The Inquisition in the Indies

My next chapter is perhaps too sad; it shall be at least as short as I can make it; but it was needful to be written, that readers may judge fairly for themselves what sort of enemies the English nation had to face in those stern days.

Three weeks have passed, and the scene is shifted to a long, low range of cells in a dark corridor in the city of Cartagena. The door of one is open; and within stand two cloaked figures, one of whom we know. It is Eustace Leigh. The other is a familiar of the Holy Office.

He holds in his hand a lamp, from which the light falls on a bed of straw, and on the sleeping figure of a man. The high white brow, the pale and delicate features—them too we know, for they are those of Frank. Saved half-dead from the fury of the savage negroes, he has been reserved for the more delicate cruelty of civilized and Christian men. He underwent the question but this afternoon; and now Eustace, his betrayer, is come to persuade him— or to entrap him? Eustace himself hardly knows whether of the two.

And yet he would give his life to save his cousin.

His life? He has long since ceased to care for that. He has done what he has done, because it is his duty; and now he is to do his duty once more, and wake the sleeper, and argue, coax, threaten him into recantation while “his heart is still tender from the torture,” so Eustace’s employers phrase it.

And yet how calmly he is sleeping! Is it but a freak of the lamplight, or is there a smile upon his lips? Eustace takes the lamp and bends over him to see; and as he bends he hears Frank whispering in his dreams his mother’s name, and a name higher and holier still.

Eustace cannot find the heart to wake him.

“Let him rest,” whispers he to his companion. “After all, I fear my words will be of little use.”

“I fear so too, sir. Never did I behold a more obdurate heretic. He did not scruple to scoff openly at their holinesses.”

“Ah!” said Eustace; “great is the pravity of the human heart, and the power of Satan! Let us go for the present.”

“Where is she?”

“The elder sorceress, or the younger?”

“The younger—the—”

“The Señora de Soto? Ah, poor thing! One could be sorry for her, were she not a heretic.” And the man eyed Eustace keenly, and then quietly added, “She is at present with the notary; to the benefit of her soul, I trust—”

Eustace half stopped, shuddering. He could hardly collect himself enough to gasp out an “Amen!”

“Within there,” said the man, pointing carelessly to a door as they went down the corridor. “We can listen a moment, if you like; but don’t betray me, señor.”

Eustace knows well enough that the fellow is probably on the watch to betray him, if he shows any signs of compunction; at least to report faithfully to his superiors the slightest expression of sympathy with a heretic; but a horrible curiosity prevails over fear, and he pauses close to the fatal door. His face is all of a flame, his knees knock together, his ears are ringing, his heart bursting through his ribs, as he supports himself against the wall, hiding his convulsed face as well as he can from his companion.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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