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Rodrigo. From the gossip of Gilberto I divined that
Marco had no need to languish for maids across the
water, when the best doors of Mexico were opened wide
for him. I fancied it gave him a swaggering arrogance
when her name was mentioned, knowing well that I
dared not express in words my own dumb rage at his
carelessness. Between women and the desire of Fray
Payo to show preference to the son of General de
Ordono, Marco was at a point where, without surprise,
the hand of a king or the glove of a princess might be
offered him without his special wonder. Thus his hand
some face had spoiled him, and, as was apparent, secret
meetings were given him by lovely ladies who should
have been at confession.

And back in Seville Sancha must make herself content
with Indian dolls and prayers and strings of beads.



So, to all Marco s questions as to word from Sancha,
I gave him nothing, since the word was to Don Rodrigo,
and was well sealed.

My great desire was to make the journey to the mines,
but Don Fernando advised against it, as the Indian clans
had been making trouble in that region, or in one I
should have to cross, and Don Rodrigo would be in the
city as soon as all grew quiet again.

It was while I was waiting his return, and learning the
ways of the town and people, that I gained knowledge
that Padre Juan, back in Seville, was well informed as
to the strictures placed on all of Mexico by the Holy
Brotherhood. The rule of Fray Payo was questionably
mild in their eyes, and as I saw long lines of the peni
tents doing the stations in the garb of shame, I heard
much of grumbling that the Judaizing apostates, or
the pestilent Lutherans, were shown prolonged mercy
under Fray Payo and the penance of weekly pro
cessions and edifying sermons was little short of encour
agement to iniquity. There had been no burnings out
of sinful souls for many weeks. More than one of the
devout openly prophesied either epidemics or earth
quakings, if holy church grew lax in its prosecutions of

So a company, including Marco, was sent riding
bravely north to Texcuco where, report said, a new
Christian family had refused to eat good pork, and added
to this the further damning evidence that neither father
nor son worked the fields on a Saturday. Therefore the
case against them was heavy with dire import. Many
maintained that so flagrant an affair must be beyond
even the mercy or lenient word of the viceroy. And thus


did I learn, little by little, of the warring of factions, and
the reasons why a man, old in service as was Don Payo,
would be glad to put aside the honors, and the endless
fight for lives.

Marco rode back looking like a hero, with his arm
in a sling from some accident, and the suspected men
and women were led with their hands tied and ropes
about their necks, staggering at the heels of the horses.
They were pelted through the streets to the prison, and
there was more excitement than over a fight with
Indians, for it was said that heretical books, and even
a Bible, had been found hidden under their shelled maize
in the bins.

A great scandal was made over the matter, for the
Lispano family were not insignificant. Their holdings
in land were important, as was even the tax to the crown
on their mines at Zacatecas. I found the good Luiza
weeping over their downfall, for their province in Spain
was her own. But Anita, exclaiming with youth s
impetuosity against the trailing of ladies of delicacy
through the dust at the heels of troopers, was given a
word of caution and hard query by her confessor. What
sympathy could a true daughter of holy church hold for
those who made plain choice of the devil and his instru
ments? To either read of religion or discuss it was for
bidden, as she well knew and there was the damning
evidence of a pious mestizo major-domo that pork was
not eaten at the Lispano table ! Of a certainty the evil
would be burnt out of their souls and their bodies at
the next auto-da-fe.

For myself, I cared not much for the meat of a pig,
where fish and good chicken were in plenty, despite


which, for many a day after that, I refused every dish, no
matter how tempting, unless pork was somehow used
in it.

Thus was my mind impressed by the sight of the
white-haired man and his drooping daughters stagger
ing in weariness through the dust. Sons and a nephew
were also there, but they were more able. I saw Dona
Perfecta look down from a balcony and heard her com
ment on the white skin of the shoulder of one prisoner ;
it had not occurred to her that a Jewess was so fair.

It was my first sight of the work of the Brotherhood
in the New World, and has never left me. It is not
that it was more severe than in Spain. Yet in the older
land affairs were conducted with a difference. A man
might be caged, or he might wear chains through the
street to prison, but a certain decorum was observed;
there were no white-faced girls with half-naked backs,
drawn with ropes at the heels of prancing horses. Marco
rode well, and lifted his feathered hat to Dona Perfecta,
and to his saddlebow was tied the rope of the youngest
maid. And back of this triumphant procession for the
faith stood groups of the dark-skinned natives, staring
at the pious work of civilization in their land.

The prison was full, due, said the grumblers, to the
inactivity of Fray Payo to order executions. But Fray
Payo was again ill in health and could not have the care
of even so important a matter, so it was left for the
audiencia to assist the Brotherhood as well as may be, and
in the end the Lispano family were prisoned in a ware
house double guarded for lack of dungeon room.

I tell of this unfortunate family whose names I had
not even known, because out of their trial, and their


end, came illuminating things to me. They were judged
and condemned, as all knew, before any open audience
was given to the evidence. But in the end a public sen
tence was the usual form, whereby all might be warned
against apostasy. I do not recall that a word was
uttered by the prisoners, though the recorder read aloud
their words and admissions under the torture. There
was no recanting except by the nephew, so all knew he
would be conducted as a trophy of glory in the next pro
cession. The others were sullen and dumb as they heard
the sentence that they be burnt together, and their lands
and mines revert to the crown, except for the gift to the
mestizo of a certain competence in proof that the Brother
hood ever favored its faithful sons.

Yet all this was a thing of custom; and I listened
beside Don Fernando and felt the tremble of his slender
hand on my arm. Always he was white, yet at their
sentence his face grew whiter, or his eyes burned more
darkly, for I could but note it, and ask if he were ill in

I had no answer, for he was staring at the recorder,
who, with the help of another monk, was fishing from
a rawhide bag the pestilent books found hidden in the
maize bins. The Prosecutor for the Faith assured all
who listened that in the pages of those volumes, without
covers, was contained iniquity enough to either raise
devils from hell, or sink all the land under their feet to
the regions of the fiends themselves! He admonished
one and all to attend a special mass for the reason that
their eyes had even rested on the forbidden and outlawed
volumes. Among them were translations from the dis
graced Luther, books in Hebrew, and more than half of


a Bible all contentious and pernicious, and prone to
establish insurrection and heresy wherever introduced.

Many at the trial got away quickly, or turned their
glances otherwise than on that stack of condemned
iniquity. But my own feet seemed stuck fast to the tiles
of the floor, my eyes bulging at the stack of books in
front of the stubborn, silent, prisoners. Not one of the
books had a cover, and, as in a dream, I thought I saw
again the open chest in the storeroom of the De Ordonos,
and beautiful covers of books flung, one after the other,
into its shadows and the lid clamped shut.

But it was not the lid which fell ; it was I, and after
my head struck the hard tile, I knew nothing until I
found myself in a bed in the palace, with Don Fernando
beside me, and heard voices saying that even a sight of
those volumes of craft cast a spell over me and some
woman also had fainted on hearing they could raise the
devil !

I was yet dazed and shaking, and Don Fernando sent
the others, Marco and Gilberto among them, reluctant,
from the room.

And when I did speak it was whisperingly, and with
a dazed mind, for I asked if Tristan were safe.

Don Fernando bent his head, and there were tears in
his eyes.

" Safe," he said, " thank God, he is safe somewhere
in the wilderness among savages and wild beasts."

Then he sat beside me in silence, until I, feeling better,
would have risen, but he took my hand. " It is growing
dark," he said, " lie you still and think and some day
tell Tristan. He is eager for books because it is in his
blood. He is the son of scholars, yet today you and I


have seen souls under a curse because of that hunger.
Tell him of that all of it! In Catholic lands today
scholarship must rest. Under the robe alone will he
dare study religions, and then only in the books of faith
of the one religion. I say this because even the study of
the pagan gods may bear ill fruit, and with Fray Payo
gone from Mexico, and with me gone, it might at some
time of life go hard with him. Even the gods of the sun
and those of the stars are held in disrepute by the
Brotherhood. Thus you must tell him, for no new arch
bishop will protect him in his searchings, or ask trans
lations for scholars of the future."

" But you, Don Fernando, he would set more store
by word from you on such a serious matter."

" I may not give it, boy. Who can tell the things to
come? But if aught should chance me, give to him my
blessing and tell him of my pride in him. The pride is
great, as my faith in him is great ; to Don Rodrigo say
I leave to him the thing most precious on earth, and
that I take the seal from his lips."

Then he gave me a cup of some bitter tea to quaff, and
made the sign over me, and went away. I must have
gone to sleep at once for I knew no more until the next
day s sun was in my eyes, and Gilberto had me by the
shoulder shaking me awake, and babbling of a guard
killed, and another one wounded it was Mateo
Gomez, the husband of Luiza and it was the opinion
of Gilberto that now, indeed, the town must have some
sanctified burnings to make room in the prison, for it
was proved to all that the warehouse would never do.

That sleep of mine was so curious that it was hard to
shake out of either my head or my legs, and I wrestled


myself stupidly into my garb, grunting my comment
on his discourse, and was put to it to unravel head or
tail of it.

But a sniff of fresh air and a cup of- cocoa took the
numbness out of me, and I had sense to sit in silence
while Gilberto talked. There were tales abroad of
enchantings of the devil, for no- locks had been broken,
and no eyes had seen the going. Yet the Lispano family
had certainly been borne away every he and she of
them by their Master of Evil!

Questioned as to special points, all that was known
was that a pious monk had obtained order from the
Brotherhood to use his utmost strivings to bring the
victims of Satan to open confession as to the accursed
volumes found in the maize bin. Armed with the order
of the Holy Office, the doors had opened to him, but no
one had ever seen him come again from behind the heavy
locked doors of the warehouse. Yet was the warehouse
empty ! One guard was found who looked as if the devil
himself had had the strangling of him, for iron fingers
had most certainly sunk into his throat until the life was
gone. Also Mateo Gomez, the husband of Luiza, was
found without senses, and with a cut on his head. This
discovery had been at the change of guard at sunrise,
and the captain of the guard was up for reprimand, and
was a deposed man at the very mildest. Gilberto won
dered who would be named as the new captain, and
mentioned the name of Marco, for Marco had helped
bring in the heretics.

And from that, in another minute, Gilberto was back
at his old subject of preferments and intrigues, and
thought it in the power of Don Eduardo Vidal de


Dasmarinas to see that Marco had first chance, and his
word would go far.

I heard it all with little thought of Marco or his
chances, for my head was in a whirl as to the enchant
ments sent by the devil to free the old man and his
daughters. It had all been done in a haste scarcely
human, for there were men of degree and women
too held safe behind the prison bars for suspected
heresy these many years. We saw them in the lurid
sanbenitos the very color of flames each week in the
procession of the penitents. Yet this family, convicted
of apostasy, heresy, and traffic with the Prince of
Darkness, had rested in prison but one setting of the
sun after their sentence had been thundered at them by
the Prosecutor for the Faith. All the evidence was most
certainly in favor of infernal agencies a fact dwelt
upon by the Holy Office as the only method by which
their own efforts for the faith could have been made
void. For myself, the question I most wanted to ask
stuck in my throat, and I made my way to the house of
Luiza to ask after Mateo, for whose health I cared little.
He was the scheming, truculent member of a household
otherwise pleasant. His subservience to me as the rela
tive of the viceroy was embarrassingly pronounced. I
had the custom of visiting the good Luiza when the
husband was on duty elsewhere.

But that morning I was as one driven there to hear
the thing I dared not ask, and I found the two women
all but frantic between the crippled man and the curious
crowd, from which came every variety of tale as to
demoniac assaults and their consequences. Poor Luiza
knew not whether to pray for his physical recovery, lest


the devil should still withhold his wits, and Anita was
weeping in sympathy and lamenting the absence of Don
Tristan for with him at home he would surely find
Don Fernando, and that was the only intelligent name
Mateo had muttered.

"Was Fray Fernando his confessor?" I asked, with
my eyes on the floor and my heart thumping.

" Surely not it is Fray Felipe, and already he has
been here, and was of comfort. But know you not that
it was Fray Fernando himself who was spirited away
with those heretic Lispanos who chose to follow the
dead law of Moses rather than the way of the cross? "

" No one has told me," I said.

" Well, it is so. I shed tears to see those ladies
dragged by soldiers through the dust of the streets in
shame before even their own brown slaves. But I might
have saved my pity, as Fray Felipe told us both ; for the
fiend himself was certainly master of the beauty of those
Lispano girls, and it has proved itself. How else could
all within those walls have been thus suddenly spirited
awiay? "

" Ay," ventured Anita, " even Don Fernando, whom
all knew as a holy person, who else than he, so wor
shiped by the Indios? For his sake they would make
themselves as a carpet for his feet."

I looked at the ugly cut on the head of Mateo. He
had been struck down, and fallen on a sharp stone. The
fall had been heavy, and there was a fracture of the skull,
but there were no other marks. Evidently only one
stroke had been needed.

"If Don Tristan were only here!" moaned Luiza,
over and over. " What can a woman do with a wounded


man on her hands, and a guard outside her door? My
wits are all but gone."

" I am here at your service," I said with kind intent ;
" and there is Marco de Ordono, your nursling as well
as Don Tristan. It is even said that his name is men
tioned as captain of the guard. You will have an official
friend in high places."

I spoke lightly to reassure her, but was little prepared
for the frightened look she gave towards pretty Anita,
who was at the moment outside the door, listening to the
condolings of a woman neighbor.

" Send Don Marco not here, lest there be troubles for
a priest to mend ! " she mumbled apart to me as she
changed the wet bandages and rilled a basin with water
fresh from an olla. " Know you not that Don Tristan
has laid a threat against him? "

This was news to me, as I had learned nothing to
indicate there was ill will between them, and I said so.

" Not on other matters," agreed Luiza, " but the girl
is as a little sister to Don Tristan, and as you may
know Don Marco whispers at many windows, and
wins his way through many doors. The saints alone
know how hard it is to guard a girl, but Don Tristan
knows somewhat, and Don Marco had his warning to
walk in other streets. It makes it hard for me, for Mateo
favored him, as it was one ladder to a step up at the

" What do you mean by all that? What girl? "

She nodded her head towards Anita.

" God alone knows how it will end," she said, " for the
child no longer opens her heart to me. She trusts and
reverences Don Tristan for his brother spirit, but what


she dreams of the other, no soul can tell. I never trust
her out of my sight but for confession or mass, and then
a neighbor walks beside, for how could I live if a boy
and girl love should end in a murder? Don Tristan
made the threat to trail him to hell if he did her wrong,
and the threat of Tristan was a thing to fear."

Here was a new turn in fortune s wheel in the new
land where I had thought life would be free and simple.
I recalled the blush of Anita when I had asked of Marco
that first day. At one time he had housed there; no
doubt he still would have had that pleasure but for the
most unchristian threat of Tristan.

I went back to the palace, and listened to words of
sympathy over my faint of the day before. Two women
had also fallen unconscious through the devilish enchant
ments abroad, and one of them had become a mother in
the night. So, in one way and another, there were waves
of gossip surging about me, and I could easily sit silent,
and listen to good purpose. Fray Payo was ill from the
excitement, and would see no one, and to Don Martin
de Silva was given the task of dealing with the Holy
Office, and getting to the bottom of the affair.

But all I could learn was that it was Don Fernando
himself who had put in the reasonable request that the
" reconciled " nephew of Lispano be separated from the
convicted apostates before an attempt be made to reach
their sinful souls. And it stood to reason, also, that a
priest who had won savage idolaters from their false
gods would be the one man most like to win these
heretics from their pernicious ways. But for all the
wisdom, and reasonableness of it, the officials had noth
ing left but a dead man, an empty prison, and no trace


of two maids and four men who had gone under the
earth or into the air.

The guards were questioned at every side of the city,
but except for an Indian fiesta out by Tlacopan, and
some of their brood going and coming, the streets had
been still of all traffic ; neither man nor woman had been
abroad more than was the custom until the hour of early
mass at the cathedral. I heard Marco tell Dona Perfecta
and her cousin Mercedes all this, as he rode in after
making a circle of highways north and south to establish
the fact that no such group of refugees could have passed
the guards on the way to either coast. And how could
they have carried with them a man so noticeable as
Don Fernando?

It was the opinion of Marco that Don Fernando had
been killed by the heretics, and would be found in due
time, under the tiles, or in some other secret place.

Thus was all conjecture seething and bubbling to no
purpose, when Don Rodrigo rode into the city. In Spain
I had not loved Don Rodrigo beyond reason, but at sight
of him in Mexico I could have kissed his dusty boots.
Don Payo was by far too eminent for a confidant, but
Don Rodrigo was nearer the earth and, it was reason
able to suppose, would know the other half of most I
had to tell him.

As soon as might be, I followed him from the house of
Luiza to his lodgings near the monastery, and gave my
self credit for even that patience. I had stood by, silent
as a fish, while he had been overwhelmed by all the news,
and all the surmises of the many others, but when I
tagged at his heels, he bade me come along as a good-
natured man may throw a kind word to a stray puppy.


Not that a companion as mute as I was a thing to wish
for, but after all, I had messages from home, and must
be accepted as the bearer.

Had I been less near to bursting, I might have had a
certain pride in changing his mind, or in the mere aston
ishing of him, but I was far beyond all that in my
suppressed terror.

I gave him the folded and sealed packet from the
abbess, which he accepted with the sigh of a martyr.
Well he knew it would involve a letter of duty the
aftermath of his long-ago matchmaking. His manner
plainly betrayed that the reading of that might wait until
supper had been eaten.

So long as others were in hearing I told him the latest
news of his friends and family and the captain I sailed
with, and all such topics of common question.

Then, while I poured for him a cup of Greek wine sent
by Padre Juan, I gave him the message of Don Fer

He let fall the cup, and the wine soaked into his sleeve
and dripped to the floor while he stared at me. I poured
him another cup, for he looked as if he needed it.

" Say that again," he whispered, yet put out his hand
to stop me when I would have spoken aloud.

" Lower," he said, and I repeated:

" To Don Rodrigo I leave the thing most precious on
earth, and I take the seal from his lips. "

" God ! " he said, and quaffed the wine, and sat staring
at nothing for what seemed a long time. I knew he was
thinking of the trial and the mystery.

" Holy God ! " he whispered again, " then he knew it
was the end of him! "


I had thought as much myself, yet it spelled out
none of the riddle of his disappearance.

" Indians," he said in the same tone, " Indians ! For
him or for Tristan they will do the impossible things.
Yet what could the Lispanos mean to him? Fernando
was not heretic."

" But he had love of study. He he gave me a
warning against seeking knowledge except in churchly
books," I ventured. " The holy prior said there was
enough of evil in the Lispano books to enchant an
army. It may have been that they began in all inno
cence with the books and then the evil grew in
them. I only know he left a warning with me, and
went away."

I did not tell him the warning was not for me, for I
could see that of the books he knew nothing. Books
might be housed under his very nose for a lifetime, yet
he would not have thought to turn a leaf.

" Indians ! " he said again, " and it will go hard in the
mines without him. The Indians rebel at another con
fessor there his strength lay."

" And what of Tristan s strength? "

" The less said of that the better. The lad gets under
their skin as though he had suckled the same breast. A
new day will come to us all when Fray Payo goes and
the less said of Tristan and his Indian strength the
better. It came some way by the help of Fernando, but
the pupil out-distanced the master. And if you are a
friend, you will caution him that pagan records had best
be forgotten : no new viceroy or archbishop will serve as
patron in that and there is the Holy Office with its
thousand eyes ! "


THE letter from Spain was forgotten by Don
Rodrigo in the excitement of the Lispano mat
ter, and the mystery of Don Fernando. He was
careful not to betray all he felt concerning the
latter, not sure of the wisdom of open avowal. The
clergy grew cautious about expressing themselves, and
were alert for every word of interest that was dropped
by anyone. The common people might have their own
fancies regarding diabolical agencies in the matter, but
the Holy Office had ears open for temporal evidence.
I myself was never so devoted to the interests of Don
Payo. I scarce moved away from the antechamber of
his excellency, and came near to losing the use of my

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 4 of 26)