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The Last Look: A Tale of the Spanish Inquisition

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  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 theInquisition, and subsequent torturing and burning to death by theCatholic Church, of those who would not agree to its tenets, is gettingunder way.

  An Archbishop calls at the house of a former friend of his, a woman whohad refused him in love. The woman is the widow of a great nobleman.The Archbishop is chatting to his former friend's daughter, and isthinking how like the child is to what she had been. Unfortunately thechild artlessly gives away the fact that the family had now adoptedProtestantism, due perhaps to her father having met Luther while onvisits to Germany.

  Some years later the child is now grown up, and has two suitors, one ofwhom is a rich Catholic, and the other is a much poorer man but aProtestant. She and others are meeting at the house of a woman whooften has such clandestine all-Protestant meetings, when they hear thata person they all know has gone mad and has run around telling everyoneabout these Protestant meetings. The Inquisition of course, with spieseverywhere, hears all about it. From then onward the story takes manyof them to the jails of the Inquisition, and some are burnt at theauto-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 bythis great author. Audiobook recommended.





  The beauty of Seville is proverbial. "Who has not seen Seville, has notseen a wonder of loveliness," say the Spaniards. They are proud indeedof Seville, as they are of everything else belonging to them, and ofthemselves especially, often with less reason. We must carry the readerback about three hundred years, to a beautiful mansion not far from thebanks of the famed Guadalquiver. In the interior were two courts, opento the sky. Round the inner court were marble pillars richly carved andgilt, supporting two storeys of galleries; and in the centre a fountainthrew up, as high as the topmost walls, a bright jet of water, whichfell back in sparkling spray into an oval tank below, full ofmany-coloured fish. In the court, at a sufficient distance from thefountain to avoid its spray, which, falling around, increased thedelicious coolness of the air, sat a group of ladies employed in workingtapestry, the colours they used being of those bright dyes which theEast alone could at that time supply. The only person who was movingwas 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 toone side, now to the other, laughing as she did so at the animal'ssurprise, in all the joyousness of innocent youth. She had scarcely yetreached that age when a girl has become conscious of her charms and herpower over the sterner sex. The ladies were conversing earnestlytogether, thinking, it was evident, very little of their work, when aservant appearing announced the approach of Don Gonzales Munebrega,Bishop of Tarragona. For the peculiar virtues he possessed in the eyeof the supreme head of his Church, he was afterwards made Archbishop ofthe same see. Uneasy glances were exchanged among the ladies; but theyhad scarcely time to speak before a dignified-looking ecclesiasticentered the court, followed by two inferior priests.

  One of the ladies, evidently the mistress of the house, advanced to meethim, and after the usual formal salutations had been exchanged, heseated himself on a chair which was placed for him by her side, at adistance from the rest of the party, who were joined, however, by thetwo priests. The young girl no sooner caught sight of the Bishop fromthe farther end of the hall, where the little dog had followed her amongthe orange trees, than all trace of her vivacity disappeared.

  "Ah, Dona Mercia, your young daughter reminds me greatly of you at thesame age," observed the Bishop, with a sigh, turning to the lady, whostill retained much of the beauty for which the young girl wasconspicuous.

  "You had not then entered the priesthood; and on entering it, andputting off the secular habit, I should have thought, my lord, that youwould have put off all thoughts and feelings of the past," answered DonaMercia calmly.

  "Not so easy a task," replied the Bishop. "A scene like this conjuresup the recollection of days gone by and never to return. You--you, DonaMercia, might have saved me from what I now suffer."

  "You speak strangely, Don Gonzales," said Dona Mercia. "Why addresssuch words to me? Our feelings are not always under our own control. Iknow that you offered me your hand, and the cause of my rejecting youroffer was that I could not give you what alone would have made my handof 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. "Yousay truly, too, that we cannot always control our feelings. My rival isno more; and did not the office into which I rashly plunged cut me offfrom the domestic life I once hoped to enjoy, what happiness might yetbe mine!"

  "Oh, my lord, let me beg you not to utter such remarks," said DonaMercia, in a voice of entreaty. "The past cannot be recalled. Godchasteneth whom He loveth. He may have reserved for you more happinessthan 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'sthoughts, and to put a stop to a conversation which was annoying her--fearing, indeed, from her knowledge of the man, that it might lead tosome proposal still more painful and disagreeable--called her youngdaughter, Leonor de Cisneros, to her. Dona Leonor approached the Bishopwith downcast looks.

  "You are wonderfully demure now, my pretty maiden," he remarked in abantering tone, his countenance brightening, however, for an instant ashe spoke to her; "but you were gay and frolicking enough just now, whenI 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 toserve," answered the young girl, innocently.

  "Who is that?" asked the Romish priest, not guessing whom she couldmean.

  "The Lord Jesus Christ, who died on Calvary that I might be washed frommy sins by His precious blood there shed for me," answered the younggirl, promptly.

  "Ah! but you love the Holy Virgin, the immaculate Mother of God, too, doyou not?" asked the priest.

  "Yes, indeed, I do love the Holy Virgin, for she was blessed amongwomen, and nurtured and brought up the dear Jesus, who died for me andfor her too, that we might be saved," said Dona Leonor, withouthesitation.

  "Ah! what! do not you pray to the Holy Virgin, little maiden?" asked thepriest, looking at her sternly. "This must be looked to," he mutteredto himself.

  "Why should I pray to her, when I have the gentle loving Jesus, to whomI may go in prayer at all times and in all places?" she asked withsimplicity, and with a tone of surprise that the priest should not agreewith 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 goodJesus, who always is ready to hear me; for He loves me more than my dearfather did, or even than my mother can," answered Dona Leonor.

  "These are not Catholic doctrines, young lady," said the Bishop in atone of harshness he had not yet used. "Who
taught them to you? Theysmack strongly of heresy."

  "I do not know what heresy means," answered Dona Leonor, in an artlesstone. "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. Itwas 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 inheaven, and I do hope to meet him there some day. The thought of thatmakes 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. "Ithink that my mother must hope to meet our dear father in heaven, or shewould be very miserable; and I am sure she cannot hope to get thereexcept 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 theChurch teaches," answered the Bishop, in a voice that sounded somewhathusky. "That is the true Catholic doctrine, maiden, which it behovesall Spaniards to believe, and which they must be compelled to believe.You understand, maiden. Tell your mother what I say. But here shecomes."

  Dona Mercia, wishing to escape from the remarks of her former admirer,had joined the rest of her guests, and afterwards retired to give somedirection for their entertainment, little dreaming of the dangerous turnthe conversation between her daughter and the Bishop would take.

  "Ah, Dona Mercia, I find that your daughter is a little heretic, andholds in but slight respect the doctrines of the Church. As she tellsme she was instructed in them by her late father, and as he must haveimbibed such abominable principles during his visits to Germany fromthat arch-heretic Luther, I trust that they have proceeded no farther.But let me advise you to be cautious, Dona Mercia, and to inculcateCatholic principles into the mind of your daughter. Remember that fromhenceforth the eyes of the Inquisition will be upon you."

  "My lord Bishop, I have ever endeavoured to do my duty to my God, to mychild, and to all around me," answered Dona Mercia, meekly,unconsciously placing her hands across her bosom. "I trust that I haveno 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 wholeworld combined," answered Don Gonzales, in a low voice, which camehissing forth from between his almost clenched lips, in a tone which wascalculated to produce more effect on the mind of the hearer than theloudest outburst of passion.

  When the Bishop rose from his seat, he approached the rest of thecompany with a smiling aspect, and addressed them with that dignifiedcourtesy for which Spaniards have ever been celebrated. Few would haveguessed the feelings which were even then agitating his bosom; still,the party felt relieved when he and his softly-spoken, keen-eyedattendants took their departure.