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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 4. Signs Of Danger
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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 4. Signs Of Danger Post by :trevorjoy Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1527

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The Last Look: A Tale Of The Spanish Inquisition - Chapter 4. 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.

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