning their secrets and of betraying them. The latter, hearing Lutheran principles denounced in the most fearful language, as the only means of saving himself from the results of the anathemas, hurried off and informed against all those he knew to be Protestants. Dismay seized upon large numbers of the most timid of the Protestants; and as people are often panic-struck when a ship strikes the rocks, and leap overboard into the raging surf, so some of them hurried off to the Triana, and accused themselves to the inquisitors of entertaining doctrines for which the stake was the sure punishment. Others, who had been before unsuspected, betrayed themselves by the hurried manner of their flight. Thus in a few days the chief members of all the Protestant Churches throughout Spain were either in prison, or fugitives, or hiding in the caves of the earth, among mountains and forests. In no place, however, were they safe, and many even of those abroad were betrayed into the hands of the emissaries of the Inquisition, and dragged back to Spain to suffer death at the stake. The inquisitors were not content with those who denounced themselves. Every possible means was employed to discover heretics, and to assist the object Philip renewed a royal ordinance—fallen into desuetude— allowing to informers the fourth part of the property of those guilty of heresy. This abominable edict greatly increased the zeal and activity of the vile tribe. Pope Paul the Fourth also assisted with eagerness in the object, and issued a bull enjoining all confessors to examine their penitents, from the highest to the lowest, and to charge them to denounce all whom they knew to be guilty of buying, selling, reading, or possessing any book prohibited by the Holy Office, the punishment being death. The great aim of the papists was to strike terror into the minds of the whole nation; and while they had not the most distant intention of extending mercy to those who professed themselves penitent, they were nevertheless anxious to secure a triumph to the Catholic faith (as they called their system of idolatry and tyranny), by having in it their power to read, in the public auto-da-fe, the forced retractions of those who had embraced the truth.
Antonio Herezuelo stood before the council of inquisitors. So well-known is the scene that it scarcely requires description. It is too true a picture—an exhibition of devilish ingenuity of man when he desires to tyrannise over his fellow-creatures, unsurpassed in cruelty by the heathen or most barbarous nations of ancient or modern days. There sat the inquisitors in a gloomy vaulted chamber—on one side the fearful rack, with grim, savage executioners ready to perform their office, a black curtain only partly concealing other instruments of torture, with hooded familiars standing silently round; while at the table sat two secretaries, ready to note every word uttered by the prisoner, to be wrested, if possible, to his destruction. The only person whose countenance could have been regarded with satisfaction was the prisoner. He stood calm and undaunted amidst those cruel men, who had resolved on his death. Hark! the president addresses him in a harsh, pitiless voice:
"Antonio Herezuelo, you have been accused by most credible witnesses of holding in disrespect many of the principal articles of our most holy faith. What have you to answer for yourself?"
"That I hold most sincerely and truly all the doctrines necessary for my eternal salvation, and all other doctrines which I find clearly set forth in God's blessed Word, sent in His mercy and love as a sure guide to perishing man," answered Antonio, boldly.
"Then you consider the Bible, by which so many are misled, as the only guide and rule of faith?" said the Chief Inquisitor. "You set at nought the authority of the Church?"
"I bow with all submission to the authority of the Church in all points in which she is clearly guided by Holy Scripture," answered Herezuelo, who still clung, as did many of the Protestants of those days, to the false idea that there exists only one sole visible Church on earth; and believing that such a Church does exist, supposed it to be, in spite of all its errors, the Church of Rome.
"Then, heretic, you dare to say that the Bible is above the Church?" exclaimed the Inquisitor. "Why, fool, it is through the Church that you have a Bible; but it is not fit that the laity should possess it, for they can only, as we have evidence that you and others have done, make a most improper use of it. Therefore it is a prohibited book, and yet you dare to acknowledge that you have both possessed one and studied it. Ay, you have done so, and to your own utter destruction of body and soul."
"To the salvation of my soul," said Antonio, boldly. "Our blessed Lord Himself appealed to Scripture on many occasions, and to Scripture I appeal and trust."
"Then you reject the traditions of the Church?" said the Inquisitor, looking towards the secretary, who was busily noting down all the questions he put, and the answers made by the prisoner.
"By tradition we may be deceived. Scripture is a sure guide, which, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will lead us infallibly aright," answered Herezuelo.
"Oh, what abominable—what terrible heresy!" exclaimed the Inquisitor. "You deny, too, that the Blessed Virgin should be adored and honoured above Christ, as, being His mother, and, from being a woman, more ready to hear the prayers of the faithful than He can be?"
"The Virgin Mary was blessed in that she became the earthly mother of Jesus, and thus she was peculiarly honoured among women; but I find nowhere in Scripture that prayers should be made to her; on the contrary, at the marriage feast of Cana of Galilee, our Lord says, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee?' when she ventured to interfere in a matter she was incapable of understanding. Saint Mark tells us of the remark made by our Lord when told that His mother and His brethren waited without: 'Who is My mother or My brethren? Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.' When hanging on the cross, too, and looking down on Mary and His beloved disciple John, He said, 'Woman, behold thy son!' and then, addressing His disciple, He said, 'Behold thy mother!' 'And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.' Not a word more does the Holy Spirit reveal to us of the history of the mortal mother of Jesus. All we know is, that, as a mortal child of Adam, she must have been saved by His precious blood shed on Calvary, for without that blood shed there is no remission of sins."
The Inquisitor rose from his seat as if he would tear off his clothes, and sat down again, exclaiming, "Blasphemy! blasphemy! You deny, too, I hear, the necessity of confession and of priestly absolution?"
"I nowhere find it written that we are to confess our sins to man, but always to God. 'A broken and a contrite heart, O Lord, Thou wilt not despise.' In the Epistle of James (chapter verse 16), he says, 'Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed'; that is to say, if you have trespassed one against another, or if one brother has offended another. Nowhere do I find, however, that on sinners coming in faith to our blessed Lord, does He require them to confess their sins to Him before He will hear them. He says, simply, 'Thy faith hath made thee whole; go, and sin no more.' I find it also written, 'Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name given among men whereby we may be saved!' When our Lord sent out His disciples, He said to them that all those who would accept the offers of the Gospel would be forgiven, or would have their sins remitted through them, or rather through their preaching; and those who, in spite of the preaching, refused to accept the offer, would have their sins retained. Through faith in Jesus Christ only can a person obtain forgiveness of sins; and John says, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.' This great truth a minister has the power to declare, but in no other way has he, according to the Scriptures, the right to absolve any persons from their sins. I hold that when our Lord said to His disciples, 'Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,' He said it not only to all the ministers of the Gospel, but to all Christian men who go forth with the Bible in their hands, that they should declare the glorious Gospel truth that all who trust in Him, Jesus Christ, are forgiven; but that all who refuse to trust in Him still remain in their sins—their sins are retained."
"Oh, what hideous blasphemy!" exclaimed the Inquisitor, he and his associates lifting up their hands as if in horror at what Antonio had said. "But go on, go on, fill up the measure of your iniquities. How do you interpret, 'Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven'?"
"Much in the simple way that I interpret the previous passage. The apostles, as employed in preaching the Christian doctrine among the Jews, were to release or loose them from certain obligations of the Mosaic law; but as they were not to release them from them all, they were to pronounce what were to be retained, or by what they were still to be bound; in other words, when a thing might lawfully be done among the Jews, it was a common mode of expression to say that that thing was loosed to them, and that if anything was unlawful for them to do, it was bound to them. The meaning of the expression was thus very clear to the Jews who heard Him. So Peter understood the same expression, and he knew perfectly well that he was simply to declare, both to Jew and Gentile, what was to be believed, and what was not to be believed, thus unlocking to them the doors of the kingdom of heaven, inviting them to come in, to become subjects of Christ. Such are his keys. On the great truth which he had confessed, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' was Christ's spiritual Church to be founded, as on a rock against which the powers of hell are never to prevail."
"Most horrible! most horrible!" cried the Inquisitor. "Then you do not acknowledge the authority of the Church, that his Holiness the Pope is the successor of Saint Peter, that the priesthood have power to forgive sins?"
"The Scriptures speak nowhere of Saint Peter having a successor, nor does our Lord give authority to him to appoint one," said Herezuelo, boldly. "No Church can have authority with regard to spiritual matters except such as is clearly derived from the Bible, which is equally open to all men, while the only priest a Christian can acknowledge is the one great High Priest standing at the right hand of God, ever making intercession for us."
"Horrible! horrible!" again cried the Inquisitor. "Then, if you do not acknowledge the priesthood, you deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, the great work performed at the Mass, the chief glory of the Church?"