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following the dead laws of Moses and ignoring the sanc
tified path to the new dispensation.

With all the help of Dona Perfecta, who was most
willing to help, I could get no glimpse or speech with
Tristan other than to look on, as all the town did, at
the procession of the penitents for the mass at San Fran
cisco, and even there the guard encouraged no discourse.
But I could see him walking strong and with head
high held. All the moody dark was gone from his face.
At last the mystery was over ; he knew now the reasons
he had been hidden under a strange name, and there
was a most unchristian pride in his glance.

Dona Mercedes whispered a prayer as she gazed.

" It is as though he welcomed martyrdom," she whis
pered. " What is in his heart that he walks like that? "

" It is the thought of his people, and his pride to
know of them," I said, and I read him truly in that.

" But he is Christian he wears a rosary," persisted
Dona Perfecta.

" Yet he has uttered heretical words according to


report," said Don Eduardo. " His statement that the
tribes of the deserts have no devil and get along very
well without one has been discussed with much feeling,
and you perhaps have not heard of his statement that
our blessed Lord lived a Jew and died a Jew."

" Does he dare to argue in words like that in the very
shadow of death? " gasped his wife. " If he were a
saint from heaven he could not hope for help."

So thought we all, and wondered much that there
was no word of torture; for they were suddenly con
necting this with the Lispano matter, through Fray
Fernando, but for reasons of their own did not press this.
And that Tristan wore the rosary of Don Fernando was
made clear, with no attempt at secrecy. It had been
found on the drowned body and entrusted to Don Payo ;
this could be verified when a ship sailed.

But under the tiles in the cell of Fray Fernando there
were found some curious things, very puzzling. There
were books, and there were records of note: the two
century old list of the outfitting of the first expedition
to the Indies, and the names of the various Jews who
furnished the money Santangel and Sanchez at the
head both marranos, though high in affairs of state.
Diego de Deza, the learned theologian of Jewish blood,
who had Columbus received at Salamanca. There was
also the account of the second expedition, financed with
Jewish money this time, however, it was taken in
tribute from exiles. The list was very long and com
plete in its devilish intent, and proved that Jewish gold
opened up a new world, and that there had been no royal
gifts from the crown ; all given by them was the permit
to sail, and honors if the navigator earned them.


These were things long whispered of but never before
seen in writing by the Inquisition in Mexico. All such
records were thought to have been burned by the faith
ful. Yet here it was, beside a copy in Latin of " The
Hope of Israel," by Menasseh ben Israel. This con
tained a devilish record of native Jews among the Indians
of South America, and part of the contents was the
copy of an address to a man named Cromwell, in an
attempt to gain freedom for Jews to abide in England.

All this was a firebrand, indeed! But Tristan told
gladly all the officers of the Inquisition had to ask. He
had read this record as he read every record telling him
aught of the origin of the tribes of America. If they
came from ancient Jews, then it should be an easier task
to learn their histories. He confessed that he did not
himself believe the tribes were, or ever had been, Jews
it was even easier to think that these Indians were the
older people.

" What meaning had your impious words of the dead
tribes of Israel and the false gods of these red Indios? "
demanded the prosecutor, and all who heard were sure
at last that Tristan could have no chance, for his inter
est in the pagan creed was known to be great.

" I do not recall what I said, holy father, but I knew
the Kahns were a priestly caste that even kings had
been known to change records that they might claim
descent from them, the highest. Also that word, kan,
means the sky and the things of the sky to certain of
these tribes, and their priest-kings use it also in their
names. It seems the pagan mind goes ever to the sky,
and the sun, and the stars, for their god-thoughts. To
me it was strange they should thus use the word by


which the family of Aaron, the high priest, was called ;
these have also their high priests, who, after death, they
pray to as gods, and know by that sky name ! "

And Tristan was so suddenly interested in tracing
these strange links of human thought, that he was eager
as a boy to follow a game, and forgot he was on trial
for his faith and his life until the prosecutor frowned,
and pointed to the dangerous volume of Menasseh ben.

" Did you not know you committed the deadly sin
by application to the works of a heretic? " he demanded..

" Holy father, much of my work for three years has
been making records of the pagan beliefs here for the
archbishop. Thus was I ever delving in heretical ma
terial and constantly adding all I might to my knowl
edge. Some saintly priests have done the same and
were not questioned."

This of course was a fact, for under Fray Payo free
dom of a sort had flourished.

" Do you not know," thundered the prosecutor, " that
your inheritance of blood has given you a pernicious
tendency to read evil into the records where a Christian
would read good?"

" I have not been conscious of the evil."

" Do you deny the Jew blood animating you? "

" No, holy father, they tell me I have it, and it is a
new matter to me. My parents were Christian."

" You deny the Jewish blood? "

" How can I ? You have there my family records.
You can prove me the same amount of Jewish ancestry
as possessed by Christoval Colon of Galicia, but that
blood gave us this kingdom."


" That is a claim of the iniquitous Jews."

" I never have heard it made by one ; for two centuries
they have hidden all they knew of the records, and the
crown feared the anger of the pope if it was made clear.
Even Spain had to think of what the world would say
if it took a new world by the hand of one Jew, and at
the same time drove his brothers into exile."

" And this has been the training you have had at the
hands of Fray Fernando, and by the sanction of Fray
Payo," said the priest coldly. " These records will go
.to Spain for his reading. We will see what the ship
brings back. You will wait that coming in prison."

There was much wonder at such leniency and long
waiting, though the fact was that the revival of the
Lispano affair in connection with Don Fernando had
aroused doubt as to the sound doctrine of other friends
of the Lispanos. While the ship took letters of inquiry
to Fray Payo in Spain, there would be many months in
which to observe Tristan and the people who would
seek to favor him. He was the first key they had found
to secrets they suspected, and the Holy Brotherhood had
no intent to wear out the key ere the door was found.
The ecclesiastical mind had decided, to its humiliation,
that Fray Fernando had lived a double life under their
eyes, with his own son under his guidance. The fact
that Tristan had not known it was, in a way, in his
favor. Yet it all made a direful buzzing and all the books
found under the tiles of Fray Fernando s cell were sent
under seal to the church of San Francisco to await the
final trial of Tristan.

In the excitement of those days, the arrest of Tristan
in the palace garden was all but forgotten, or if remem-


bered, no separate cause was assigned to it the Holy
Brotherhood took its victims wherever they were to be
found. All smaller matters were swallowed up in the
greater, and the going of Marco and Anita was but an
episode to all but poor Luiza.

That good soul was in torture over all the righteous
act of Mateo, and the unrighteous words of Tristan as
they were repeated to her by hearers, the child Anita out
in the world of wilderness, and the honored Don Rodrigo
at the door of death in her house.

He never rallied after that first examination. He was
reprimanded for heretical silence on a matter belong
ing to the confessional, and it may be he saw in his mind
the dispersion of the treasure he had been five exiled
years garnering.

Be that as it may, he called a priest and an alcalde,
and arranged his will, in which good "Luiza was provided
for, and the rest of his belongings divided between
Marco and Tristan, the son of his friend. To me he left
a good gift, and named me as executor, and then, as
though in the dread of what he might yet have to face,
he turned to the wall, and spoke no more.

And I, a lad not twenty, was alone in the big world of
exiles with but one friend of the old days left alive near
me, and the walls of a prison about him.

I took up my abode with Luiza after that, though it
irked me to meet Mateo there. Yet he kept his distance,
and it rested her heart to have one of the family to
wait upon. Weeks went by like that waiting what
would chance Tristan, and waiting news from the north.
The little we had from there was ill news, for Anita was
unused to hard travel, and their first week on the trail


had given her illness, yet were they pushing on to join
the cavalcade.

" It is as well Tristan does not know," said Luiza,
" else bars would scarce hold him. He warned us and
we would not see."

As well as I could, I tried to comfort her ; since Marco
had stolen the girl for all the world to know, he would
do what a Christian might, short of wedding her for
there was Sancha back in Spain !

I had my own quandaries those days, but in the midst
of them was allowed the grace long asked for, that I
might provide the meals for Tristan in prison. So I
hid the letters and the glove, and went gladly forth to

As I expected, they searched me well, and I knew
they would set a watch lest I left, or carried away, a
message. But Tristan asked only of the death of Don
Rodrigo, and such matters of family. He had known
the old man would not recover, and was grateful that
he had lived to tell the truth, and had the courage to
tell it.

" And Marco? he got away? " he asked.

" Yes, he got away," I said, and professed to have
heard nothing more.

" It will not be so long a time now until a new ship
comes in," he observed.

" No," I said, " and so eager am I for news that I will
ride down the valley myself when the word comes."

He smiled on me at that, and understood. Despite the
guard, we had spoken our message.

Then the Brotherhood regretted that an able man
should be idle when there was work to do, and at a hint


from Fray Bernardino, Tristan was given sentence to
perform certain labors calculated to enlighten his soul
until the final sentence. Fray Bernardino was yet occu
pied with the chapel decorations and needed a helper. If
Tristan was indeed a Christian, he had his chance to
prove it with one not to be deceived, for it was a picture
of the Virgin he was to paint, and it was his great chance.

There were many prophecies and prognostications
over this. The more devout anticipated nothing less
than a paralysis if he was allowed to attempt it. But
Fray Bernardino had a good word to say of his craft,
and of the money it would save if he succeeded. Even
though he failed, no harm would be done beyond what
prayers to Our Lady would cure again.

But that he did not fail, the picture is there to testify,
and after the work was entered upon, Tristan went into
it with all his soul. There is no doubt that he felt it
was his last work for earth, as he was not lulled into
hope by the special leniency shown him. However
that was, the word went out that he had assumed the
task and no eye but his must rest on the work until
ended then they could hang or burn him as they
elected, but he would have done the one picture in his

Dona Perfecta tried by all means to see it, but was
told it was more than a penance put upon him it was
the work of a vow upon which none could intrude. So
there was much wonder and expectation.

" How comes it that whether behind prison walls,
or ranging free, there is no one like this priest s son
to keep everyone at question?" demanded Dona Per
fecta. " It has not been the custom to give prisoners the


liberty of deciding who shall look in upon them, and his
heretical argument makes it doubly strange."

" Have no fear," said her husband. " They suffer
him many privileges that they may catch his heretical
friends in the net ere the end comes. His art alone is
no excuse for leniency. The Holy Brotherhood is not
napping. They are busy on records left behind by Don
Payo. No priest of any order since Bernardino de
Sahagun has given such countenance to heretical knowl
edge of the false gods."

"And what was the end of De Sahagun?"

" He was discountenanced by his own order, and all
obstacles placed in his way by the church. Not until he
was eighty was he allowed to translate his papers on the
pagan gods, and all the translation disappeared after his

" But Fray Payo, as archbishop, had more power than
a mere priestly student."

" It remains to be seen how far that power can reach.
All these mysteries of Fray Fernando, and the Lispanos,
and the heretical books, came into Mexico some way
while Fray Payo was at the head of affairs. Also it is
shown that he was told the place of the death of Fray
Fernando, yet kept silence. The Council of the Indies
will hear all of this, and the curious encouragement
granted to heretical scholars may even yet cause strange
echoes for the ears of Fray Payo ! It is not for nothing
this free-tongued painter is granted rope to hang him
self and perhaps others more exalted."

Dona Mercedes turned pale as she looked at me, and
slipped her hand into that of Ernesto. Those two had
been wedded the week after Marco s flight.


" You think, then, there is still danger that Tristan
be put to the final test? " she asked.

" Say, rather, there is still hope for it," corrected Don
Eduardo. " What else would you have for an apostate
who hesitates not to say that Columbus and the Virgin,
and the Son of the Virgin were one and all of Jewish

" It is of course an abomination, and to be deplored,"
she acknowledged. " It would have saved many lives
if God the Father had chosen a virgin of another people."

" What are fleshly lives compared with souls? " asked
Don Eduardo. " To me it seems your mind is wander
ing in strange and forbidden conjectures."

" It is in the air," said Ernesto. " People are talking
of religions who never talked before. Tristan, with his
open statements, has started it going, and the saints
alone know what the end will be ! But it is true, I think,
the Brotherhood permits it for this time, and with a
purpose! The end for Tristan will be the stake when
they have netted his friends."

" And you are openly his friend even now," said Dona
Mercedes to me. " Have you no fear? "

" I have indeed, for him," I agreed, " yet of his dan
gerous opinions I have no part. Don Rodrigo had love
for Don Fernando though he married a maid of for
bidden descent. It is said that Abarbanel was of the
strain of David, and the Kahn is known to be of the
caste of Aaron. Yet despite this friendship of Don
Rodrigo for a suspect, he lived and died with evil to
wards no man. Why not I? "

" You may not die so happily, if you show approval
of this heretic, Tristan," warned Don Eduardo.


" But I do not approve ! I deplore and shrink from
the knowledge he has acquired. If I had influence I
would beg him to forget every written line but the credo,
and urge him to repeat it forever for the love of God ! "
and I all but wept as I said it, knowing as I did that Tris
tan would. rather be dead in the flesh than limited in
range of the mind.

But thus, in diverse ways, was I made to hear, over
and over, opinions and warnings, many for my own
sake, a few, I hoped, for his. I felt there were some who
sanctioned in him that which they never could imitate.
Forgotten ancestral blood within them clamored un
voiced admiration of his daring. The very youth of
Tristan must have emphasized this, though I heard Fray
Felipe make statement that it was no youthful soul, but
some very old Jewish demon, who spoke through his

So, as Dona Perfecta stated, though hidden from sight
within prison walls, the spirit of him caused much con
troversy, and Dona Perfecta had more than a little
anxiety lest, if he be put to the torture, questions might
be asked as to the night of arrest, and the cause of his
presence there. All of his actions would be given
weight, and it was not to be supposed that he would sac
rifice himself for Marco, or for her, a second time.

Names were not mentioned by Tristan during the
brief meetings when I took him food as permitted. In
a general way he asked of the outer world, yet had the
quiet content of a soul to whom the world is not neces

" I am more free than before," he asserted when I
asked him of the weary days. " I am doing the same


sort of work, yet doing it better. My life is widened by
knowing my origin, and my spirit unfastened its bonds
when I openly took the burden of my race, and felt that
others were not bearing my part of the load."

" But how can you, a Christian, feel the burden of a
Jew? " I asked in dismay at his frankness.

" I do not feel it as to creed ; it is scarcely under
standable in its many sides. Yet it has nobleness, else
it could not send forth both a Moses and a Jesus. Does
the spirit of God descend upon a mean people?"

I could not answer, for I was oppressed by the sense
of danger to him. He saw it, and smiled.

" Go you out, Juanito, without trouble or care for
me," he said. " I am nearer happiness than you have
ever seen me."

Which was another perplexing thing not to be under
stood at that time, for at that time I had neither glimpse
nor thought of the picture to be done as a test and a

Then came a day when the priests were let in to view
it, and the viceroy and other dignitaries. Nuns of St.
Dominic were there, and the ladies of the court, and all
went in a soft rustle to their knees on the tiles before
the chancel. I had but caught glimpse of the pictured
summer sky blue and white under the shadowy
dome, when Dona Perfecta, beside me, twisted her fan
until I heard the sticks break.

" Santa Maria ! " she whispered, " he has done it he
has painted the thing he grasped at in the sunbeam ! "

" He has done the impossible thing," said Dona Mer
cedes, dropping to her knees. " It is a miracle sent as
proof of a holy faith."


It may be that she was right. As she knelt I saw
over her head, and from the painted sky I looked to the
figure of the virgin in white, and then I sank beside her,
and no one in the church stood in that presence. The
nuns lifted up their voices and murmured the Sa/ve Reglna
as a prayer offering for the beauty of it, and I, after that
first look, knelt on the tiles with bent head, and the
tears fell on my hands tears for the hungry heart of

I knew then what he meant when he said he was
nearer happiness than ever before. After that picture
I could never fail to understand Tristan. A man would
have to live with a spirit of love, waking and sleeping
through the years, to paint that consecration he had
placed upon the altar.

He had painted her as she was, divine to him, and
at her feet knelt his enemies and lifted their voices in

Though behind prison bars, he had won a victory
beyond all dreams.

" It is a miracle no apostate could win the power
to paint like that."

" It is not as a painting, it is as if Our Blessed Lady
had swept down from the sky to stand like that and look
out upon us," said another. " I never will believe it
a thing of paint unless my hands touch it."

" No hands should be permitted to touch it," said
proud Fray Bernardino. " Did I not tell you a prize
would be ours if you but let the lad do his will? "

" We will hold discourse of this," stated Fray Felipe ;
" there has been mystery about this work. Who is to
prove the hand that did it? "


" I, who locked him in, and put no one with him,"
stated Fray Bernardino. " If he had aught of help,
it came from Our Lady herself."

And thus was one of the legends begun.

Dona Perfecta stared, and stared. " He has caught
his sunbeam and formed it into a woman," she said.

" But where," said Dona Mercedes, " is there a child-
woman on the earth with that royal pride and gra
cious sweetness? The look in her eyes is a benedic

" He has caught the sunbeam," repeated the ether
in a strange, grudging tone, " yet he has painted her
as above the earth ; her feet in the sandals barely touch
the grass on that hill."

Thus the voices went around me, while I could
not see for the tears in my eyes. As soon as might be
I slipped away, and walked alone until the night came.
That was the night I unfolded and read the letters.
My boy s mind was so oppressed by the weight I had
to. carry that I had to know. And reading in them
what I read in the picture, I thanked God that Sancha
was safe in Spain.


I SENT food and messages to Tristan but let days
go by before I saw him again. On every side were
voices speaking in awe and wonder of the painting
in the chancel. There were many pious doubts
concerning the work either the accused man could
not have painted it, or else he could not be a Jew and
a heretic!

Dona Perfecta tried as she was able to strengthen
the last idea yet how could one accomplish much
to contradict his own mad acceptance of Jewish

" He shows pride in it, and not humbleness," stated
her husband, " and in all ways is a dangerous man.
Fray Felipe tells me that there are many pious people
who firmly believe that he is linked with the devils of
the pagans and inspired by them."

" Yet one thing given in evidence of his heresy is
that he said the pagans had no devils, and were the
better for having none." I ventured this with a cer
tain trembling, for fear my privilege of sending his
food should be taken away, yet it was occasion for Don
Eduardo s reading me a lecture.

" How make converts but by scaring them with the
devil?" he demanded. "How comes true form of re-



ligion but in the fear of the Evil One? This heretic
painter had best be reading the lives of the saints, rather
than the unedifying discourse of the pagan gods of the
sky. More will come of this, for his words of the high
priests here, and their clan name akin to the clan name
of ancient Jewry, are beyond all human or divine reason,
and these are the things by which he will be led to the
stake when the time comes."

" But it is not as if he had linked those pagan things
with Christian names," I said.

" Else his life would not be spared so long ! " he
answered coldly. " He has declared that the Son of
God was a Jew, and after that, what evil thing would
he halt at?"

I could not say. Yet I went away knowing that
while the painting had given them an awe of him, it
had not lessened the bitterness of the pious his art
was to them a certain indication of devilish possession.

I said some prayers of my own to the Saint of the
Impossible, and then went, after those days of pon
dering, to see Tristan.

" Have you been ailing? " was his first word at sight
of me, and I truthfully said yes, for my nights had been
without sleep and my days without security.

" The days of waiting are now grown irksome," he
confessed ; " and my hands are idle, for my work is
done, and I have painted them a virgin."

" I know," I said. " I saw all the people kneel there."

" You did that? " and he was eager as a boy, " they
knelt to adore her? Ay, that is happiness, Juanito. If
you live to be old, and she does, tell her of it when I
am gone."


" No words could tell her," I said ; " only the picture
itself could do that, and the picture she never can see."

" That is so," he assented ; " her paths of life will
lead into happier places than this, and that is better.
But they did kneel they did see all the heavenly

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 9 of 26)