A 'Price One Penny' Edition

August 16, 1845

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 2, 1845 Next: August 23, 1845

Rodriguez de Valero

“Alas! Senors,” suddenly exclaimed Don Stephen de Vargas, after a long pause, “do you not conceive that there is a powerful under-current of revolt concealed beneath the apparent obedience of the Spaniards?”

“The Spaniards,” answered Valero, “are as yet a body without a head: they suffer and writhe in miserable convulsion beneath the rod of despotism; but they have no intellect to conceive, contrive, and organise the means of bursting the bonds which restrain them.”

As he thus spoke, the old chevalier’s countenance was animated with a sacred love of liberty, and wore a sublime expression: his noble and open forehead, whereon genius sate, was flushed with patriotic ardour.

“Don Rodriguez,” exclaimed Stephen, “it is not the head which it wanting to the body, but rather soldiers who are wanting to a commander. Our army of freemen is too feeble as yet to wrestle successfully against that innumerable horde of monks and familiars.”

“So much so that they almost envelope Spain in one vast cowl,” said Valero sarcastically.

“Oh! Don Rodriguez,” ejaculated Stephen, “this is not the moment to banter me. My affianced bride is in the dungeons of the Inquisition; and her father is perhaps already condemned.”

“And you will have great difficulty in saving Donna Dolorez, my dear Stephen,” answered the old man, now speaking with great kindness of manner.

“I will at least save the count,” said Don Stephen; “but Dolorez—Dolorez!”

“And how will you save the count even?” demanded Rodriguez.

“There is a power greater than the Inquisition,” answered Stephen, in a tone of confidence.

“And where is that power?“

“The king, Don Valero!”

“The king,” said Rodriguez drily, “is the head valet of the Inquisition. Believe me, you had better search elsewhere for support.”

“And yet,” observed Don Ximenes, “meseems that the authority of the king is above that of a monk, and that after all——”

“I have this day returned to Seville from Madrid,” said Stephen in a whisper; “and the king has deigned to give me a letter for the Inquisidor of Seville.”

“And immediately after your departure,” observed Rodriguez disdainfully, “that same great monarch most probably despatched a messenger post-haste with a second letter to my Lord Arbuez.”

“What! Charles the Fifth capable of such treachery!” ejaculated both the young men at the same moment.

“My white hair has more experience than your black locks, senors,” said Rodriguez calmly. “Calculate not upon the protection of a king or a priest.”

“Experience is a bitter teacher,” exclaimed Don Stephen in a tone of despair.

“And that is why old age is sorrowful,” answered Valero. “Nevertheless,” he added, “experience does not render all old men selfish and devoid of sympathy for the sufferings of others: on the contrary, it make them ofttimes courageous and wise.”

During this animated conversation, the three gentlemen, completely absorbed in their topic, had not noticed the head of a youthful priest protruding from the kitchen door. Nevertheless, Don Joseph was there—listening to every word that fell from their lips; for it deeply concerned him to know everything relative to Dolorez and Don Stephen de Vargas.

The words of Rodriguez de Valero had assumed to him a sense, and more pregnant with a meaning, which Stephen had not altogether perceived. He accordingly addressed himself to Joachim, the alguazil and familiar, who was seated in the kitchen, and said, “You observe those senors who are conversing with Don Stephen de Vargas?”

“Yes, holy father,” was the reply.

“You will watch them, and give me an account of all their proceedings.”

“And to the Grand Inquisidor also?”

“No—no: to me alone,” answered Joseph, in a severe tone.

“That is well—to you only,” said Joachim, who literally adored the young priest.

The three senors continued their conversation.

“You entertain great hopes from that letter of Charles the Fifth?” said Ximenes de Herrera.

“If I may believe Don Rodriguez,” answered Stephen, “my anticipations can now be but feeble and unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, I shall exert myself, with all the means in my power, to procure the release of Manuel Argoso.”

The entrance of a multitude of gipsies and priests interrupted this discourse. Stephen did not much relish being seen in such society, although at that time gentlemen and nobles frequented the taverns.

He drew Rodriguez and Ximenes with him into the street, saying, “Farewell; I am now compelled to quit you.”

“When shall I see you again;” demanded Valero.

“I cannot say,” replied Stephen.

“Listen,” said Valero, in a grave tone: “I am afraid that your letter will experience no success with Peter Arbuez. If you fail, come to me. I walk every evening on the Muelle quay:116 and perhaps—I—I may be enabled to save not only the count but his daughter.”

“What mean you?” cried Don Stephen.

“I will explain all that to you another time. Farewell.”

Stephen departed, full of doubt and dread; while Rodriguez and Ximenes returned to the tavern.

“Let us sit down,” said Valero to his young friend: “it is here that I study life.”

At that moment the clocks of Seville proclaimed the hour: the monks, who were present, rose, and chanted the evening hymn. Valero alone omitted to cross himself, or join in the sonorous Amen.

“Are you a heretic that you do not pray with us?” said a priest, angrily addressing himself to the old chevalier.

“It is all very well for you to pray in public and kneel down in temples,” answered Valero gravely, “because you have such a multitude of sins to expiate.”

“What does that old beggar say?” demanded a monk of the Order of Mercy, surveying with a disdainful air the shabby attire of Valero.

“I say,” answered Rodriguez, “that you could not wipe away all your sins, were you to prostrate yourself and pray unto your death.”

The monk rose, his eyes flashing the fire of anger, and advanced with a menacing gesture towards that old man who thus dared to brave him. The gipsies and persons of the lower class present could not conceal their satisfaction at his promise of a quarrel. Joseph surveyed Rodriguez de Valero with a profound and scrutinizing glance.

“What do you want with me?” demanded the old gentleman, retaining his seat and appearing unmoved by the menacing appearance of the monk.

“I mean to teach you how to respect the ministers of the Lord,” replied the latter, his face purple with anger.

“The true ministers of God are gentle and forbearing as the Saviour who died for them,” answered Don Valero, without emotion.

“Well said!” ejaculated a Garduno, who was none other than Hierro.

The monk rushed towards Valero with clenched fist and flaming eyes; but at that moment Joseph rushed forward, saying, “Leave that man alone, holy father: do you not perceive that he is mad?”

“To be sure! it is Valero,” exclaimed another priest.

“Mad or not, he ought to be made to kneel down and implore pardon,” said the irritated monk.

“No doubt,” cried Valero: “adore, as you do the wood and the stone, and insult by deeds and acts the real majesty of heaven!”

“He is a heretic!” exclaimed the enraged monk.

“He is mad, I tell you,” answered Joseph calmly.

“Madmen sometimes speak strange truths,” said Valero, regarding Joseph fixedly in the fare.

“It is better to pass for a madman than to be burnt,” whispered Joseph hastily, and in a tone which was overheard by Don Rodriguez de Valero only.

“Reverend fathers, this old man is decidedly mad,” interposed Joachim; “and our most holy Inquisidor never would order his arrest on that account.”

“And yet he speaks sensibly,” muttered an old gipsey to the Garduno Hierro.

Indeed the words of Rodriguez de Valero had found an echo in the hearts of all present save the priests; and the gipsies and Gardunos immediately conceived for him the greatest veneration and respect.

This feeling was not lost upon Valero.

When he and his companion were in the street, he said, “Don Ximenes, the adventure of this evening may prove very useful to us: those persons will now do everything that I bid them.”

Muelle quay Muelle means ‘pier’ in Spanish.

‘On the quay, the banks of the Guadalquiver are, of all the promenades of Seville, the most frequented until nine o’clock in the evening, during summer, after this hour, those who are disposed to walk, repair to the Alameda; the quincunx and the quays are then deserted.’ (p. 219*)

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 2, 1845 Next: August 23, 1845
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