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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 3. A Narrow Escape
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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 3. A Narrow Escape Post by :trevorjoy Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :543

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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 3. A Narrow Escape

CHAPTER THREE. 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.

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