A 'Price One Penny' Edition

September 6, 1845

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 30, 1845 Next: September 13, 1845

The Auto-Da-Fe

The morning of the grand day on which the triumphs of Charles the Fifth were to be celebrated in so fearful a manner, arrived, and the scene in the great square of Seville was precisely the same as we have described it in the preceding chapter. The King, the Inquisidors, the Supreme Council, the family of Medina-Cœli, the Clergy, the Torturers, the Prisoners, and the multitudes, occupied the same places as those already detailed.

Mass was again said; another sermon was preached; and then Peter Arbuez rose from his chair to pronounce absolution in favour of those who had repented of their sins.

The unfortunate victims who had been condemned to the flames, were led to the places of their punishment. Peter Arbuez, ever proud and haughty beneath the garb of ecclesiastical humility, seemed much more truly royal than the King himself. He enjoyed at that moment the twofold triumph of vanity and cruelty. Nevertheless, the rescue of Don Manuel Argoso, and the escape of Dolorez,—that escape which to him was so incomprehensible,—pre-occupied him most disagreeably. His complete vengeance had thereby escaped him at the moment when it seemed upon the point of being satisfied. Joseph scrutinized with attention that countenance whereon he had been accustomed to read the Grand Inquisidor’s soul for so long a period; and the young favourite, sombre and disdainful, concealed the emotion of a lacerated heart beneath a calm and tranquil exterior. But no one who contemplated his passionless countenance would have imagined now furious a fever raged in his soul.

He had been a principal actor in a long and terrible drama; and he now drew towards the close of his part. His eyes followed, with great attention, all the incidents of the Auto-da-fe.

At the moment when the victims proceeded each towards his funeral pyre, a species of convulsive sob agitated the breast of the favourite: and his lips murmured, “Fernand! Fernand! the hour will soon be at hand!” But no one overheard those mysterious words, so intent were all upon the horrible spectacle that was enacting in their presence.

The King, unable to bear the sight of the burnings, left the balcony abruptly, and returned into the apartments provided for him in the Medina-Cœli palace.

As he was on his way thither, the daughter of the Count of Mondejar threw herself upon her knees before him; and, while tears poured from her eyes, she extended her arms in a suppliant manner towards him.

“What dost thou require of me, my child?” demanded the King, surprised.

“Mercy, sire—mercy for him, to whom I am betrothed, and who is a prisoner in the Inquisition.”

“Lady,” said the King, affected by this expression of sincere grief, “small is my power in the presence of the Holy Inquisition. I think that the best intermediate to whom you could address yourself is your grandfather, the Duke of Medina-Cœli, who is now near you.”

“Sire,” answered the old nobleman, “he who ought to be the husband of my grand-daughter has dishonoured his title to knight, and his quality of noble; has disgraced his rank as a gentleman, and his name as a Christian. The Holy Office deemed it right and proper to imprison him, and to condemn him to death; but Don Carlos has escaped that last infamy by suicide. He has dashed out his brains against the wall of his dungeon!”

At this cruel explanation on the part of the Duke, Charles the Fifth could not suppress a cry of horror; and Isabella fell with her face flat upon the floor, to be only thence raised a lifeless corpse.

Her heart had broken!

Medina-Cœli made a sign, and two female servants bore away the dead body of the once beautiful Isabella Mondejar.

The King withdrew, profoundly affected.

The executions then commenced.

All eyes were turned towards the piles on which the victims stood bound to strong stakes.

The monks, with crosses in their hands, prayed and exhorted the miserable wretches to repent; but no one had as yet confessed.

The two first who suffered were nuns, condemned for Lutheranism.

“Holy father confess us—we will die good Christians,” they exclaimed, overcome by terror.

A monk gave them absolution: and the flames soon surrounded them. Their shrieks were terrible, and filled the vast arena, piercing every ear—rousing every echo.

The torturers now conducted Francesca de Lerme upon a scaffold where she was to be strangled. The Carmelite abbess was of a livid pallor: her complexion, before so pure and fair, was covered with blueish spots; and her large dark eyes, so proud and fine, had lost their metallic brilliancy which once had animated them.

Two young female victims were to die with her; and they were pale and already half-dead with terror. A convulsive shudder agitated their limbs: the agony of dissolution had commenced—the executioners had but little left for them to do.

Two torturers approached each of the three victims and made them sit upon low stools on the scaffold. Cords were then twined round their necks—a torturer held each cord: suddenly their countenances became purple—their heads fell forward—a slight rattle was heard in their throats—and all was over.

Peter Arbuez breathed freely when he saw that Francesca de Lerme was no more.

“My lord,” said Joseph, in a whisper, “if that woman were innocent?”

“You once made the same remark to me of another,” returned the Grand Inquisidor, impatiently.

“And I might do so of many others, my lord,” replied Joseph, coolly, but in reality enjoying the torments which he thus inflicted upon the mind of Peter Arbuez.

“Silence, Joseph—the ceremony proceeds.”

It would be impossible to describe the expression of concentrated rage and ferocious vindictiveness with which the young favourite surveyed the Grand Inquisidor for a few moments. Then his countenance resumed its expression of imperturbability. The three females who had just been strangled were now thrown upon a burning pile; and the flames soon consumed all that was earthly of those victims.

Not far from the pyre which devoured those bodies, a courageous Lutheran, named Herrezuelo, repulsed with invincible firmness the address of a monk who implored him to confess.

“My son, confess your sins!”

“Fire the pile—I die a Lutheran.”

“My son, you blaspheme!”

“No, wretched instrument of a vile imposition: ’tis you who blaspheme!”

“Once more, my son, make your peace with heaven.”

“God never would choose such miscreants as the members of the Holy Office for his servants.”

“Then fire the pile,” said the priest: “the demon has him in possession.”

The torturers obeyed this command; and Don Herrezuelo smiled triumphantly as he saw the flames rising around him.

At a little distance seven peasants, who had been arrested for Lutheranism, but who had confessed under the influence of terror, were strangled previous to being burnt.

“You are cowards,” shouted Don Herrezuelo: “why do you not uphold to the last the creed which your own consciences tell you is true?”

And with these words upon his tongue, that brave man expired.

“Wood! wood! heap up the wood!” cried another Lutheran: “I will die as Don Herrezuelo has died. I abjure Catholicism here—as I abjured it when at liberty: I die a Lutheran!”

“You die to damnation,” exclaimed a priest, irritated beyond all patience.

“Vile impostor!” cried the martyr; “you know that lies are upon your tongue. ’Tis you, together with all your accursed race of Inquisidors, that will die to damnation.”

And this man chanted a Protestant hymn, while the flames played around him, until death put an end to his heroism and his suffering.

Another Lutheran, who was also tied to a stake, and around whom the fire was also blazing, took up the solemn song. An archer of the inquisitorial guard, irritated by this bravery, discharged an arrow at his heart, and thus terminated the miseries which the vengeance of the Inquisition should have induced him to prolong.

Long tongues of flame now shot upwards in all directions, crowned with clouds of dense black smoke. A fetid odour spread throughout the vast arena, and was wafted to every nook and corner of the great city,—an odour which none could mistake!

At times, horrible cries, plaintive sighs, and guttural murmurs, ascended from the midst of those sinister hecatombs. It was an immense concert of agony!

A death-like silence reigned among the populace.

Now and then then the severe voices of the priests, rising above those painful tones, chanted a hymn for the dead,—a solemn and mournful psalmody, which commingled like a horrible parody with human lamentations and with the death-rattle of agonising victims.

Little by little the flames were appeased; sighs, groans, and murmurs became less distinct; and the people began to disperse slowly.

The councillors and civil authorities also took their departure from the scene of that awful massacre.

All was now over.

Night had come.

The Inquisidors, clergy, and monks, alone remained upon the spot.

Then from his more than royal throne, Peter Arbiter was enabled to contemplate the immense arena, which at that moment, resembled an enormous furnace dotted with large black places.

Huge volumes of dense smoke were collected in the air.

Peter Arbuez contemplated with infinite delight that vast arena of destruction.

King of Death, he was enthroned upon human misery! His sceptre was symbolical of annihilation!

And, with calm consciences, the Inquisidors and the Clergy departed to their palaces, monasteries, and houses.

Thus terminated that memorable day.

A Martyr

Proceed we now to say a few words relative to the unfortunate Don Manuel Argoso, who had been removed from death by the followers of Mandamiento, Master of the Gardunos.

The man who had carried the late governor off in the manner already described, hurried him away to the little house occupied by Juanna, the other Gardunos protecting, and indeed shielding from notice, their progress thither.

The Gardunos placed Argoso upon a long sofa, and then withdrew.

Manuel Argoso made no sign of life. His arms and hands hung inert along the sides of his frozen body: his eyes were closely shut; his countenance was pale: and his dislocated members were covered with scars and wounds. His head had become almost completely bald on the crown; and the little hair which shaded his temples had turned grey. His nails had grown long and yellow: in a word, he resembled a mummy, rather than a being in whom the spark of life was not yet quite extinct.

Seeing her father in that horrible state, Dolorez could not restrain an exclamation of agony. She herself was so pale and weak, through the sufferings of imprisonment, that she could scarcely support this last blow. She pressed his hand to her lips. and implored him to answer her.

But the unhappy Count made no reply.

“Oh! Stephen—beloved Stephen!” ejaculated Dolorez. “Come near—approach—and tell me, does my father live?”

Stephen de Vargas, who had remained struck with silent stupor at the aspect of Don Manuel Argoso, drew near, and placed his hand upon the heart of the father of his betrothed.

“His heart beats. Dolorez: have you any perfume?” said the young man.

“Here,” exclaimed Juanna, stepping forward and presenting a small bottle containing some powerful essence.

Dolorez seized the bottle, and applied it to her father’s nostrils.

Manuel Argoso moved slightly, and opened his eyes.

Dolorez uttered an exclamation of joy; and raising her father’s head in her arms, supported it comfortably upon a velvet cushion.

“Oh Stephen,” she exclaimed; “he lives—he lives! There is hope!”

Don Manuel had indeed opened his eyes; but, a film was over them, and he saw nothing. At length the shade slightly disappeared, and beheld two figures trailing over him. But he could not recognize them. Then his lips murmured something: Dolorez listened—it was her name!

“Dearest father!” she exclaimed; “I am indeed here—and you are safe!”

“Where am I?” he said feebly.

“With friends, beloved father. You are saved I repeat—and in a short time we will quit Spain.”

“Oh! yes—delay not to leave this unhappy country!” murmured the Count.

“We will depart all together,” said Stephen, kneeling down by the side of his betrothed.

In spite of his weakness and his sufferings, Argoso smiled when he heard that voice; with a last effort he raised his dislocated arms, and placed the hand of Dolorez in that of Stephen de Vargas.

“May the Almighty bless you, dear children!” murmured the Count, joy now animating his countenance. “Never separate—but fly—fly—”

“Yes—with you, father,” said Dolorez.

“Yes—bear my ashes away from Spain—throw them to the wind—let them not remain in this country—for it is accursed!”

There was a solemn pause.

Dolorez wept bitterly.

“Weep not for me, beloved child!” murmured Don Manuel; “life would be a burden to me, even were I to survive—for do you not see—my limbs? But, love one another—and——”

These words were cut short by the last sigh of mortal agony.

Don Manuel Argoso closed his eyes, fell back, and expired.

Dolorez uttered not a cry,—poured forth not another tear. She hurried towards Stephen, with white and quivering lips, and, joining her hands in a suppliant manner, said to him, as she pointed towards the corpse, “We will bear his ashes with us.”

“Yes, beloved Dolorez,” was the reply.

The young lady deposited a fond kiss upon the brow of her father, and then threw over his countenance a large lace veil which Juanna brought her for the purpose.

At that moment Joseph entered.

By the attitude of those present, he immediately comprehended what had taken place.

“My God! I did all I could,” exclaimed Joseph, clasping his hands together with unusual enthusiasm.

“We know it—we know it,” answered Don Stephen and Dolorez, both at the same time. “You have exposed your life to serve us all——”

“My life!” repeated the favourite, bitterly.

Stephen led Joseph away into another room, and said to him, “You have indeed been a kind and generous friend: and many know you to be as true as you are good. My deceased friend, the father of my affianced bride—has commanded us to bear his ashes away from Spain——”

“It shall be done.” interrupted Joseph. “In three days you shall quit Spain: in the mean time,” he continued, “the tiger is at large.”

“And he has arrested our friend, John of Avila,” added Stephen. “But I have not communicated this fatal occurrence to poor Dolorez.”

“You have done wisely. The Grand Inquisidor is furious at the rescue of Don Manuel, and the escape of Dolorez: and his anger falls on all who approach him—save me!”

“And in three days,” said Stephen, “we shall quit Seville.”

“In three days,” repeated Joseph: “yes—in three days! Oh, how long do three days sometimes appear!”

“What do you mean, Joseph?” demanded Stephen, struck by these mysterious words.

“I mean—I mean that the Grand Inquisidor in three days will learn a secret—but, no matter, Stephen—that is my own business.”

“You alarm me, Joseph—you are sombre and terrible as Fate itself!”

I am as terrible as Justice!” added the favourite, with a bitter smile; “but my soul is desolate and sorrowful as the desert! I shall never be happy until the moment when the angel of retribution shall say unto the scourge of Andalusia. ‘Enough! enough! depart, accursed one, from the theatre of thy crimes!’”

As he thus spoke, Joseph seemed beautiful and terrible as the angel in the Revelations.127

Stephen and Dolorez (who had just entered the room in time to hear those strange words) almost prostrated themselves in his presence.

But, by one of those strange transitions which characterised him, Joseph suddenly called Juanna, and said, “Be thou ready to accompany us in a few hours.”

He then went out, promising to return at midnight.

And at midnight, Stephen, Dolorez, and Juanna were conducted by Joseph to the abode Mandamiento.

Two Gardunos went in front by way of escort: two others followed at a distance, carrying between them a large coffer, which they bore with immense caution, and profound respect.

From time to time Dolorez turned to see that the precious coffer was safe.

In this manner did the party reach Mandamiento’s abode in safety.

angel in the Revelations In the book of the same name, an angel reveals the Revelation of Jesus Christ, or Apocalypse, to John.
Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 30, 1845 Next: September 13, 1845
Victorine Subervic and Manuel de Cuendías. Date: 1 July 2013