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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 1. An Unwelcome Visitor
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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 1. An Unwelcome Visitor Post by :trevorjoy Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1278

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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 1. An Unwelcome Visitor

CHAPTER ONE. 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.

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