A 'Price One Penny' Edition

September 20, 1845

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: September 13, 1845 Next: September 27, 1845

A Funeral

In the caverns of the Garduna—immense subterraneans hollowed during the wars of the Moors against the Catholics, to serve as a secret means of communication for troops—Mandamiento had concealed Dolorez, Stephen, and Juanna.

The coffer in which the body of Don Manuel Argoso had been conveyed thither, was exchanged for a handsome coffin of cedar wood, procured by the Gardunos. The greater portion of the gold that Stephen had been enabled to save from the wreck of the immense fortune, which was now confiscated, had been expended to ensure the complaisance of the Order.

The Gardunos were devoted, body and soul, to those who acted in this liberal manner.

The coffin, which enclosed the remains of Don Manuel, was deposited in one of those caverns, upon a rudely-constructed bier.

According to the custom of the time, the countenance of the defunct was left revealed: but his body was clothed in fine linen. The hands were clasped upon the chest, and the eyes were fast closed. Death had restored to the features, lately so pale and expressive of suffering, an ineffable serenity.

The piety of Joseph had not abandoned his friends on this painful occasion.

Juanna, the old nurse of the young monk—Juanna, so devoted and so faithful, prayed by the side of Dolorez during that long and mournful vigil:—she received in her bosom the tears of the desolate young lady.

On his side, John of Avila—the friend of all the unfortunate, the support of all the unhappy—had no sooner been delivered from the dungeons of the Inquisition, when, learning how matters stood from Graciosa, he hastened to the Garduna.

His unlooked-for presence was a source of immense consolation to both Stephen and Dolorez.

It was now about midnight.

John of Avila and Joseph, kneeling near the coffin, gently recited the funeral prayer. Dolorez sobbed at some distance from them; but neither Stephen nor Juanna now essayed to console her: they contented themselves by weeping with her.

It was a solemn moment—the last adieu between life and death—that solemn hour when the young maiden was to take leave of the remains of him whom she had so fondly loved!

At one extremity of the cavern was a simple table covered with a white cloth and surmounted by a crucifix: this was the altar.

Two candelabra130 of massive silver—the property of Mandamiento—each held three wax candles; and in a chased silver cup a sprig of box131 floated in the holy water.

These were the only luxuries of that funeral ceremony: the brilliant metal, the polished candelabra, glittered with a strange lustre in that sombre, dark, and naked abode: and the countenance of the Saviour—white, soft in expression, and inclined—seemed to weep over the mourners kneeling beneath.

The grave and penetrating voice of John of Avila produced a sensation of fervour and awe: and with it were united the softer and more feminine tones of Joseph.

From time to time the agonizing sobs, which, in spite of all her efforts, escaped from the bosom of Dolorez, alone mingled with the harmonious voices of the two priests.

The funeral ceremony, thus devoid of the pomp and the din which human pride generally associates with such occasions, seemed characterised by something touching and solemn which appertained to the imperious necessity of celebrating the rites in an unknown place, and in the middle of the night.

That poor young maiden, compelled to take refuge amongst malefactors in order to be enabled to render the last honours to her father; those two monks, one of whom had just escaped from the Inquisition, and the other belonged to it; that aged Juanna, a singular personage, who appeared to have been created in order to minister unto the sufferings of others—these persons constituted an assemblage whose joint histories seem, when woven together, more like a romance than a real narrative.

Oh! the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were fertile in incredible and horrible dramas!

Of all the persons present on that solemn occasion, perhaps Don Stephen de Vargas was the most sorrowful. To the grief which the death of the Count of Cervallos caused him, was joined the bitter conviction of his impotence to struggle effectually for his country. He understood, with despair, that the glory of liberator was not reserved for him; and in that bitter sentiment, there was certainly much less of human pride than of pity for his country—compassion for the victims of the insatiable ambition of Rome, the clergy, and the rulers!

In his comprehensive idea, Stephen had dreamt of the deliverance of Spain: at that moment he could only hope that such an event might occur at some distant interval. Thus was it that upon his high and noble forehead a cloud of the blackest gloom might have been perceived.

But to return to our theme. From time to time John of Avila interrupted the prayers to pour upon the dead body the holy-water of purification: then he returned to the altar, and knelt by the side of Joseph—the two continuing the prayers for the dead!

While this mournful ceremony lasted, Stephen, with his head supported upon his two hands, did not turn it aside for a single moment; but when John of Avila had pronounced the last verses of the prayer for the dead, he arose, approached Dolorez, and raised her. He remembered that his love for his country must not entirely absorb that which he experienced for his affianced bride; and that to watch over her—to minister to her happiness—was sacred duty.

At that moment two Gardunos entered the cavern to bear away the coffin. Dolorez knew that the last moment was come; and, as in spite of the sweetness and softness of her disposition, she possessed one of those energetic characters which feel the necessity of an empire at times even over a grief of that profound nature, she advanced with a firm step towards the funeral couch on which her father reposed.

Stephen would have withheld her; but she said in a decided though gentle tone, “Let me breathe a final adieu to my father!”

She knelt by the coffin, upon the naked earth; then she bent over the corpse, and pressed her lips upon the forehead. She kissed that cold brow three times, and murmuring a prayer, hastened to a further extremity of the cavern.

The courage which up to that moment had supported, now abandoned her: she buried her face in her hands, in order to conceal from her what was passing around.

Stephen and Juanna did not lose sight of her.

The Gardunos, with all possible precaution, raised the coffin and transported it into a second cavern, running much further into the bowels of the earth than the one wherein the funeral ceremony had taken place.

There, several members of the Order, men and women, were already assembled. The moment the coffin was placed upon the ground, two horrid old hags—wrinkled, dirty, and half-naked—seized upon the corpse.

Each of these women was armed with a long curved knife, recently sharpened. A rude table had been previously conveyed to the cavern; and thereon did the women stretch the corpse.

Then, like birds of prey habituated to pounce upon dead bodies, the two women opened the body with as much skill as an anatomist, and took out the entrails and heart with incredible dexterity. The entrails were placed in the coffin, mingled with some aromatic spices; and then a large piece of satin was thrown over it. The Gardunos muttered some prayers after their fashion, and then lowered the coffin into a grave which had been already dug for it.

In the meantime one of the old women placed the heart in a silver box, having carefully embalmed it with the precious aromas known to the race; while her companion washed the corpse with perfumed water from head to foot.

Having washed the body with very fine linen, those two women stretched it upon a large sheet woven with asbestos.

The old women then knelt down and prayed by the side of the corpse. When their strange mutterings were concluded they sewed the corpse up in the sheet.

Then came the turn of the Gardunos once more.

In the middle of the cavern, they had dug an enormous pit in the form of a cross. The part of the pit which represented the long beam was filled with coals: those portions which delineated the arms served as conductors for the air, which, by passing alternately from one side to the other, threw off its oxygen, and maintained a constant combustion.

The orifice of the pit was covered with an enormous iron grating. The coals were already burning: and in a very few moments they vomited forth a scorching volume of flame. Conduits of air had been perforated in the cavern, so that the gas should not hurt any one.

The two Gardunos who had taken charge of the body placed it upon the iron grating, which was nearly red-hot, and which could scarcely be distinguished in the midst of the burning coals. Scarcely was the corpse stretched on the iron when a blueish flame rose all around, as if anxious to devour it. Then a strong and disagreeable odour commingled with the carbonic acid gas. Gardunos alone could remain in such a place. They appeared to be in no way inconvenienced; but, with an imperturbability entirely Spanish, they waited until the body was consumed, so that only a few ashes remained within the sheet of asbestos, which was uninjured by the action of the fire.

The human ashes were then collected, and placed in a Morocco leather bag.

This operation being terminated, the Garduno who had been appointed by Mandamiento to preside over the ceremony, took the box and the bag, saying, “These must be my care.”

Heaps of dirt were then thrown into the grave and the pit; the soil was levelled, and the ceremony was complete.

A Marriage

Knowing that the mind of Dolorez was unfit to be left in a state of dull meditation while this ceremony was in progress in the adjoining cavern, John of Avila approached the young maiden the moment the coffin had been removed.

When he drew near her, he called her gently by her name.

At the sound of that friendly and well-known voice, Dolorez raised her countenance, which was bathed in tears.

“Daughter,” continued John of Avila, “your grief is sacred, and I share it with you; and yet, in the name of him to whose memory your tears are shed, I implore you to manifest yourself courageous and strong. All your duties are not yet accomplished.”

“What remains for me then yet to do?” she demanded, with that stupid astonishment into which great griefs so frequently plunge us.

The Apostle took her gently by the hand, and, aiding her to rise, conducted her towards Stephen, who, from motives of respect, had not dared to approach her, but remained at a little distance with his arms crossed upon his breast.

Perceiving the Apostle advance with his betrothed, he hastened to meet them. John of Avila then placed the hand of Dolorez in that of Stephen, saying at the same time, “It was the last wish of your father.”

“And it is mine also,” added Dolorez, with noble frankness.

That chaste and virtuous maiden possessed too much real virtue to have recourse to that conventional bashfulness which places upon the lips of women so many words belied by their actions.

Stephen took with transport the hand of her which he loved.

Joseph regarded them in silence: and a species of delirium—an internal fever—burned in his looks —those looks that were now for a moment more ardent than was their wont!

“Brother,” said John of Avila to the Dominican priest, “it is you who must pronounce a blessing upon this young couple—since it is you who have made them happy!”

Joseph raised his head abruptly, as if these words had interrupted a dream.

“I!” he exclaimed bitterly—“I bless the union of those dear friends! No—oh! no, reverend father—that cannot be! It is a privilege which belongs to you,” he added in a calm and humble tone, casting down his eyes before the somewhat searching glance of John of Avila.

“Let it be, then, as you say,” said the Apostle. “Come, dear children—it is I who will bless your union.”

He led Donna Dolorez Argoso and the Count Stephen de Vargas towards the altar.

Joseph and Juanna followed them, and exchanged a few words in a whisper with each other. Juanna wiped away a tear from her haggard eyes.

Dolorez and Stephen now knelt at the table which served as the altar.

Each wore a ring which they had exchanged when they were affianced to each other: they now exchanged them anew; and John of Avila blessed them. Then, after the usual questions—questions which were very simple, and in accordance with the marriage ceremonial—the Franciscan pronounced the sacramental words which united the young lovers.

During this ceremony, they knelt side by side, praying fervently; and, in spite of their sorrow, a ray of happiness seemed to illuminate the future prospects of the Count and Countess de Vargas.

Dolorez was pale and deeply affected: so many terrible things had preceded that moment, that she feared lest this gleam of felicity should prove one of those deceptions which for some months past had so cruelly chequered her existence. Nevertheless, when she clasped the hand of Don Stephen, and felt the pressure returned by him who was thenceforth to be her protector and her guide, a profound sigh agitated her breast: she cast upon Stephen a heavenly look—a sublime prayer of love more eloquent than words themselves!

When they rose from the altar, Dolorez and Stephen were united forever.

Joseph then advanced towards the young couple, and said, with an accent the meaning of which no words can convey, and in a voice vibrating with emotion, “Now, dear friends, depart—be happy—and cling to each other until the last!”

At that moment a Garduno entered the subterranean cave. Sent by the Master, he came to inquire if Mandamiento might present himself to those assembled.

“The Master may come,” said John of Avila.

Mandamiento entered with his usual assurance.

“Every thing is ready for the departure of my lord and her ladyship,” he said: “two mules, swift and sure-footed, are waiting. Two of my Gardunos will follow them on foot in order to cover their retreat. Moreover, here is an order from me, so that in whatever place they may encounter the brethren of the Garduna, they are sure to find protection instead of experiencing injury.”

At the same time Mandamiento handed to Stephen a slip of parchment, on which was traced a word that was almost illegible.

This was the firman132 which was to protect the journey of the fugitives along the roads of Spain—those roads that were rendered so dangerous by the Order of Gardunos.133

“Here,” added the Master, “are the two brethren who will watch over you; they are the bravest and most loyal of all my servitors.”

And he pointed to the two Gardunos who had superintended the funeral pyre of Don Manuel, and who at this moment entered the cavern.

“Where shall you rejoin us, holy father?” asked Stephen, of John of Avila.

“At Cadiz,”134 replied the Apostle. “I shall be there as soon as you: I shall take another road. It would not be safe for us all to pursue the same path.”

“And you, Don Joseph?” demanded Dolorez, with sorrow, for she experienced a fraternal attachment towards the young monk.

“I! when it shall please God——” he began with an expression of bitter anguish upon his countenance.

At the moment of separating from those two beings, in favour of whom he had for a short time clung to life, Joseph grew feeble, like all generous souls in the presence of a new source of grief.

Nevertheless, long habituated to conceal or subdue his sensations, he turned towards Juanna, and said in a soft but earnest tone, “Excellent nurse, you must depart also—will you not?”

“I!” exclaimed Juanna, with a sublime expression of courage—“I depart if you remain behind!”

“I will rejoin you in a few days,” added Joseph, with a volubility which only betrayed, without concealing, his emotions. “We must all quit Spain, Juanna—no one is in safety here!”

“I will only quit the country with you,” answered the nurse firmly.

“Yes—but you will proceed first with our friend: you will be less liable to observation; and, in a few days, when I have realised the funds that remain to me, I will rejoin you. Come, Juanna—you must depart this night.”

“I will not depart,” she returned, in an abrupt tone.

“I insist upon it, Juanna,” said Joseph resolutely: but he was so pale, and his eyes, ordinarily so brilliant, had all of a sudden become so glazed that it was evident he was internally the prey to a violent combat.

At that phrase, “I insist upon it,” Juanna hung down her head, and murmured in a faint tone, “I will depart.”

“How fortunate!” exclaimed Dolorez. “Joseph will follow us soon, then?”

The strength of the young monk was almost at a crisis: his hands trembled with a convulsive nervousness, which all the energy of his will could not conceal. He could scarcely maintain himself upon his feet; and his eyelids closed with an involuntary contraction.

Nevertheless, moral courage soon triumphed over the physical nature. By a superhuman effort he extended his hands to the newly-married couple, and clasped theirs convulsively; then he threw himself into Juanna’s arms and wept abundantly.

“Delay not,” said Mandamiento: “you will scarcely have time to proceed two leagues ere dawn.”

By order of the favourite of the Inquisidor, another mule had been prepared for Juanna.

The little caravan departed.

Joseph and John of Avila remained alone.

“Father,” said Joseph, “before we separate, give me your blessing.”

“My son,” exclaimed John of Avila, more and more surprised at the manners of the young Dominican, “the Countess de Vargas was not the most unhappy of us all this night!”

“Oh! no,” replied Joseph, with an energetic accent. “Now that Dolorez no longer requires your aid, pray—pray, holy father, for Joseph!”

“Be happy and consoled—I bless thee!” exclaimed the Apostle, in a tone of profound compassion.

But as if Joseph feared lest he had been betrayed into too great a confidence, he turned abruptly away, and directed his steps towards Juanna’s house.

candelabra ‘An ornamental branched candlestick holding a number of candles; a chandelier’ (OED).
sprig of box ‘A shoot, twig, or spray’ of ‘a shrub with deep-green leaves of a thick leathery texture’ (OED) used to sprinkle holy water on a grave.
firman ‘a grant, licence, passport, permit’ (OED)
‘The garduños, and after their destruction the renowned bandits, of Spain, had agents, or insurers, authorized by them, in nearly all the cities, and in most of the ventas, or isolated inns, to levy contributions on travellers, and to give in exchange a watchword, which would prove a security to them in all places within a specified distance. In 1823, every traveller, who did not wish to be disturbed between Madrid and Cadiz, had only to take his passage in one of Pedro Ruiz’s stages, which cost about three times as much as a seat in the diligence, with a tax of five per cent. on the value of the baggage. The thieves never disturbed the wagons of Pedro Ruiz. If the bandits made their appearance, and demanded your money or your life, all that was requisite was to produce the watchword, and the scoundrels were transformed into the most polite gentlemen in the world, and, raising their caps, were sure to bid your worship go in God’s name.’ (p. 307†)
Cadiz Andalusian city on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, south of Seville and west of Gibraltar, a major port during the Age of Exploration.
Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: September 13, 1845 Next: September 27, 1845
Victorine Subervic and Manuel de Cuendías. Date: 1 July 2013