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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLeila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 2 - Chapter 6. Leila...
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Leila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 2 - Chapter 6. Leila... Post by :jasonroland Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2601

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Leila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 2 - Chapter 6. Leila...

BOOK II CHAPTER VI. LEILA.--HER NEW LOVER.--PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST INQUISITOR OF SPAIN.--THE CHALICE RETURNED TO THE LIPS OF ALMAMEN


While thus the state of events within Granada, the course of our story transports us back to the Christian camp. It was in one of a long line of tents that skirted the pavilion of Isabel, and was appropriated to the ladies attendant on the royal presence, that a young female sat alone. The dusk of evening already gathered around, and only the outline of her form and features was visible. But even that, imperfectly seen,--the dejected attitude of the form, the drooping head, the hands clasped upon the knees,--might have sufficed to denote the melancholy nature of the reverie which the maid indulged.

"Ah," thought she, "to what danger am I exposed! If my father, if my lover dreamed of the persecution to which their poor Leila is abandoned!"

A few tears, large and bitter, broke from her eyes, and stole unheeded down her cheek. At that moment, the deep and musical chime of a bell was heard summoning the chiefs of the army to prayer; for Ferdinand invested all his worldly schemes with a religious covering, and to his politic war he sought to give the imposing character of a sacred crusade.

"That sound," thought she, sinking on her knees, "summons the Nazarenes to the presence of their God. It reminds me, a captive by the waters of Babylon, that God is ever with the friendless. Oh! succour and defend me, Thou who didst look of old upon Ruth standing amidst the corn, and didst watch over Thy chosen people in the hungry wilderness, and in the stranger's land."

Wrapt in her mute and passionate devotions, Leila remained long in her touching posture. The bell had ceased; all without was hushed and still--when the drapery, stretched across the opening of the tent, was lifted, and a young Spaniard, cloaked, from head to foot, in a long mantle, stood within the space. He gazed in silence, upon the kneeling maiden; nor was it until she rose that he made his presence audible.

"Ah, fairest!" said he, then, as he attempted to take her hand, "thou wilt not answer my letters--see me, then, at thy feet. It is thou who teachest me to kneel."

"You, prince." said Leila, agitated, and in great and evident fear. "Why harass and insult me thus? Am I not sacred as a hostage and a charge? and are name, honour, peace, and all that woman is taught to hold most dear, to be thus robbed from me under the pretext of a love dishonouring to thee and an insult to myself?"

"Sweet one," answered Don Juan, with a slight laugh, "thou hast learned, within yonder walls, a creed of morals little known to Moorish maidens, if fame belies them not. Suffer me to teach thee easier morality and sounder logic. It is no dishonour to a Christian prince to adore beauty like thine; it is no insult to a maiden hostage if the Infant of Spain proffer her the homage of his heart. But we waste time. Spies, and envious tongues, and vigilant eyes, are around us; and it is not often that I can baffle them as I have done now. Fairest, hear me!" and this time he succeeded in seizing the hand which vainly struggled against his clasp. "Nay, why so coy? what can female heart desire that my love cannot shower upon thine? Speak but the word, enchanting maiden, and I will bear thee from these scenes unseemly to thy gentle eyes. Amidst the pavilions of princes shalt thou repose; and, amidst gardens of the orange and the rose, shalt thou listen to the vows of thine adorer. Surely, in these arms thou wilt not pine for a barbarous home and a fated city. And if thy pride, sweet maiden, deafen thee to the voice of nature, learn that the haughtiest dames of Spain would bend, in envious court, to the beloved of their future king. This night--listen to me--I say, listen--this night I will bear thee hence! Be but mine, and no matter, whether heretic or infidel, or whatever the priests style thee, neither Church nor king shall tear thee from the bosom of thy lover."

"It is well spoken, son of the most Christian monarch!" said a deep voice; and the Dominican, Tomas de Torquemada, stood before the prince.

Juan, as if struck by a thunderbolt, released his hold, and, staggering back a few paces, seemed to cower, abashed and humbled, before the eye of the priest, as it glared upon him through the gathering darkness.

"Prince," said the friar, after a pause, "not to thee will our holy Church attribute this crime; thy pious heart hath been betrayed by sorcery. Retire!"

"Father," said the prince,--in a tone into which, despite his awe of that terrible man, THE FIRST GRAND INQUISITOR OF SPAIN, his libertine spirit involuntarily forced itself, in a half latent raillery,--"sorcery of eyes like those bewitched the wise son of a more pious sire than even Ferdinand of Arragon."

"He blasphemes!" muttered the monk. "Prince, beware! you know not what you do."

The prince lingered, and then, as if aware that he must yield, gathered his cloak round him, and left the tent without reply.

Pale and trembling,--with fears no less felt, perhaps, though more vague and perplexed, than those from which she had just been delivered,--Leila stood before the monk.

"Be seated, daughter of the faithless," said Torquemada, "we would converse with thee: and, as thou valuest--I say not thy soul, for, alas! of that precious treasure thou art not conscious--but mark me, woman! as thou prizest the safety of those delicate limbs, and that wanton beauty, answer truly what I shall ask thee. The man who brought thee hither--is he, in truth, thy father?"

"Alas!" answered Leila, almost fainting with terror at this rude and menacing address, "he is, in truth, mine only parent."

"And his faith--his religion?"

"I have never beheld him pray."

"Hem! he never prays--a noticeable fact. But of what sect, what creed, does he profess himself?"

"I cannot answer thee."

"Nay, there be means that may wring from thee an answer. Maiden, be not so stubborn; speak! thinkest thou he serves the temple of the Mohammedan?"

"No! oh, no!" answered poor Leila, eagerly, deeming that her reply, in this, at least, would be acceptable. "He disowns, he scorns, he abhors, the Moorish faith,--even," she added, "with too fierce a zeal."

"Thou dost not share that zeal, then? Well, worships he in secret after the Christian rites?"

Leila hung her head and answered not.

"I understand thy silence. And in what belief, maiden, wert thou reared beneath his roof?"

"I know not what it is called among men," answered Leila, with firmness, "but it is the faith of the ONE GOD, who protects His chosen, and shall avenge their wrongs--the God who made earth and heaven; and who, in an idolatrous and benighted world, transmitted the knowledge of Himself and His holy laws, from age to age, through the channel of one solitary people, in the plains of Palestine, and by the waters of the Hebron."

"And in that faith thou wert trained, maiden, by thy father?" said the Dominican, calmly. "I am satisfied. Rest here, in peace: we may meet again, soon."

The last words were spoken with a soft and tranquil smile--a smile in which glazing eyes and agonising hearts had often beheld the ghastly omen of the torture and the stake.

On quitting the unfortunate Leila, the monk took his way towards the neighbouring tent of Ferdinand. But, ere he reached it, a new thought seemed to strike the holy man; he altered the direction of his steps, and gained one of those little shrines common in Catholic countries, and which had been hastily built of wood, in the centre of a small copse, and by the side of a brawling rivulet, towards the back of the king's pavilion. But one solitary sentry, at the entrance of the copse, guarded the consecrated place; and its exceeding loneliness and quiet were a grateful contrast to the animated world of the surrounding camp. The monk entered the shrine, and fell down on his knees before an image of the Virgin, rudely sculptured, indeed, but richly decorated.

"Ah, Holy Mother!" groaned this singular man, "support me in the trial to which I am appointed. Thou knowest that the glory of thy blessed Son is the sole object for which I live, and move, and have my being; but at times, alas! the spirit is infected with the weakness of the flesh. Ora pro nobis, O Mother of mercy! Verily, oftentimes my heart sinks within me when it is mine to vindicate the honour of thy holy cause against the young and the tender, the aged and the decrepit. But what are beauty and youth, grey hairs and trembling knees, in the eye of the Creator? Miserable worms are we all; nor is there anything acceptable in the Divine sight but the hearts of the faithful. Youth without faith, age without belief, purity without grace, virtue without holiness, are only more hideous by their seeming beauty--whited sepulchres, glittering rottenness. I know this--I know it; but the human man is strong within me. Strengthen me, that I pluck it out; so that, by diligent and constant struggle with the feeble Adam, thy servant may be reduced into a mere machine, to punish the godless and advance the Church."

Here sobs and tears choked the speech of the Dominican; he grovelled in the dust, he tore his hair, he howled aloud: the agony was fierce upon him. At length, he drew from his robe a whip, composed of several thongs, studded with small and sharp nails; and, stripping his gown, and the shirt of hair worn underneath, over his shoulders, applied the scourge to the naked flesh with a fury that soon covered the green sward with the thick and clotted blood. The exhaustion which followed this terrible penance seemed to restore the senses of the stern fanatic. A smile broke over the features, that bodily pain only released from the anguished expression of mental and visionary struggles; and, when he rose, and drew the hair-cloth shirt over the lacerated and quivering flesh, he said--"Now hast thou deigned to comfort and visit me, O pitying Mother; and, even as by these austerities against this miserable body, is the spirit relieved and soothed, so dost thou typify and betoken that men's bodies are not to be spared by those who seek to save souls and bring the nations of the earth into thy fold."

With that thought the countenance of Torquemada reassumed its wonted rigid and passionless composure; and, replacing the scourge, yet clotted with blood, in his bosom, he pursued his way to the royal tent.

He found Ferdinand poring over the accounts of the vast expenses of his military preparations, which he had just received from his treasurer; and the brow of the thrifty, though ostentatious monarch, was greatly overcast by the examination.

"By the Bulls of Guisando!" said the king, gravely, "I purchase the salvation of my army in this holy war at a marvellous heavy price; and if the infidels hold out much longer, we shalt have to pawn our very patrimony of Arragon."

"Son," answered the Dominican, "to purposes like thine fear not that Providence itself will supply the worldly means. But why doubtest thou? are not the means within thy reach? It is just that thou alone shouldst not support the wars by which Christendom is glorified. Are there not others?"

"I know what thou wouldst say, father," interrupted the king, quickly--"thou wouldst observe that my brother monarchs should assist me with arms and treasure. Most just. But they are avaricious and envious, Tomas; and Mammon hath corrupted them."

"Nay, not to kings pointed my thought."

"Well, then," resumed the king, impatiently, "thou wouldst imply that mine own knights and nobles should yield up their coffers, and mortgage their possessions. And so they ought; but they murmur already at what they have yielded to our necessities."

"And in truth," rejoined the friar, "these noble warriors should not be shorn of a splendour that well becomes the valiant champions of the Church. Nay, listen to me, son, and I may suggest a means whereby, not the friends, but enemies, of the Catholic faith shall contribute to the down fall of the Paynim. In thy dominions, especially those newly won, throughout Andalusia, in the kingdom of Cordova, are men of enormous wealth; the very caverns of the earth are sown with the impious treasure they have plundered from Christian hands, and consume in the furtherance of their iniquity. Sire, I speak of the race that crucified the Lord."

"The Jews--ay, but the excuse--"

"Is before thee. This traitor, with whom thou boldest intercourse, who vowed to thee to render up Granada, and who was found the very next morning, fighting with the Moors, with the blood of a Spanish martyr red upon his hands, did he not confess that his fathers were of that hateful race? did he not bargain with thee to elevate his brethren to the rank of Christians? and has he not left with thee, upon false pretences, a harlot of his faith, who, by sorcery and the help of the Evil One, hath seduced into frantic passion the heart of the heir of the most Christian king?"

"Ha! thus does that libertine boy ever scandalise us!" said the king, bitterly.

"Well," pursued the Dominican, not heeding the interruption, "have you not here excuse enough to wring from the whole race the purchase of their existence? Note the glaring proof of this conspiracy of hell. The outcasts of the earth employed this crafty agent to contract with thee for power; and, to consummate their guilty designs, the arts that seduced Solomon are employed against thy son. The beauty of the strange woman captivates his senses; so that, through the future sovereign of Spain the counsels of Jewish craft may establish the domination of Jewish ambition. How knowest thou," he added as he observed that Ferdinand listened to him with earnest attention--"how knowest thou but what the next step might have been thy secret assassination, so that the victim of witchcraft, the minion of the Jewess, might reign in the stead of the mighty and unconquerable Ferdinand?"

"Go on, father," said the king, thoughtfully; "I see, at least, enough to justify an impost upon these servitors of Mammon."

"But, though common sense suggests to us," continued Torquemada, "that this disguised Israelite could not have acted on so vast a design without the instigation of his brethren, not only in Granada, but throughout all Andalusia,--would it not be right to obtain from him his confession, and that of the maiden, within the camp, so that we may have broad and undeniable evidence, whereon to act, and to still all cavil, that may come not only from the godless, but even from the too tender scruples of the righteous? Even the queen--whom the saints ever guard!--hath ever too soft a heart for these infidels; and--"

"Right!" cried the king, again breaking upon Torquemada; "Isabel, the queen of Castile, must be satisfied of the justice of all our actions."

"And, should it be proved that thy throne or life were endangered, and that magic was exercised to entrap her royal son into a passion for a Jewish maiden, which the Church holds a crime worthy of excommunication itself, surely, instead of counteracting, she would assist our schemes."

"Holy friend," said Ferdinand, with energy, "ever a comforter, both for this world and the next, to thee, and to the new powers intrusted to thee, we commit this charge; see to it at once; time presses--Granada is obstinate--the treasury waxes low."

"Son, thou hast said enough," replied the Dominican, closing his eyes, and muttering a short thanksgiving. "Now then to my task."

"Yet stay," said the king, with an altered visage; "follow me to my oratory within: my heart is heavy, and I would fain seek the solace of the confessional."

The monk obeyed: and while Ferdinand, whose wonderful abilities were mingled with the weakest superstition, who persecuted from policy, yet believed, in his own heart, that he punished but from piety,--confessed with penitent tears the grave offences of aves forgotten, and beads untold; and while the Dominican admonished, rebuked, or soothed,--neither prince nor monk ever dreamt that there was an error to confess in, or a penance to be adjudged to, the cruelty that tortured a fellow-being, or the avarice that sought pretences for the extortion of a whole people.

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