A 'Price One Penny' Edition

August 23, 1845

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 16, 1845 Next: August 30, 1845

The Evidence

As the auto-de-fa approached, the sittings of the inquisitorial tribunal now became diurnal; and each day fresh condemnations augmented the number of victims who were to figure herein.

Every morning Stephen and John of Avila appeared in the tribunal, with the hope of there seeing the governor; but the Holy Office had so much to do, that every prisoner was compelled to await his turn.

At length the day for the trial of Don Manuel Argoso arrived. The hall was on this occasion crowded with spectators, as persons of the highest distinction were to appear before their terrible judge.

Stephen and John of Avila were there.

The torturers, according to custom, stood motionless, like spectres, on the left of the Grand Inquisidor. The clerks were also in their places.

The first prisoner who entered was a woman, veiled, and wearing the attire of the Carmelite order. The second was a Dominican monk; and the assembly were astonished at beholding a priest of that Order in such a position. Two other victims followed—two young men in the flower of life. The fifth was Manuel Argoso.

As Joseph had predicted, the count had so far recovered from the effects of the torture as to walk without difficulty; but his countenance was so altered with suffering, that John of Avila and Stephen did not immediately recognise him. But when they knew that it was he, they intimated with a nod that there was hope; the count replied by a bitter smile.

Peter Arbuez addressed himself first to the Carmelite, and exclaimed, “Rise.”

She obeyed, and, in accordance with another command raised her veil. John of Avila, to his astonishment, immediately recognised Francesca de Lerme.

In spite of the sufferings and privations which she had endured in the dungeon, the Carmelite abbess was still of incomparable beauty; and her countenance had lost nothing of its haughty expression. She fixed her dark and piercing eyes upon the Grand Inquisidor; but the actor was true to his part, and remained untroubled. Then, instead of awaiting the usual questions, the abbess exclaimed, “Of what am I accused?”

“Of Lutheranism,” answered the Inquisidor coldly.

“And how do you prove your accusation?” she demanded disdainfully.

“Let the witnesses step forward,” said the Grand Inquisidor.

The internal ceremony of masked accusers proffering their perjured evidence then took place; and Francesca saw that she was lost. Then was it that this sensual woman, who had shown so great a love of life and all its most licentious enjoyments, threw off the yoke of her passions by a sudden inspiration.

“My lord,” she said, darting upon the Grand Inquisidor a glance full of meaning, “I know that I alone am now doomed to bear the penalty of our crimes; but God will sooner or later punish the licentious monk and the bloody Inquisidor who made me criminal!”

Peter Arbuez made a sign; and the torturers immediately thrust a gag into the mouth of the wretched woman. They then dragged her from the hall; but as she was about to disappear, she cast upon John of Avila a glance of friendship, gratitude and farewell!

“I was wrong to have that woman brought before me,” thought the Grand Inquisidor within himself. “Her words were too significant. But Joseph advised me to adjudicate upon her thus publicly.”

“Perhaps the Grand Inquisidor will pardon that woman after all?” whispered Stephen to his companion.

“No, my young friend,” answered John of Avila: “the Inquisition knows no mercy, more than it is acquainted with justice.”

These words, though uttered in a tone scarcely audible to even him to whom they were addressed, were not lost upon the familiars who stood near.

The Dominican priest and the two young men were tried consecutively, and condemned to death without hope, and upon evidence similar to that which had ruined the cause of Francesca de Lerme.

Then came the turn of Manuel Argoso.

“Rise, my son,” said Peter Arbuez.

Argoso obeyed with proud indifference of manner, like a person from whom all hope had been ravished, and whom no interest now attached to the world.

“My son,” continued the Grand Inquisidor, darting an oblique glance toward the bench where John of Avila and Don Stephen were sitting, “by your elevated position you should have been an example of faith in the holy catholic creed, and not a pattern of heresy.”

“I have ever done my duty to God and man to the utmost of my power,” answered the count firmly.

“Still hardened,” murmured Peter Arbuez, with hypocritical sorrow. “But you avow that you have not only held communion with heretics, but that you are a heretic yourself.”

“I avow nothing of the kind,”’ answered Manuel. “I have already replied to questions of this kind, and I have been subjected to the torture; but you have not taught me—and you cannot teach me—to lie.”

“And yet your own words on a former occasion criminated you. Have you any witnesses for your defence?”

“Here!” cried the Apostle and Stephen, rising at the same moment.

Peter Arbuez contemplated the Franciscan and the young chevalier with disdainful pity.

“We are here to declare the innocence of Don Manuel Argoso, Count of Cervallos,” continued the impetuous Stephen.

“What is your name?” demanded the Grand Inquisidor.

“Stephen, Count of Vargas,” replied the young man proudly.

“Don Stephen,” said Arbuez, “we cannot admit your testimony. Your grandfather was not a catholic originally, but a converted Mahommedan; and we can only allow witnesses of pure catholic and Spanish blood to appear in defence of a prisoner.”

“My lord,” replied Stephen, red with indignation, “Philip the First was less particular than your Eminence.”

“Such are our statutes, my son; and I cannot violate them. Sit down while I interrogate that holy priest.”

During this dialogue, the eyes of Don Manuel Argoso expressed his gratitude for this bold demonstration in his favour on the part of the young man; at the same time his countenance became gloomy, as much as to say, “Alas! you cannot save me!”

“What is your name?” asked the Grand Inquisidor of the Apostle.

“John of Avila,” was the reply.

The mention of this name, revered as it was throughout Andalusia, produced a lively sensation amongst the assembly.

“What can you say in defence of the accused?”

“I declare that Don Manuel Argoso is innocent of all the charges brought against him; that I know him to be a true Christian and a loyal knight; and that he has never deserved the censures of Rome.”

“Holy father,” said Peter Arbuez meekly, “your testimony is of great weight; but we require two witnesses.”

“My lord, I am alone,” answered John of Avila, “in the testimony of this young man is of no avail; but perhaps your lordship will not refuse this.”

And, at the same time, John of Avila presented to the Grand Inquisidor the letter of Charles the Fifth, sealed with the royal and imperial signet.

This incident produced a lively curiosity among those present.

Peter Arbuez,—without being disconcerted, and acting like a person who knew what was coming,—opened the letter slowly, and read it with attention. He then threw his eyes upon another letter which lay open on the desk before him.

It was also from Charles the Fifth, and contained only these words:—

“Don Manuel Argoso, Count of Cervallos, at this moment a prisoner of the Holy Office, is, we are informed, innocent of the crimes of which he is accused. Don Manuel Argoso has always served us faithfully; and we desire that he may be favourably judged by the holy tribunal, of which your Eminence is the chief. Nevertheless, as the cause of God must be considered in preference to our own,—and as the holy tribunal is alone competent in these delicate matters,—we desire that everything should be conducted to the glory of God and in a manner to accomplish the triumph of our most holy religion.

“This letter must alone be deemed valid in the eyes of your Eminence, for whom may God reserve many and prosperous days.

“Don Stephen de Vargas must not be proceeded against.”

Peter Arbuez folded the two letters together, thrust them beneath his robe, and said, “We will consider what course to pursue. Holy father, and you, Don Stephen, retire. The tribunal adjourns.”

The effect of these words was prompt as thunder: they struck terror into the hearts of the audience. Don Manuel turned a glance of despair towards the Apostle and Don Stephen, as if to bid them a last adieu.

John of Avila hastened to conduct Don Stephen away, fearful lest his impetuosity might lead him to compromise himself by some imprudent word.

But as the Apostle passed near the Grand Inquisidor, who was now descending from his seat, the latter murmured, in a voice of concentrated rage, “Insensate monk, thou shalt now have to do with me!

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 16, 1845 Next: August 30, 1845
Victorine Subervic and Manuel de Cuendías. Date: 1 July 2013