Part 1 out of 5
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THE HISTORICAL NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENT, SECOND SERIES
by RAFAEL SABATINI
My Dear David,
Since the narratives collected here as well as in the preceding
volume under the title of the Historical Nights Entertainment--
narratives originally published in The Premier Magazine, which
you so ably edit--owe their being to your suggestion, it is
fitting that some acknowledgment of the fact should be made. To
what is hardly less than a duty, allow me to add the pleasure of
dedicating to you, in earnest of my friendship and esteem, not
merely this volume, but the work of which this volume is the
London, June, 1919.
The kindly reception accorded to the first volume of the
Historical Nights Entertainment, issued in December of 1917, has
encouraged me to prepare the second series here assembled.
As in the case of the narratives that made up the first volume,
I set out again with the same ambitious aim of adhering
scrupulously in every instance to actual, recorded facts; and
once again I find it desirable at the outset to reveal how far
the achievement may have fallen short of the admitted aim.
On the whole, I have to confess to having allowed myself perhaps
a wider latitude, and to having taken greater liberties than was
the case with the essays constituting the previous collection.
This, however, applies, where applicable, to the parts rather
than to the whole.
The only entirely apocryphal narrative here included is the
first--"The Absolution." This is one of those stories which, if
resting upon no sufficient authority to compel its acceptance,
will, nevertheless, resist all attempts at final refutation,
having its roots at least in the soil of fact. It is given in the
rather discredited Portuguese chronicles of Acenheiro, and finds
place, more or less as related here, in Duarte Galvao's
"Chronicle of Affonso Henriques," whence it was taken by the
Portuguese historical writer, Alexandre Herculano, to be included
in his "Lendas e Narrativas." If it is to be relegated to the
Limbo of the ben trovato, at least I esteem it to afford us a
precious glimpse of the naive spirit of the age in which it is
set, and find in that my justification for including it.
The next to require apology is "His Insolence of Buckingham," but
only in so far as the incident of the diamond studs is concerned.
The remainder of the narrative, the character of Buckingham, the
details of his embassy to Paris, and the particulars of his
audacious courtship of Anne of Austria, rest upon unassailable
evidence. I would have omitted the very apocryphal incident of
the studs, but that I considered it of peculiar interest as
revealing the source of the main theme of one of the most famous
historical romances ever written--"The Three Musketeers." I give
the story as related by La Rochefoucauld in his "Memoirs," whence
Alexandre Dumas culled it that he might turn it to such excellent
romantic account. In La Rochefoucauld's narrative it is the
painter Gerbier who, in a far less heroic manner, plays the part
assigned by Dumas to d'Artagnan, and it is the Countess of
Carlisle who carries out the political theft which Dumas
attributes to Milady. For the rest, I do not invite you to attach
undue credit to it, which is not, however, to say that I account
it wholly false.
In the case of "The _Hermosa Fembra_" I confess to having
blended together into one single narrative two historical
episodes closely connected in time and place. Susan's daughter
was, in fact, herself the betrayer of her father, and it was in
penitence for that unnatural act that she desired her skull to be
exhibited as I describe. Into the story of Susan's daughter I
have woven that of another New-Christian girl, who, like the
Hermosa Fembra, her taken a Castilian lover--in this case a youth
of the house of Guzman. This youth was driven into concealment in
circumstances more or less as I describe them. He overheard the
judaizing of several New-Christians there assembled, and bore
word of it at once to Ojeda. The two episodes were separated in
fact by an interval of three years, and the first afforded Ojeda
a strong argument for the institution of the Holy Office in
Seville. Between the two there are many points of contact, and
each supplies what the other lacks to make an interesting
narrative having for background the introduction of the
Inquisition to Castile. The denouement I supply is entirely
fictitious, and the introduction of Torquemada is quite
arbitrary. Ojeda was the inquisitor who dealt with both cases.
But if there I stray into fiction, at least I claim to have
sketched a faithful portrait of the Grand Inquisitor as I know
him from fairly exhaustive researches into his life and times.
The story of the False Demetrius is here related from the point
of view of my adopted solution of what is generally regarded as a
historical mystery. The mystery lies, of course, in the man's
identity. He has been held by some to have been the unfrocked
monk, Grishka Otropiev, by others to have been a son of Stephen
Bathory, King of Poland. I am not aware that the theory that he
was both at one and the same time has ever been put forward, and
whilst admitting that it is speculative, yet I claim that no
other would appear so aptly to fit all the known facts of his
career or to shed light upon its mysteries.
Undoubtedly I have allowed myself a good deal of licence and
speculation in treating certain unwitnessed scenes in "The
Barren Wooing." But the theory that I develop in it to account
for the miscarriage of the matrimonial plans of Queen Elizabeth
and Robert Dudley seems to me to be not only very fully warranted
by de Quadra's correspondence, but the only theory that will
convincingly explain the events. Elizabeth, as I show, was widely
believed to be an accessory to the murder of Amy Robsart. But in
carefully following her words and actions at that critical time,
as reported by de Quadra, my reading of the transaction is as
given here. The most damning fact against Elizabeth was held to
be her own statement to de Quadra on the eve of Lady Robert
Dudley's murder to the effect that Lady Robert was "already dead,
or very nearly so." This foreknowledge of the fate of that
unfortunate lady has been accepted as positive evidence that the
Queen was a party to the crime at Cumnor, which was to set her
lover free to marry again. Far from that, however, I account it
positive proof of Elizabeth's innocence of any such part in the
deed. Elizabeth was far too crafty and clear-sighted not to
realize how her words must incriminate her afterwards if she knew
that the murder of Lady Robert was projected. She must have been
merely repeating what Dudley himself had told her; and what he
must have told her--and she believed--was that his wife was at
the point of a natural death. Similarly, Dudley would not have
told her this, unless his aim had been to procure his wife's
removal by means which would admit of a natural interpretation.
Difficulties encountered, much as I relate them--and for which
there is abundant evidence--drove his too-zealous agents to
rather desperate lengths, and thus brought suspicion, not only
upon the guilty Dudley, but also upon the innocent Queen. The
manner of Amy's murder is pure conjecture; but it should not be
far from what actually took place. The possibility of an
accident--extraordinarily and suspiciously opportune for Dudley
as it would have been--could not be altogether ruled out but for
the further circumstance that Lady Robert had removed everybody
from Cumnor on that day. To what can this point--unless we accept
an altogether incredible chain of coincidence--but to some such
plotting as I here suggest?
In the remaining six essays in this volume the liberties taken
with the absolute facts are so slight as to require no apology or
London, June, 1919.
I. THE ABSOLUTION
Affonso Henriques, First King of Portugal
II. THE FALSE DEMETRIUS
Boris Godunov and the Pretended Son of Ivan the Terrible
III. THE HERMOSA FEMBRA
An Episode of the Inquisition in Seville
IV. THE PASTRY-COOK OF MADRIGAL
The Story of the False Sebastian of Portugal
V. THE END OF THE VERT GALANT
The Assassination of Henry IV
VI. THE BARREN WOOING
The Murder of Amy Robsart
VII. SIR JUDAS
The Betrayal of Sir Walter Ralegh
VIII. HIS INSOLENCE OF BUCKINGHAM
George Villiers' Courtship of Anne of Austria
IX. THE PATH OF EXILE
The Fall of Lord Clarendon
X. THE TRAGEDY OF HERRENHAUSEN
Count Philip Koenigsmark and the Princess Sophia Dorothea
XI. THE TYRANNICIDE
Charlotte Corday and Jean Paul Marat
I. THE ABSOLUTION
Aftonso Henriques, first King of Portugal
In 1093 the Moors of the Almoravide dynasty, under the Caliph
Yusuf, swept irresistibly upwards into the Iberian Peninsula,
recapturing Lisbon and Santarem in the west, and pushing their
conquest as far as the river Mondego.
To meet this revival of Mohammedan power, Alfonso VI. Of Castile
summoned the chivalry of Christendom to his aid. Among the
knights who answered the call was Count Henry of Burgundy
(grandson of Robert, first Duke of Burgundy) to whom Alfonso gave
his natural daughter Theresa in marriage, together with the
Counties of Oporto and Coimbra, with the title of Count of
That is the first chapter of the history of Portugal.
Count Henry fought hard to defend his southern frontiers from the
incursion of the Moors until his death in 1114. Thereafter his
widow Theresa became Regent of Portugal during the minority of
their son, Affonso Henriques. A woman of great energy, resource
and ambition, she successfully waged war against the Moors, and
in other ways laid the foundations upon which her son was to
build the Kingdom of Portugal. But her passionate infatuation for
one of her knights--Don Fernando Peres de Trava--and the
excessive honours she bestowed upon him, made enemies for her in
the new state, and estranged her from her son.
In 1127 Alfonso VII. of Castile invaded Portugal, compelling
Theresa to recognize him as her suzerain. But Affonso Henriques,
now aged seventeen--and declared by the citizens of the capital
to be of age and competent to reign--incontinently refused to
recognize the submission made by his mother, and in the following
year assembled an army for the purpose of expelling her and her
lover from the country. The warlike Theresa resisted until
defeated in the battle of San Mamede and taken prisoner.
* * * * * *
He was little more than a boy, although four years were sped
already since, as a mere lad of fourteen, he had kept vigil
throughout the night over his arms in the Cathedral of Zamora,
preparatory to receiving the honour of knighthood at the hands of
his cousin, Alfonso VII. of Castile. Yet already he was looked
upon as the very pattern of what a Christian knight should be,
worthy son of the father who had devoted his life to doing battle
against the Infidel, wheresoever he might be found. He was
well-grown and tall, and of a bodily strength that is almost a
byword to this day in that Portugal of which he was the real
founder and first king. He was skilled beyond the common wont in
all knightly exercises of arms and horsemanship, and equipped
with far more learning--though much of it was ill-digested, as
this story will serve to show--than the twelfth century
considered useful or even proper in a knight. And he was at least
true to his time in that he combined a fervid piety with a
weakness of the flesh and an impetuous arrogance that was to
bring him under the ban of greater excommunication at the very
outset of his reign.
It happened that his imprisonment of his mother was not at all
pleasing in the sight of Rome. Dona Theresa had powerful friends,
who so used their influence at the Vatican on her behalf that the
Holy Father--conveniently ignoring the provocation she had given
and the scandalous, unmotherly conduct of which she had been
guilty--came to consider the behaviour of the Infante of Portugal
as reprehensibly unfilial, and commanded him to deliver Dona
Theresa at once from duress.
This Papal order, backed by a threat of excommunication in the
event of disobedience, was brought to the young prince by the
Bishop of Coimbra, whom he counted among his friends.
Affonso Henriques, ever impetuous and quick to anger, flushed
scarlet when he heard that uncompromising message. His dark eyes
smouldered as they considered the aged prelate.
"You come here to bid me let loose again upon this land of
Portugal that author of strife, to deliver over the people once
more to the oppression of the Lord of Trava?" he asked. "And you
tell me that unless by obeying this command I am false to the
duty I owe this country, you will launch the curse of Rome
against me? You tell me this?"
The bishop, deeply stirred, torn between his duty to the Holy See
and his affection for his prince, bowed his head and wrung his
hands. "What choice have I?" he asked, on a quavering note.
"I raised you from the dust." Thunder was rumbling in the
prince's voice. "Myself I placed the episcopal ring upon your
"My lord, my lord! Could I forget? All that I have I owe to you--
save only my soul, which I owe to God; my faith, which I owe to
Christ; and my obedience, which I owe to our Holy Father the
The prince considered him in silence, mastering his passionate,
impetuous nature. "Go," he growled at last.
The prelate bowed his head, his eyes not daring to meet his
"God keep you, lord," he almost sobbed, and so went out.
But though stirred by his affection for the prince to whom he
owed so much, though knowing in his inmost heart that Affonso
Henriques was in the right, the Bishop of Coimbra did not swerve
from his duty to Rome, which was as plain as it was unpalatable.
Betimes next morning word was brought to Affonso Henriques in the
Alcazar of Coimbra that a parchment was nailed to the door of the
Cathedral, setting forth his excommunication, and that the
Bishop--either out of fear or out of sorrow--had left the city,
journeying northward towards Oporto.
Affonso Henriques passed swiftly from incredulity to anger; then
almost as swiftly came to a resolve, which was as mad and
harebrained as could have been expected from a lad in his
eighteenth year who held the reins of power. Yet by its very
directness and its superb ignoring of all obstacles, legal and
canonical, it was invested with a certain wild sanity.
In full armour, a white cloak simply embroidered in gold at the
edge and knotted at the shoulder, he rode to the Cathedral,
attended by his half-brother Pedro Affonso, and two of his
knights, Emigio Moniz and Sancho Nunes. There on the great
iron-studded doors he found, as he had been warned, the Roman
parchment pronouncing him accursed, its sonorous Latin periods
set forth in a fine round clerkly hand.
He swung down from his great horse and clanked up the Cathedral
steps, his attendants following. He had for witnesses no more
than a few loiterers, who had paused at sight of their prince.
The interdict had so far attracted no attention, for in the
twelfth century the art of letters was a mystery to which there
were few initiates.
Affonso Henriques tore the sheepskin from its nails, and crumpled
it in his hand; then he passed into the Cathedral, and thence
came out presently into the cloisters. Overhead a bell was
clanging by his orders, summoning the chapter.
To the Infante, waiting there in the sun-drenched close, came
presently the canons, austere, aloof, majestic in their unhurried
progress through the fretted cloisters, with flowing garments and
hands tucked into their wide sleeves before them. In a semi-
circle they arrayed themselves before him, and waited impassively
to learn his will. Overhead the bell had ceased.
Affonso Henriques wasted no words.
"I have summoned you," he announced, "to command that you proceed
to the election of a bishop."
A rustle stirred through the priestly throng. The canons looked
askance at the prince and at one another. Then one of them spoke.
"Habemus episcopum," he said gravely, and several instantly made
chorus: "We have a bishop."
The eyes of the young sovereign kindled. "You are wrong," he told
them. "You had a bishop, but he is here no longer. He has
deserted his see, after publishing this shameful thing" And he
held aloft the crumpled interdict. "As I am a God-fearing,
Christian knight, I will not live under this ban. Since the
bishop who excommunicated me is gone, you will at once elect
another in his place who shall absolve me."
They stood before him, silent and impassive, in their priestly
dignity, and in their assurance that the law was on their side.
"Well?" the boy growled at them.
"Habemus episcopum," droned a voice again.
"Amen," boomed in chorus through the cloisters.
"I tell you that your bishop is gone," he insisted, his voice
quivering now with anger, "and I tell you that he shall not
return, that he shall never set foot again within my city of
Coimbra. Proceed you therefore at once to the election of his
"Lord," he was answered coldly by one of them, "no such election
is possible or lawful."
"Do you dare stand before my face, and tell me this?" he roared,
infuriated by their cold resistance. He flung out an arm in a
gesture of terrible dismissal. "Out of my sight, you proud and
evil men! Back to your cells, to await my pleasure. Since in your
arrogant, stiff-necked pride you refuse to do my will, you shall
receive the bishop I shall myself select."
He was so terrific in his rage that they dared not tell him that
he had no power, prince though he might be, to make such an
election, bowed to him, ever impassively, and with their hands
still folded, unhurried as they had come, they now turned and
filed past him in departure.
He watched them with scowling brows and tightened lips, Moniz and
Nunes silent behind him. Suddenly those dark, watchful eyes of
his were held by the last figure of all in that austere
procession--a tall, gaunt young man, whose copper-coloured skin
and hawk-featured face proclaimed his Moorish blood. Instantly,
maliciously, it flashed through the prince's boyish mind how he
might make of this man an instrument to humble the pride of that
insolent clergy. He raised his hand, and beckoned the cleric to
"What is your name?" he asked him.
"I am called Zuleyman, lord," he was answered, and the name
confirmed--where, indeed, no confirmation was necessary--the
fellow's Moorish origin.
Affonso Henriques laughed. It would be an excellent jest to
thrust upon these arrogant priests, who refused to appoint a
bishop of their choice, a bishop who was little better than a
"Don Zuleyman," said the prince, "I name you Bishop of Coimbra in
the room of the rebel who has fled. You will prepare to celebrate
High Mass this morning, and to pronounce my absolution."
The Christianized Moor fell back a step, his face paling under
its copper skin to a sickly grey. In the background, the hindmost
members of the retreating clerical procession turned and stood at
gaze, angered and scandalized by what they heard, which was
indeed a thing beyond belief.
"Ah no, my lord! Ah no!" Don Zuleyman was faltering. "Not that!"
The prospect terrified him, and in his agitation he had recourse
to Latin. "Domine, non sum dignus," he cried, and beat his
But the uncompromising Affonso Henriques gave him back Latin for
"Dixi--I have spoken!" he answered sternly. "Do not fail me in
obedience, on your life." And on that he clanked out again with
his attendants, well-pleased with his morning's work.
As he had disposed with boyish, almost irresponsible rashness,
and in flagrant contravention of all canon law, so it fell out.
Don Zuleyman, wearing the bishop's robes and the bishop's mitre,
intoned the Kyrie Eleison before noon that day in the Cathedral
of Coimbra, and pronounced the absolution of the Infante of
Portugal, who knelt so submissively and devoutly before him.
Affonso Henriques was very pleased with himself. He made a jest
of the affair, and invited his intimates to laugh with him. But
Emigio Moniz and the elder members of his council refused to
laugh. They looked with awe upon a deed that went perilously near
to sacrilege, and implored him to take their own sober view of
the thing he had done.
"By the bones of St. James!" he cried. "A prince is not to be
brow-beaten by a priest."
Such a view in the twelfth century was little short of
revolutionary. The chapter of the Cathedral of Coimbra held the
converse opinion that priests were not to be browbeaten by a
prince, and set themselves to make Affonso Henriques realize this
to his bitter cost. They dispatched to Rome an account of his
unconscionable, high-handed, incredible sacrilege, and invited
Rome to administer condign spiritual flagellation upon this
errant child of Mother Church. Rome made haste to vindicate her
authority, and dispatched a legate to the recalcitrant, audacious
boy who ruled in Portugal. But the distance being considerable,
and means of travel inadequate and slow, it was not until Don
Zuleyman had presided in the See of Coimbra for a full two months
that the Papal Legate made his appearance in Affonso Henriques'
A very splendid Prince of the Church was Cardinal Corrado, the
envoy dispatched by Pope Honorius II., full armed with apostolic
weapons to reduce the rebellious Infante of Portugal into proper
His approach was heralded by the voice of rumour. Affonso
Henriques heard of it without perturbation. His conscience at
ease in the absolution which he had wrung from Mother Church
after his own fashion, he was entirely absorbed in preparations
for a campaign against the Moors which was to widen his
dominions. Therefore when at length the thunderbolt descended, it
fell--so far as he was concerned--from a sky entirely clear.
It was towards dusk of a summer evening when the legate, in a
litter slung in line between two mules, entered Coimbra. He was
attended by two nephews, Giannino and Pierluigi da Corrado, both
patricians of Rome, and a little knot of servants. Empanoplied in
his sacred office, the cardinal had no need of the protection of
men-at-arms upon a journey through god-fearing lands.
He was borne straight to the old Moorish palace where the Infante
resided, and came upon him there amid a numerous company in the
great pillared hall. Against a background of battle trophies,
livid weapons, implements of war, and suits of mail both Saracen
and Christian, with which the bare walls were hung, moved a
gaily-clad, courtly gathering of nobles and their women-folk,
when the great cardinal, clad from head to foot in scarlet,
Laughter rippled into silence. A hush descended upon the company,
which stood now at gaze, considering the imposing and unbidden
guest. Slowly the legate, followed by the two Roman youths,
advanced down the hall, the soft pad of his slippered feet and
the rustle of his silken robes being at first the only sound.
On he came, until he stood before the shallow dais, where in a
massively carved chair sat the Infante of Portugal, mistrustfully
observing him. Affonso Henriques scented here an enemy, an ally
of his mother's, the bearer of a fresh declaration of hostilities.
Therefore of deliberate purpose he kept his seat, as if to stress
the fact that here he was the master.
"Lord Cardinal," he greeted the legate, "be welcome to my land of
The cardinal bowed stiffly, resentful of this reception. In his
long journey across the Spains, princes and nobles had flocked to
kiss his hand, and bend the knee before him, seeking his
blessing. Yet this mere boy, beardless save for a silky down
about his firm young cheeks, retained his seat and greeted him
with no more submissiveness than if he had been the envoy of some
"I am the representative of our Holy Father," he announced, in a
voice of stern reproof. "I am from Rome, with these my well-
"From Rome?" quoth Affonso Henriques. For all his length of limb
and massive thews he could be impish upon occasion. He was impish
now. "Although no good has ever yet come to me from Rome, you
make me hopeful. His Holiness will have heard of the preparations
I am making for a war against the Infidel that shall carry the
Cross where new stands the Crescent, and sends me perhaps, a gift
of gold or assist me in this holy work."
The mockery of it stung the legate sharply. His sallow, ascetic
"It is not gold I bring you," he answered, "but a lesson in the
faith which you would seem to have forgotten. I am come to teach
you your Christian duty, and to require of you immediate
reparation of the sacrilegious wrongs you have done. The Holy
Father demands of you the instant re-instatement of the Bishop of
Coimbra, whom you have driven out with threats of violence, and
the degradation of the cleric you blasphemously appointed Bishop
in his stead."
"And is that all?" quoth the boy, in a voice dangerously quiet.
"No." Fearless in his sense of right, the legate towered before
him. "It is demanded of you further that you instantly release
the lady, your mother, from the unjust confinement in which you
"That confinement is not unjust, as all here can witness," the
Infante answered. "Rome may believe it, because lies have been
carried to Rome. Dona Theresa's life was a scandal, her regency
an injustice to my people. She and the infamous Lord of Trava
lighted the torch of civil war in these dominions. Learn here the
truth, and carry it to Rome. Thus shall you do worthy service."
But the prelate was obstinate and proud.
"That is not the answer that our Holy Father awaits."
"It is the answer that I send."
"Rash, rebellious youth, beware!" The cardinal's anger flamed up,
and his voice swelled. "I come armed with spiritual weapons of
destruction. Do not abuse the patience of Mother Church, or you
shall feel the full weight of her wrath released against you."
Exasperated, Affonso Henriques bounded to his feet, his face
livid now with passion, his eyes ablaze.
"Out! Away!" he cried. "Go, my lord, and go quickly, or as God
watches us I will add here and now yet another sacrilege to those
of which you accuse me."
The prelate gathered his ample robes about him. If pale, he was
entirely calm once more. With stern dignity, he bowed to the
angry youth, and so departed, but with such outward impassivity
that it would have been difficult to say with whom lay the
victory. If Affonso Henriques thought that night that he had
conquered, morning was to shatter the illusion.
He was awakened early by a chamberlain at the urgent instances of
Emigio Moniz, who was demanding immediate audience. Affonso
Henriques sat up in bed, and bade him to be admitted.
The elderly knight and faithful counsellor came in, treading
heavily. His swarthy face was overcast, his mouth set in stern
lines under its grizzled beard.
"God keep you, lord," was his greeting, so lugubriously delivered
as to sound like a pious, but rather hopeless, wish.
"And you, Emigio," answered him the Infante. "You are early
astir. What is the cause?"
"III tidings, lord." He crossed the room, unlatched and flung
wide a window. "Listen," he bade the prince.
On the still morning air arose a sound like the drone of some
gigantic hive, or of the sea when the tide is making. Affonso
Henriques recognized it for the murmur of the multitude.
"What does it mean?" he asked, and thrust a sinewy leg from the
"It means that the Papal Legate has done all that he threatened,
and something more. He has placed your city of Coimbra under a
ban of excommunication. The churches are closed, and until the
ban is lifted no priest Will be found to baptize, marry, shrive
or perform any other Sacrament of Holy Church. The people are
stricken with terror, knowing that they share the curse with you.
They are massing below at the gates of the alcazar, demanding to
see you that they may implore you to lift from them the horror of
Affonso Henriques had come to his feet by now, and he stood there
staring at the old knight, his face blenched, his stout heart
clutched by fear of these impalpable, blasting weapons that were
being used against him.
"My God!" he groaned, and asked: "What must I do?"
Moniz was preternaturally grave. "It is of the first importance
that the people should be pacified."
"There is one way only--by a promise that you will submit to the
will of the Holy Father, and by penance seek absolution for
yourself and your city."
A red flush swept into the young cheeks that had been so pale.
"What?" he cried, his voice a roar. "Release my mother, depose
Zuleyman, recall that fugitive recreant who cursed me, and humble
myself to seek pardon at the hands of this insolent Italian
cleric? May my bones rot, may I roast for ever in hell-fire if I
show myself such a craven! And do you counsel it, Emigio--do you
really counsel that?" He was in a towering rage.
"Listen to that voice," Emigio answered him, and waved a hand to
the open window. "How else will you silence it?"
Affonso Henriques sat down on the edge of the bed, and took his
head in his hands. He was checkmated--and yet....
He rose and beat his hands together, summoning chamberlain and
pages to help him dress and arm.
"Where is the legate lodged?" he asked Moniz.
"He is gone," the knight answered him. "He left at cock-crow,
taking the road to Spain along the Mondego--so I learnt from the
watch at the River Gate."
"How came they to open for him?"
"His office, lord, is a key that opens all doors at any hour of
day or night. They dared not detain or delay him."
"Ha!" grunted the Infante. "We will go after him, then." And he
made haste to complete his dressing. Then he buckled on his great
sword, and they departed.
In the courtyard of the alcazar, he summoned Sancho Nunes and a
half-dozen men-at-arms to attend him, mounted a charger and with
Emigio Moniz at his side and the others following, he rode out
across the draw-bridge into the open space that was thronged with
the clamant inhabitants of the stricken city.
A great cry went up when he showed himself--a mighty appeal to
him for mercy and the remission of the curse. Then silence fell,
a silence that invited him to answer and give comfort.
He reined in his horse, and standing in his stirrups very tall
and virile, he addressed them.
"People of Coimbra," he announced, "I go to obtain this city's
absolution from the ban that has been laid upon it. I shall
return before sunset. Till then do you keep the peace."
The voice of the multitude was raised again, this time to hail
him as the father and protector of the Portuguese, and to invoke
the blessing of Heaven upon his handsome head.
Riding between Moniz and Nunes, and followed by his glittering
men-at-arms, he crossed the city and took the road along the
river by which it was known that the legate had departed. All
that morning they rode briskly amain, the Infante fasting, as he
had risen, yet unconscious of hunger and of all else but the
purpose that was consuming him. He rode in utter silence, his
face set, his brows stern; and Moniz, watching him furtively the
while, wondered what thoughts were stirring in that rash,
impetuous young brain, and was afraid.
Towards noon at last they overtook the legate's party. They
espied his mule-litter at the door of an inn in a little village
some ten miles beyond the foothills of the Bussaco range. The
Infante reined up sharply, a hoarse, fierce cry escaping him,
akin to that of some creature of the wild when it espies its
Moniz put forth a hand to seize his arm.
"My lord, my lord," he cried, fearfully. "What is your purpose?"
The prince looked him between the eyes, and his lips curled in a
smile that was not altogether sweet.
"I am going to beg Cardinal Corrado to have compassion on me," he
answered, subtly mocking, and on that he swung down from his
horse, and tossed the reins to a man-at-arms.
Into the inn he clanked, Moniz and Nunes following closely. He
thrust aside the vinter who, not knowing him, would have hindered
him, great lord though he seemed, from disturbing the holy guest
who was honouring the house. He strode on, and into the room
where the Cardinal with his noble nephews sat at dinner.
At sight of him, fearing violence, Giannino and Pierluigi came
instantly to their feet, their hands upon their daggers. But
Cardinal da Corrado sat unmoved. He looked up, a smile of
ineffable gentleness upon his ascetic face.
"I had hoped that you would come after me, my son," he said. "If
you come a penitent, then has my prayer been heard."
"A penitent!" cried Affonso Henriques. He laughed wickedly, and
plucked his dagger from its sheath.
Sancho Nunes, in terror, set a detaining hand upon his prince's
"My lord," he cried in a voice that shook, "you will not strike
the Lord's anointed--that were to destroy yourself for ever."
"A curse," said Affonso Henriques, "perishes with him that
uttered it." He could reason loosely, you see, this hot-blooded,
impetuous young cutter of Gordian knots. "And it imports above
all else that the curse should be lifted from my city of
"It shall be, my son, as soon as you show penitence and a
Christian submission to the Holy Father's will," said the
"God give me patience with you," Affonso Henriques answered him.
"Listen to me now, lord Cardinal." And he leaned forward on his
dagger, burying the point of it some inches into the deal table.
"That you should punish me with the weapons of the Faith for the
sins that you allege against me I can understand and suffer.
There is reason in that, perhaps. But will you tell me what
reasons there can be in punishing a whole city for an offence
which, if it exists at all, is mine alone?--and in punishing it
by a curse so terrible that all the consolations of religion are
denied those true children of Mother Church, that no priestly
office may be performed within the city, that men and women may
not approach the altars of the Faith, that they must die
unshriven with their sins upon them, and so be damned through all
eternity? Where is the reason that urges this?"
The cardinal's smile had changed from one of benignity to one of
"Why, I will answer you. Out of their terror they will be moved
to revolt against you, unless you relieve them of the ban. Thus,
Lord Prince, I hold you in check. You make submission or else you
Affonso Henriques considered him a moment. "You answer me
indeed," said he, and then his voice swelled up in denunciation.
"But this is statecraft, not religion. And when a prince has no
statecraft to match that which is opposed to him, do you know
what follows? He has recourse to force, Lord Cardinal. You compel
me to it; upon your own head the consequences."
The legate almost sneered. "What is the force of your poor lethal
weapons compared with the spiritual power I wield? Do you
threaten me with death? Do you think I fear it?" He rose in a
surge of sudden wrath, and tore open his scarlet robe. "Strike
here with your poniard. I wear no mail. Strike if you dare, and
by the sacrilegious blow destroy yourself in this world and the
The Infante considered him. Slowly he sheathed his dagger, smiling
a little. Then he beat his hands together. His men-at-arms came
"Seize me those two Roman whelps," he commanded, and pointed to
Giannino and Pierlulgi. "Seize them, and make them fast. About
"Lord Prince!" cried the legate in a voice of appeal, wherein
fear and anger trembled.
It was the note of fear that heartened Affonso Henriques. "About
it!" he cried again, though needlessly, for already his
men-at-arms were at grips with the Cardinal's nephews. In a trice
the kicking, biting, swearing pair were overpowered, deprived of
arms, and pinioned. The men looked to their prince for further
orders. In the background Moniz and Nunes witnessed all with
troubled countenances, whilst the Cardinal, beyond the table,
white to the lips, demanded in a quavering voice to know what
violence was intended, implored the Infante to consider, and in
the same breath threatened him with dread consequences of this
Affonso Henriques, unmoved, pointed through the window to a
stalwart oak that stood before the inn.
"Take them out there, and hang them unshriven," he commanded.
The Cardinal swayed, and almost fell forward. He clutched the
table, speechless with terror for those lads who were as the very
apple of his eye, he who so fearlessly had bared his own breast
to the steel.
The two comely Italian youths were dragged out writhing in their
At last the half-swooning legate found his voice. "Lord Prince,"
he gasped. "Lord Prince . . . you cannot do this infamy! You
cannot! I warn you that . . . that. . ." The threat perished
unuttered, slain by mounting terror. "Mercy! Have mercy, lord! as
you hope for mercy!"
"What mercy do you practice, you who preach a gospe of mercy in
the world, and cry for mercy now?" the Infante asked him.
"But this is an infamy! What harm have those poor children done?
What concern is it of theirs that I have offended you in
performing my sacred duty?"
Swift into that opening flashed the home-thrust of the Infante's
"What harm have my people of Coimbra done? What concern is it of
theirs that I have offended you? Yet to master me you did not
hesitate to strike at them with the spiritual weapons that are
yours. To master you I do not hesitate to strike at your nephews
with the lethal weapons that are mine. When you shall have seen
them hang you will understand the things that argument could not
make clear to you. In the vileness of my act you will see a
reflection of the vileness of your own, and perhaps your heart
will be touched, your monstrous pride abated."
Outside, under the tree, the figures of the men-at-arms were
moving. Expeditiously, and with indifference, they went about the
preparations for the task entrusted to them.
The Cardinal writhed, and fought for breath. "Lord Prince, this
must not be!" He stretched forth supplicating hands. "Lord
Prince, you must release my nephews."
"Lord Cardinal, you must absolve my people."
"If . . . if you will first make submission. My duty . . . to the
Holy See . . . Oh God! Will nothing move you?"
"When they have been hanged you will understand, and out of your
own affliction learn compassion." The Infante's voice was so
cold, his mien so resolute that the legate despaired of
conquering his purpose. Abruptly he capitulated, even as the
halters went about the necks of his two cherished lads.
"Stop!" he screamed. "Bid them stop! The curse shall be lifted."
Affonso Henriques opened the window with a leisureliness which to
the legate seemed to belong to the realm of nightmare.
"Wait yet a moment," the Infante called to those outside, about
whom by now a little knot of awe-stricken villagers had gathered.
Then he turned again to Cardinal Corrado, who had sunk to his
chair like a man exhausted, and sat now panting, his elbows on
the table, his head in his hands. "Here," said the prince, "are
the terms upon which you may have their lives: Complete
absolution, and Apostolic benediction for my people and myself
this very night, I on my side making submission to the Holy
Father's will to the extent of releasing my mother from duress,
with the condition that she leaves Portugal at once and does not
return. As for the banished bishop and his successor, matters
must remain as they are; but you can satisfy your conscience on
that score by yourself confirming the appointment of Don
Zuleyman. Come, my lord, I am being generous, I think. In the
enlargement of my mother I afford you the means of satisfying
Rome. If you have learnt your lesson from what I here proposed,
your conscience should satisfy you of the rest."
"Be it so," the Cardinal answered hoarsely. "I will return with
you to Coimbra and do your will."
Thereupon, without any tinge of mockery, but in completest
sincerity in token that the feud between them was now completely
healed, Affonso Henriques went down upon his knees, like the true
and humble son of Holy Church he accounted himself, to ask a
blessing at the Cardinal's hands.
II. THE FALSE DEMETRIUS
Boris Godunov and the Pretended Son of Ivan the Terrible
The news of it first reached him whilst he sat at supper in the
great hall of his palace in the Kremlin. It came at a time when
already there was enough to distract his mind; for although the
table before him was spread and equipped as became an emperor's,
the gaunt spectre of famine stalked outside in the streets of
Moscow, and men and women were so reduced by it that cannibalism
was alleged to be breaking out amongst them.
Alone, save for the ministering pages, sat Boris Godunov under
the iron lamps that made of the table, with its white napery and
vessels of gold and silver plate, an island of light in the gloom
of that vast apartment. The air was fragrant with the scent of
burning pine, for although the time of year was May, the nights
were chill, and a great log-fire was blazing on the distant
hearth. To him, as he sat there, came his trusted Basmanov with
those tidings which startled him at first, seeming to herald that
at last the sword of Nemesis was swung above his sinful head.
Basmanov, a flush tinting the prominent cheek-bones of his sallow
face, an excited glitter in his long eyes, began by ordering the
pages out of earshot, then leaning forward quickly muttered forth
At the first words of it, the Tsar's knife clashed into his
golden platter, and his short, powerful hands clutched the carved
arms of his great gilded chair. Quickly he controlled himself,
and then as he continued to listen he was moved to scorn, and a
faint smile began to stir under his grizzled beard.
A man had appeared in Poland--such was the burden of Basmanov's
story--coming none knew exactly whence, who claimed to be
Demetrius, the son of Ivan Vassielivitch, and lawful Tsar of
Russia--Demetrius, who was believed to have died at Uglich ten
years ago, and whose remains lay buried in Moscow, in the Church
of St. Michael. This man had found shelter in Lithuania, in the
house of Prince Wisniowiecki, and thither the nobles of Poland
were now flocking to do him homage, acknowledging him the son of
Ivan the Terrible. He was said to be the living image of the dead
Tsar, save that he was swarthy and black-haired, like the dowager
Tsarina, and there were two warts on his face, such as it was
remembered had disfigured the countenance of the boy Demetrius.
Thus Basmanov, adding that he had dispatched a messenger into
Lithuania to obtain more precise confirmation of the story. That
messenger--chosen in consequence of something else that Basmanov
had been told--was Smirnoy Otrepiev.
The Tsar Boris sat back in his chair, his eyes on the gem
encrusted goblet, the stem of which his fingers were mechanically
turning. There was now no vestige of the smile on his round white
face. It had grown set and thoughtful.
"Find Prince Shuiski," he said presently, "and send him to me
Upon the tale the boyar had brought him he offered now no
"We will talk of this again, Basmanov," was all he said in
acknowledgment that he had heard, and in dismissal.
But when the boyar had gone, Boris Godunov heaved himself to his
feet, and strode over to the fire, his great head sunk between
his massive shoulders. He was a short, thick-set, bow-legged man,
inclining to corpulence. He set a foot, shod in red leather
reversed with ermine, upon an andiron, and, leaning an elbow on
the carved overmantel, rested his brow against his hand. His eyes
stared into the very heart of the fire, as if they beheld there
the pageant of the past, upon which his mind was bent.
Nineteen years were sped since Ivan the Terrible had passed away,
leaving two sons, Feodor Ivanovitch, who had succeeded him, and
the infant Demetrius. Feodor, a weakling who was almost imbecile,
had married Irene, the daughter of Boris Godunov, whereby it had
fallen out that Boris became the real ruler of Russia, the power
behind the throne. But his insatiable ambition coveted still
more. He must wear the crown as well as wield the sceptre; and
this could not be until the Ruric dynasty which had ruled Russia
for nearly seven centuries should be stamped out. Between himself
and the throne stood his daughter's husband and their child, and
the boy Demetrius, who had been dispatched with his mother, the
dowager Tsarina, to Uglich. The three must be removed.
Boris began with the last, and sought at first to drive him out
of the succession without bloodshed. He attempted to have him
pronounced illegitimate, on the ground that he was the son of
Ivan's seventh wife (the orthodox Church recognizing no wife as
legitimate beyond the third). But in this he failed. The memory
of the terrible Tsar, the fear of him, was still alive in
superstitious Russia, and none dared to dishonour his son. So
Boris had recourse to other and surer means. He dispatched his
agents to Uglich, and presently there came thence a story that
the boy, whilst playing with a knife, had been taken with a fit
of epilepsy, and had fallen, running the blade into his throat.
But it was not a story that could carry conviction to the
Muscovites, since with it came the news that the town of Uglich
had risen against the emissaries of Boris, charging them with the
murder of the boy, and killing them out of hand.
Terrible had been the vengeance which Boris had exacted. Of the
luckless inhabitants of the town two hundred were put to death by
his orders, and the rest sent into banishment beyond the Ural
Mountains, whilst the Tsarina Maria, Demetrius's mother, for
having said that her boy was murdered at the instigation of
Boris, was packed off to a convent, and had remained there ever
since in close confinement.
That had been in 1591. The next to go was Feodor's infant son,
and lastly--in 1598--Feodor himself, succumbing to a mysterious
illness, and leaving Boris a clear path to the throne. But he
ascended it under the burden of his daughter's curse. Feodor's
widow had boldly faced her father, boldly accused him of
poisoning her husband to gratify his remorseless ambitions, and
on a passionate appeal to God to let it be done by him as he had
done by others she had departed to a convent, swearing never to
set eyes upon him again.
The thought of her was with him now, as he stood there looking
into the heart of the fire; and perhaps it was the memory of her
curse that turned his stout heart to water, and made him afraid
where there could surely be no cause for fear. For five years now
had he been Tsar of Russia, and in these five years he had taken
such a grip of power as was not lightly to be loosened.
Long he stood there, and there he was found by the magnificent
Prince Shuiski, whom he had bidden Basmanov to summon.
"You went to Uglich when the Tsarevitch Demetrius was slain,"
said Boris. His voice and mien were calm and normal. "Yourself
you saw the body. There is no possibility that you could have
been mistaken in it?"
"Mistaken?" The boyar was taken aback by the question. He was a
tall man, considerably younger than Boris, who was in his
fiftieth year. His face was lean and saturnine, and there was
something sinister in the dark, close-set eyes under a single,
heavy line of eyebrow.
Boris explained his question, telling him what he had learnt from
Basmanov. Basil Shuiski laughed. The story was an absurd one.
Demetrius was dead. Himself he had held the body in his arms, and
no mistake was possible.
Despite himself, a sigh of relief fluttered from the lips of
Boris. Shuiski was right. It was an absurd story, this. There was
nothing to fear. He had been a fool to have trembled for a
Nevertheless, in the weeks that followed, he brooded more and
more over all that Basmanov had said. It was in the thought that
the nobility of Poland was flocking to the house of Wisniowiecki
to do honour to this false son of Ivan the Terrible, that Boris
found the chief cause of uneasiness. There was famine in Moscow,
and empty bellies do not make for loyalty. Then, too, the
Muscovite nobles did not love him. He had ruled too sternly, and
had curbed their power. There were men like Basil Shuiski who
knew too much--greedy, ambitious men, who might turn their
knowledge to evil account. The moment might be propitious to the
pretender, however false his claim. Therefore Boris dispatched a
messenger to Wisniowiecki with the offer of a heavy bribe if he
would yield up the person of this false Demetrius.
But that messenger returned empty-handed. He had reached Bragin
too late. The pretender had already left the place, and was
safely lodged in the castle of George Mniszek, the Palatine of
Sandomir, to whose daughter Maryna he was betrothed. If these
were ill tidings for Boris, there were worse to follow soon.
Within a few months he learned from Sandomir that Demetrius
had removed to Cracow, and that there he had been publicly
acknowledged by Sigismund III. of Poland as the son of Ivan
Vassielivitch, the rightful heir to the crown of Russia. He
heard, too, the story upon which this belief was founded.
Demetrius had declared that one of the agents employed by Boris
Godunov to procure his murder at Uglich had bribed his physician
Simon to perform the deed. Simon had pretended to agree as the
only means of saving him. He had dressed the son of a serf, who
slightly resembled Demetrius, in garments similar to those worn
by the young prince, and thereafter cut the lad's throat, leaving
those who had found the body to presume it to be the prince's.
Meanwhile, Demetrius himself had been concealed by the physician,
and very shortly thereafter carried away from Uglich, to be
placed in safety in a monastery, where he had been educated.
Such, in brief, was the story with which Demetrius convinced the
court of Poland, and not a few who had known the boy at Uglich
came forward now to identify with him the grown man, who carried
in his face so strong a resemblance to Ivan the Terrible. That
story which Boris now heard was soon heard by all Russia, and
Boris realized that something must be done to refute it.
But something more than assurances--his own assurances--were
necessary if the Muscovites were to believe him. And so at last
Boris bethought him of the Tsarina Maria, the mother of the
murdered boy. He had her fetched to Moscow from her convent, and
told her of this pretender who was setting up a claim to the
throne of Russia, supported by the King of Poland.
She listened impassively, standing before him in the black robes
and conventual coif which his tyranny had imposed upon her. When
he had done, a faint smile swept over the face that had grown so
hard in these last twelve years since that day when her boy had
been slain almost under her very eyes.
"It is a circumstantial tale," she said. "It is perhaps true. It
is probably true."
"True!" He bounded from his seat. "True? What are you saying,
woman? Yourself you saw the boy dead."
"I did, and I know who killed him."
"But you saw him. You recognized him for your own, since you set
the people on to kill those whom you believed had slain him."
"Yes," she answered. And added the question: "What do you want of
"What do I want?" He was amazed that she should ask, exasperated.
Had the conventual confinement turned her head? "I want your
testimony. I want you to denounce this fellow for the impostor
that he is. The people will believe you."
"You think they will?" Interest had kindled in her glance.
"What else? Are you not the mother of Demetrius, and shall not a
mother know her own son?"
"You forget. He was ten years of age then--a child. Now he is a
grown man of three-and-twenty. How can I be sure? How can I be
sure of anything?"
He swore a full round oath at her. "Because you saw him dead."
"Yet I may have been mistaken. I thought I knew the agents of
yours who killed him. Yet you made me swear--as the price of my
brothers' lives--that I was mistaken. Perhaps I was more mistaken
than we thought. Perhaps my little Demetrius was not slain at
all. Perhaps this man's tale is true."
"Perhaps . . ." He broke off to stare at her, mistrustfully,
searchingly. "What do you mean?" he asked her sharply.
Again that wan smile crossed the hard, sharp-featured face that
once had been so lovely. "I mean that if the devil came out of
hell and called himself my son, I should acknowledge him to your
Thus the pent-up hate and bitterness of years of brooding upon
her wrongs broke forth. Taken aback, he quailed before it. His
jaw dropped foolishly, and he stared at her with wide, unblinking
"The people will believe me, you say--they will believe that a
mother should know her own son. Then are your hours of usurpation
If for a moment it appalled him, yet in the end, forewarned, he
was forearmed. It was foolish of her to let him look upon the
weapon with which she could destroy him. The result of it was
that she went back to her convent under close guard, and was
thereafter confined with greater rigour than hitherto.
Desperately Boris heard how the belief in Demetrius was gaining
ground in Russia with the people. The nobles might still be
sceptical, but Boris knew that he could not trust them, since
they had no cause to love him. He began perhaps to realize that
it is not good to rule by fear.
And then at last came Smirnoy Otrepiev back from Cracow, where he
had been sent by Basmanov to obtain with his own eyes confirmation
of the rumour which had reached the boyar on the score of the
pretender's real identity.
The rumour, he declared, was right. The false Demetrius was none
other than his own nephew, Grishka Otrepiev, who had once been a
monk, but, unfrocked, had embraced the Roman heresy, and had
abandoned himself to licentious ways. You realize now why Smirnoy
had been chosen by Basmanov for this particular mission.
The news heartened Boris. At last he could denounce the impostor
in proper terms, and denounce him he did. He sent an envoy to
Sigismund III. to proclaim the fellow's true identity, and to
demand his expulsion from the Kingdom of Poland; and his
denunciation was supported by a solemn excommunication pronounced
by the Patriarch of Moscow against the unfrocked monk, Grishka
Otrepiev, who now falsely called himself Demetrius Ivanovitch.
But the denunciation did not carry the conviction that Boris
expected. It was reported that the Tsarevitch was a courtly,
accomplished man, speaking Polish and Latin, as well as Russian,
skilled in horsemanship and in the use of arms, and it was asked
how an unfrocked monk had come by these accomplishments.
Moreover, although Boris, fore-warned, had prevented the Tsarina
Maria from supporting the pretender out of motives of revenge, he
had forgotten her two brothers; he had not foreseen that,
actuated by the same motives, they might do that which he had
prevented her from doing. This was what occurred. The brothers
Nagoy repaired to Cracow publicly to acknowledge Demetrius their
nephew, and to enrol themselves under his banner.
Against this Boris realized that mere words were useless. The
sword of Nemesis was drawn indeed. His sins had found him out.
Nothing remained him but to arm and go forth to meet the
impostor, who was advancing upon Moscow with a great host of
Poles and Cossacks.
He appraised the support of the Nagoys at its right value. They,
too, had been at Uglich, and had seen the dead boy, almost seen
him slain. Vengeance upon himself was their sole motive. But was
it possible that Sigismund of Poland was really deceived, as well
as the Palatine of Sandomir, whose daughter was betrothed to the
adventurer, Prince Adam Wisniowiecki, in whose house the false
Demetrius had first made his appearance, and all those Polish
nobles who flocked to his banner? Or were they, too, moved by
some ulterior motive which he could not fathom?
That was the riddle that plagued Boris Godunov what time--in the
winter of 1604--he sent his armies to meet the invader. He sent
them because, crippled now by gout, even the satisfaction of
leading them was denied him. He was forced to stay at home in the
gloomy apartments of the Kremlin, fretted by care, with the
ghosts of his evil past to keep him company, and assure him that
the hour of judgment was at hand.
With deepening rage he heard how town after town capitulated to
the adventurer, and mistrusting Basmanov, who was in command, he
sent Shuiski to replace him. In January of 1605 the armies met at
Dobrinichi, and Demetrius suffered a severe defeat, which
compelled him to fall back on Putioli. He lost all his infantry,
and every Russian taken in arms on the pretender's side was
remorselessly hanged as Boris had directed.
Hope began to revive in the heart of Boris; but as months passed
and no decision came, those hopes faded again, and the canker of
the past gnawed at his vitals and sapped his strength. And then
there was ever present to his mind the nightmare riddle of the
pretender's identity. At last, one evening in April, he sent for
Smirnoy Otrepiev to question him again concerning that nephew of
his. Otrepiev came in fear this time. It is not good to be the
uncle of a man who is giving so much trouble to a great prince.
Boris glared at him from blood-injected eyes. His round, white
face was haggard, his cheeks sagged, and his fleshly body had
lost all its erstwhile firm vigour.
"I have sent for you to question you again," he said, "touching
this lewd nephew of yours, this Grishka Otrepiev, this unfrocked
monk, who claims to be Tsar of Muscovy. Are you sure, man, that
you have made no mistake--are you sure?"
Otrepiev was shaken by the Tsar's manner, by the ferocity of his
mien. But he made answer: "Alas, Highness! I could not be
mistaken. I am sure."
Boris grunted, and moved his body irritably in his chair. His
terrible eyes watched Otrepiev mistrustfully. He had reached the
mental stage in which he mistrusted everything and everybody.
"You lie, you dog," he snarled savagely.
"Highness, I swear . . ."
"Lies!" Boris roared him down. "And here's the proof. Would
Sigismund of Poland have acknowledged him had he been what you
say? When I denounced him the unfrocked monk Grishka Otrepiev,
would not Sigismund have verified the statement had it been
"The brothers Nagoy, the uncles of the dead Demetrius . . ."
Otrepiev was beginning, when again Boris interrupted him.
"Their acknowledgment of him came after Sigismund's, after--long
after--my denunciation." He broke into oaths. "I say you lie.
Will you stand there and pelter with me, man? Will you wait until
the rack pulls you joint from joint before you speak the truth?"
"Highness!" cried Otrepiev, "I have served you faithfully these
"The truth, man; as you hope for life," thundered the Tsar, "the
whole truth of this foul nephew of yours, if so be he is your
And Otrepiev spoke the whole truth at last in his great dread.
"He is not my nephew."
"Not?" It was a roar of rage. "You dared lie to me?"
Otrepiev's knees were loosened by terror, and he went down upon
them before the irate Tsar.
"I did not lie--not altogether. I told you a half-truth,
Highness. His name is Grishka Otrepiev; it is the name by which
he always has been known, and he is an unfrocked monk, all as I
said, and the son of my brother's wife."
"Then . . . then . . ." Boris was bewildered. Suddenly he
understood. "And his father?"
"Was Stephen Bathory, King of Poland. Grishka Otrepiev is King
Stephen's natural son."
Boris seemed to fight for breath for a moment.
"This is true?" he asked, and himself answered the question. "Of
course it is true. It is the light at last . . . at last. You may
Otrepiev stumbled out, thankful, surprised to escape so lightly.
He could not know of how little account to Boris was the
deception he had practiced in comparison with the truth he had
now revealed, a truth that shed a fearful, dazzling light upon
the dark mystery of the false Demetrius. The problem that so long
had plagued the Tsar was solved at last.
This pretended Demetrius, this unfrocked monk, was a natural son
of Stephen Bathory, and a Roman Catholic. Such men as Sigismund
of Poland and the Voyvode of Sandomir were not deceived on the
score of his identity. They, and no doubt other of the leading
nobles of Poland, knew the man for what he was, and because of it
supported him, using the fiction of his being Demetrius
Ivanovitch to impose upon the masses, and facilitate the
pretenders occupation of the throne of Russia. And the object of
it was to set up in Muscovy a ruler who should be a Pole and a
Roman Catholic. Boris knew the bigotry of Sigismund, who already
had sacrificed a throne--that of Sweden--to his devout conscience,
and he saw clearly to the heart of this intrigue. Had he not
heard that a Papal Nuncio had been at Cracow, and that this
Nuncio had been a stout supporter of the pretender's claim?
What could be the Pope's concern in the Muscovite succession? Why
should a Roman priest support the claim of a prince to the throne
of a country devoted to the Greek faith?
At last all was clear indeed to Boris. Rome was at the bottom of
this business, whose true aim was the Romanization of Russia; and
Sigismund had fetched Rome into it, had set Rome on. Himself an
elected King of Poland, Sigismund may have seen in the ambitious
son of Stephen Bathory one who might perhaps supplant him on the
Polish throne. To divert his ambition into another channel he had
fathered--if he had not invented--this fiction that the pretender
was the dead Demetrius.
Had that fool Smirnoy Otrepiev but dealt frankly with him from
the first, what months of annoyance might he not have been
spared; how easy it might have been to prick this bubble of
imposture. But better late than never. To-morrow he would publish
the true facts, and all the world should know the truth; and it
was a truth that must give pause to those fools in this
superstitious Russia, so devoted to the Orthodox Greek Church,
who favoured the pretender. They should see the trap that was
being baited for them.
There was a banquet in the Kremlin that night to certain foreign
envoys, and Boris came to table in better spirits than he had
been for many a day. He was heartened by the thought of what was
now to do, by the conviction that he held the false Demetrius in
the hollow of his hand. There to those envoys he would announce
to-night what to-morrow he would announce to all Russia--tell
them of the discovery he had made, and reveal to his subjects the
peril in which they stood. Towards the close of the banquet he
rose to address his guests, announcing that he had an important
communication for them. In silence they waited for him to speak.
And then, abruptly, with no word yet spoken, he sank back into
his chair, fighting for breath, clawing the air, his face
empurpling until suddenly the blood gushed copiously from his
mouth and nostrils.
He was vouchsafed time in which to strip off his splendid apparel
and wrap himself in a monk's robe, thus symbolizing the putting
aside of earthly vanities, and then he expired.
It has been now and then suggested that he was poisoned. His
death was certainly most opportune to Demetrius. But there is
nothing in the manner of it to justify the opinion that it
resulted from anything other than an apoplexy.
His death brought the sinister opportunist Shuiski back to Moscow
to place Boris's son Feodor on the throne. But the reign of this
lad of sixteen was very brief. Basmanov, who had gone back to the
army, being now inspired by jealousy and fear of the ambitious
Shuiski, went over at once to the pretender, and proclaimed him
Tsar of Russia. Thereafter events moved swiftly. Basmanov marched
on Moscow, entered it in triumph, and again proclaimed Demetrius,
whereupon the people rose in revolt against the son of the
usurper Boris, stormed the Kremlin, and strangled the boy and his
Basil Shuiski would have shared their fate had he not bought his
life at the price of betrayal. Publicly he declared to the
Muscovites that the boy whose body he had seen at Uglich was not
that of Demetrius, but of a peasant's son, who had been murdered
in his stead.
That statement cleared the last obstacle from the pretender's
path, and he advanced now to take possession of his throne. Yet
before he occupied it, he showed the real principles that
actuated him, proved how true had been Boris's conclusion. He
ordered the arrest and degradation of the Patriarch who had
denounced and excommunicated him, and in his place appointed
Ignatius, Bishop of Riazan, a man suspected of belonging to the
On the 30th of June of that year 1605, Demetrius made his
triumphal entry into Moscow. He went to prostrate himself before
the tomb of Ivan the Terrible, and then to visit the Tsarina
Maria, who, after a brief communion with him in private, came
forth publicly to acknowledge him as her son.
Just as Shuiski had purchased his life by a falsehood, so did she
purchase her enlargement from that convent where so long she had
been a prisoner, and restoration to the rank that was her proper
due. After all, she had cause for gratitude to Demetrius, who, in
addition to restoring her these things, had avenged her upon the
hated Boris Godunov.
His coronation followed in due season, and at last this amazing
adventurer found himself firmly seated upon the throne of Russia,
with Basmanov at his right hand to help and guide him. And at
first all went well, and the young Tsar earned a certain measure
of popularity. If his swarthy face was coarse-featured, yet his
bearing was so courtly and gracious that he won his way quickly
to the hearts of his people. For the rest he was of a tall,
graceful figure, a fine horseman, and of a knightly address at
But he soon found himself in the impossible position of having to
serve two masters. On the one hand there was Russia, and the
orthodox Russians whose tsar he was, and on the other there were
the Poles, who had made him so at a price, and who now demanded
payment. Because he saw that this payment would be difficult and
fraught with peril to himself he would--after the common wont of
princes who have attained their objects--have repudiated the
debt. And so he was disposed to ignore, or at least to evade, the
persistent reminders that reached him from the Papal Nuncio, to
whom he had promised the introduction into Russia of the Roman
But presently came a letter from Sigismund couched in different
terms. The King of Poland wrote to Demetrius that word had
reached him that Boris Godunov was still alive, and that he had
taken refuge in England, adding that he might be tempted to
restore the fugitive to the throne of Muscovy.
The threat contained in that bitter piece of sarcasm aroused
Demetrius to a sense of the responsibilities he had undertaken,
which were precisely as Boris Godunov had surmised. As a
beginning he granted the Jesuits permission to build a church
within the sacred walls of the Kremlin, whereby he gave great
scandal. Soon followed other signs that he was not a true son of
the Orthodox Greek Church; he gave offence by his indifference to
public worship, by his neglect of Russian customs, and by
surrounding himself with Roman Catholic Poles, upon whom he
conferred high offices and dignities.
And there were those at hand ready to stir up public feeling
against him, resentful boyars quick to suspect that perhaps they
had been swindled. Foremost among these was the sinister turncoat
Shuiski, who had not derived from his perjury all the profit he
expected, who resented, above all, to see Basmanov--who had ever
been his rival--invested with a power second only to that of the
Tsar himself. Shuiski, skilled in intrigue, went to work in his
underground, burrowing fashion. He wrought upon the clergy, who
in their turn wrought upon the populace, and presently all was
seething disaffection under a surface apparently calm.
The eruption came in the following May, when Maryna, the daughter
of the Palatine of Sandomir, made her splendid entry into Moscow,
the bride-elect of the young Tsar. The dazzling procession and
the feasting that followed found little favour in the eyes of the
Muscovites, who now beheld their city aswarm with heretic Poles.
The marriage was magnificently solemnized on the 18th of May,
1606. And now Shuiski applied a match to the train he had so
skilfully laid. Demetrius had caused a timber fort to be built
before the walls of Moscow for a martial spectacle which he had
planned for the entertainment of his bride. Shuiski put it abroad
that the fort was intended to serve as an engine of destruction,
and that the martial spectacle was a pretence, the real object
being that from the fort the Poles were to cast firebrands into
the city, and then proceed to the slaughter of the inhabitants.
No more was necessary to infuriate an already exasperated
populace. They flew to arms, and on the night of the 29th of May
they stormed the Kremlin, led on by the arch-traitor Shuiski
himself, to the cry of "Death to the heretic! Death to the
They broke into the palace, and swarmed up the stairs into the
Tsar's bedchamber, slaying the faithful Basmanov, who stood sword
in hand to bar the way and give his master time to escape. The
Tsar leapt from a balcony thirty feet to the ground, broke his
leg, and lay there helpless, to be dispatched by his enemies, who
presently discovered him.
He died firmly and fearlessly protesting that he was Demetrius
Ivanovitch. nevertheless, he was Grishka Otrepiev, the unfrocked
It has been said that he was no more than an instrument in the
hands of priestcraft, and that because he played his part badly
he met his doom. But something more he was. He was an instrument
indeed, not of priestcraft, but of Fate, to bring home to Boris
Godunov the hideous sins that stained his soul, and to avenge his
victims by personating one of them. In that personation he had
haunted Boris as effectively as if he had been the very ghost of
the boy murdered at Uglich, haunted and tortured, and finally
broken him so that he died.
That was the part assigned him by Fate in the mysterious scheme
of human things. And that part being played, the rest mattered
little. In the nature of him and of his position it was
impossible that his imposture should be other than ephemeral.
III. THE HERMOSA FEMBRA
An Eposode of the Inquisition in Seville
Apprehension hung like a thundercloud over the city of Seville in
those early days of the year 1481. It had been growing since the
previous October, when the Cardinal of Spain and Frey Tomas de
Torquemada, acting jointly on behalf of the Sovereigns--Ferdinand
and Isabella--had appointed the first inquisitors for Castile,
ordering them to set up a Tribunal of the Faith in Seville, to
deal with the apostatizing said to be rampant among the New-
Christians, or baptized Jews, who made up so large a proportion
of the population.
Among the many oppressive Spanish enactments against the Children
of Israel, it was prescribed that all should wear the distinguishing
circlet of red cloth on the shoulder of their gabardines; that
they should reside within the walled confines of their ghettos
and never be found beyond them after nightfall, and that they
should not practice as doctors, surgeons, apothecaries, or
innkeepers. The desire to emancipate themselves from these and
other restrictions upon their commerce with Christians and from
the generally intolerable conditions of bondage and ignominy
imposed upon them, had driven many to accept baptism and embrace
But even such New-Christians as were sincere in their professions
of faith failed to find in this baptism the peace they sought.
Bitter racial hostility, though sometimes tempered, was never
extinguished by their conversion.
Hence the alarm with which they viewed the gloomy, funereal,
sinister pageant--the white-robed, black-mantled and hooded
inquisitors, with their attendant familiars and barefoot friars--
headed by a Dominican bearing the white Cross, which invaded the
city of Seville one day towards the end of December and took its
way to the Convent of St. Paul, there to establish the Holy
Office of the Inquisition. The fear of the New-Christians that
they were to be the object of the attentions of this dread
tribunal had sufficed to drive some thousands of them out of the
city, to seek refuge in such feudal lordships as those of the
Duke of Medina Sidonia, the Marquis of Cadiz, and the Count of
This exodus had led to the publication by the newly appointed
inquisitors of the edict of 2nd January, in which they set forth
that inasmuch as it had come to their knowledge that many persons
had departed out of Seville in fear of prosecution upon grounds
of heretical pravity, they commanded the nobles of the Kingdom of
Castile that within fifteen days they should make an exact return
of the persons of both sexes who had sought refuge in their
lordships or jurisdictions; that they arrest all these and lodge
them in the prison of the Inquisition in Seville, confiscating
their property, and holding it at the disposal of the inquisitors;
that none should shelter any fugitive under pain of greater
excommunication and of other penalties by law established against
abettors of heretics.
The harsh injustice that lay in this call to arrest men and women
merely because they had departed from Seville before departure
was in any way forbidden, revealed the severity with which the
inquisitors intended to proceed. It completed the consternation
of the New-Christians who had remained behind, and how numerous
these were may be gathered from the fact that in the district of
Seville alone they numbered a hundred thousand, many of them
occupying, thanks to the industry and talent characteristic of
their race, positions of great eminence. It even disquieted the
well-favoured young Don Rodrigo de Cardona, who in all his vain,
empty, pampered and rather vicious life had never yet known
perturbation. Not that he was a New-Christian. He was of a
lineage that went back to the Visigoths, of purest red Castilian
blood, untainted by any strain of that dark-hued, unclean fluid
alleged to flow in Hebrew veins. But it happened that he was in
love with the daughter of the millionaire Diego de Susan, a girl
whose beauty was so extraordinary that she was known throughout
Seville and for many a mile around as la Hermosa Fembra; and he
knew that such commerce--licit or illicitly conducted--was
disapproved by the holy fathers. His relations with the girl had
been perforce clandestine, because the disapproval of the holy
fathers was matched in thoroughness by that of Diego de Susan. It
had been vexatious enough on that account not to be able to boast
himself the favoured of the beautiful and opulent Isabella de
Susan; it was exasperating to discover now a new and more
imperative reason for this odious secrecy.
Never sped a lover to his mistress in a frame of mind more
aggrieved than that which afflicted Don Rodrigo as, tight-wrapped
in his black cloak, he gained the Calle de Ataud on that January
Anon, however, when by way of a garden gate and an easily
escaladed balcony he found himself in the presence of Isabella,
the delight of her effaced all other considerations. Her father
was from home, as she had told him in the note that summoned him;
he was away at Palacios on some merchant's errand, and would not
return until the morrow. The servants were all abed, and so Don
Rodrigo might put off his cloak and hat, and lounge at his ease
upon the low Moorish divan, what time she waited upon him with a
Saracen goblet filled with sweet wine of Malaga. The room in
which she received him was one set apart for her own use, her
bower, a long, low ceilinged chamber, furnished with luxury and
taste. The walls were hung with tapestries, the floor spread with
costly Eastern rugs; on an inlaid Moorish table a tall, three-
beaked lamp of beaten copper charged with aromatic oil shed light
and perfume through the apartment.
Don Rodrigo sipped his wine, and his dark, hungry eyes followed
her as she moved about him with vaguely voluptuous, almost feline
grace. The wine, the heavy perfume of the lamp, and the beauty of
her played havoc among them with his senses, so that he forgot
for the moment his Castilian lineage and clean Christian blood,
forgot that she derived from the accursed race of the Crucifiers.
All that he remembered was that she was the loveliest woman in
Seville, daughter to the wealthiest man, and in that hour of
weakness he decided to convert into reality that which had
hitherto been no more than an infamous presence. He would loyally
fulfil the false, disloyal promises he had made. He would take
her to wife. It was a sacrifice which her beauty and her wealth
should make worth while. Upon that impulse he spoke now,
"Isabella, when will you marry me?"
She stood before him, looking down into his weak, handsome face,
her fingers interlacing his own. She merely smiled. The question
did not greatly move her. Not knowing him for the scoundrel that
he was, guessing nothing of the present perturbation of his
senses, she found it very natural that he should ask her to
appoint the day.
"It is a question you must ask my father," she answered him.
"I will," said he, "to-morrow, on his return." And he drew her
down beside him.
But that father was nearer than either of them dreamed. At that
very moment the soft thud of the closing housedoor sounded
through the house. It brought her sharply to her feet, and loose
from his coiling arms, with quickened breath and blanching face.
A moment she hung there, tense, then sped to the door of the
room, set it ajar and listened.
Up the stairs came the sound of footsteps and of muttering
voices. It was her father, and others with him.
With ever-mounting fear she turned to Don Rodrigo, and breathed
the question: "If they should come here?"
The Castilian stood where he had risen by the divan, his face
paler now than its pale, aristocratic wont, his eyes reflecting
the fear that glittered in her own. He had no delusion as to what
action Diego de Susan would take upon discovering him. These
Jewish dogs were quickly stirred to passion, and as jealous as
their betters of the honour of their womenfolk. Already Don
Rodrigo in imagination saw his clean red Christian blood
bespattering that Hebrew floor, for he had no weapon save the
heavy Toledo dagger at his girdle, and Diego de Susan was not
It was, he felt, a ridiculous position for a Hidalgo of Spain.
But his dignity was to suffer still greater damage. In another
moment she had bundled him into an alcove behind the arras at the
chamber's end, a tiny closet that was no better than a cupboard
contrived for the storing of household linen. She had-moved with
a swift precision which at another time might have provoked his
admiration, snatching up his cloak and hat, and other evidences
of his presence, quenching the lamp, and dragging him to that
place of cramped concealment, which she remained to share with
Came presently movements in the room beyond, and the voice of her
"We shall be securest from intrusion here. It is my daughter's
room. If you will give me leave, I will go down again to admit
our other friends."
Those other friends, as Don Rodrigo gathered, continued to arrive
for the next half-hour, until in the end there must have been
some twenty of them assembled in that chamber. The mutter of
voices had steadily increased, but so confused that no more than
odd words, affording no clue to the reason of this gathering, had
reached the hidden couple.
And then quite suddenly a silence fell, and on that silence beat
the sharp, clear voice of Diego de Susan addressing them.
"My friends," he said, "I have called you hither that we may
concert measures for the protection of ourselves and all New-
Christians in Seville from the fresh peril by which we are
menaced. The edict of the inquisitors reveals how much we have to
fear. You may gather from it that the court of the Holy Office is
hardly likely to deal in justice, and that the most innocent may
find himself at any moment exposed to its cruel mercies.
Therefore it is for us now to consider how to protect ourselves
and our property from the unscrupulous activities of this
tribunal. You are the principal New Christian citizens of
Seville; you are wealthy, not only in property, but also in the
goodwill of the people, who trust and respect, and at need will
follow, you. If nothing less will serve, we must have recourse to
arms; and so that we are resolute and united, my friends, we
shall prevail against the inquisitors."
Within the alcove, Don Rodrigo felt his skin roughening with
horror at this speech, which breathed sedition not only against
the Sovereigns, but against the very Church. And with his horror
was blent a certain increase of fear. If his situation had been
perilous before, it was tenfold more dangerous now. Discovery,
since he had overheard this treason, must mean his certain death.
And Isabella, realizing the same to the exclusion of all else,
clutched his arm and cowered against him in the dark.
There was worse to follow. Susan's address was received with a
murmur of applause, and then others spoke, and several were
named, and their presence thus disclosed. There was the
influential Manuel Sauli, who next to Susan was the wealthiest
man in Seville; there was Torralba, the Governor of Triana; Juan
Abolafio, the farmer of the royal customs, and his brother
Fernandez, the licentiate, and there were others--all of them men
of substance, some even holding office under the Crown. Not one
was there who dissented from anything that Susan had said; rather
did each contribute some spur to the general resolve. In the end
it was concerted that each of those present should engage himself
to raise a proportion of the men, arms and money that would be
needed for their enterprise. And upon that the meeting was
dissolved, and they departed. Susan himself went with them. He
had work to do in the common cause, he announced, and he would do
it that very night in which it was supposed that he was absent at
At last, when all had gone, and the house was still again,
Isabella and her lover crept forth from their concealment, and in
the light of the lamp which Susan had left burning each looked
into the other's white, startled face. So shaken was Don Rodrigo
with horror of what he had overheard, and with the terror of
discovery, that it was with difficulty he kept his teeth from
"Heaven protect us!" he gasped. "What Judaizing was this?"
"Judaizing!" she echoed. It was the term applied to apostacy, to
the relapse of New-Christians to Judaism, an offense to be
expiated at the stake. "Here was no Judaizing. Are you mad,
Rodrigo? You heard no single word that sinned against the
"Did I not? I heard treason enough to."
"No, nor treason either. You heard honourable, upright men
considering measures of defence against oppression, injustice,
and evil acquisitiveness masquerading in the holy garments of
He stared askance at her for a moment, then his full lips curled
into a sneer. "Of course you would seek to justify them," he said.
"You are of that foul brood yourself. But you cannot think to
cozen me, who am of clean Old-christian blood and a true son of
Mother Church. These men plot evil against the Holy Inquisition.
Is that not Judaizing when it is done by Jews?"
She was white to the lips, and a new horror stared at him from
her great dark eyes; her lovely bosom rose and fell in tumult.
Yet still she sought to reason with him.
"They are not Jews--not one of them. Why, Perez is himself in
holy orders. All of them are Christians, and . . ."
"Newly-baptized!" he broke in, sneering viciously. "A defilement
of that holy sacrament to gain them worldly advantages. That is
revealed by what passed here just now. Jews they were born, the
sons of Jews, and Jews they remain under their cloak of mock
Christianity, to be damned as Jews in the end." He was panting
now with fiery indignation; a holy zeal inflamed this profligate
defiler. "God forgive me that ever I entered here. Yet I do
believe that it was His will that I should come to overhear what
is being plotted. Let me depart from hence."
With a passionate gesture of abhorrence he swung towards the
door. Her clutch upon his arm arrested him.
"Whither do you go?" she asked trim sharply. He looked now into
her eyes, and of all that they contained he saw only fear; he saw
nothing of the hatred into which her love had been transmuted in
that moment by his unsparing insults to herself, her race and her
home, by the purpose which she clearly read in him.
"Whither?" he echoed, and sought to shake her off.
"Whither my Christian duty bids me."
It was enough for her. Before he could prevent or suspect her
purpose, she had snatched the heavy Toledo blade from his girdle,
and armed with it stood between the door and him.
"A moment, Don Rodrigo. Do not attempt to advance, or, as Heaven
watches us, I strike, and it maybe that I shall kill you. We must
talk awhile before you go."
Amazed, chapfallen, half-palsied, he stood before her, his fine
religious zeal wiped out by fear of that knife in her weak
woman's hand. Rapidly to-night was she coming into real knowledge
of this Castilian gentleman, whom with pride she had taken for
her lover. It was a knowledge that was to sear her presently with
self-loathing and self-contempt. But for the moment her only
consideration was that, as a direct result of her own wantonness,
her father stood in mortal peril. If he should perish through the
deletion of this creature, she would account herself his slayer.
"You have not considered that the deletion you intend will
destroy my father," she said quietly.
"There is my Christian duty to consider," answered he, but
without boldness now.
"Perhaps. But there is something you must set against it. Have
you no duty as a lover--no duty to me?"
"No earthly duty can weigh against a spiritual obligation. . . ."
"Ah, wait! Have patience. You have not well considered, that is
plain. In coming here in secret you wronged my father. You will
not trouble to deny it.
"Jointly we wronged him, you and I. Will you then take advantage
of something learnt whilst you were hiding there like a thief
from the consequences of what you did, and so do him yet this
"Must I wrong my conscience?" he asked her sullenly.
"Indeed, I fear you must."
"Imperil my immortal soul?" He almost laughed.
"You talk in vain."
"But I have something more than words for you." With her left
hand she drew upon the fine gold chain about her neck, and
brought forth a tiny jewelled cross. Passing the chain over her
head, she held it out.
"Take this," she bade him. "Take it, I say. Now, with that sacred
symbol in your hand, make solemn oath to divulge no word of what
you have learnt here tonight, or else resign yourself to an
unshriven death. For either you take that oath, or I rouse the
servants and have you dealt with as one who has intruded here
unbidden for an evil end." She backed away from him as she spoke,
and threw wide the door. Then, confronting him from the
threshold, she admonished him again, her voice no louder than a
whisper. "Quick now! Resolve yourself. Will you die here with
all your sins upon you, and so destroy for all eternity the
immortal soul that urges you to this betrayal, or will you take
the oath that I require?"
He began an argument that was like a sermon of the Faith. But she
cut him short. "For the last time!" she bade him. "Will you
He chose the coward's part, of course, and did violence tomb fine
conscience. With the cross in his hand he repeated after her the
words of the formidable oath that she administered an oath which
it must damn his immortal soul to break. Because of that, because
she imagined that she had taken the measure of his faith, she
returned him his dagger, and let him go at last. She imagined
that she had bound him fast in irrefragable spiritual bonds.
And even on the morrow, when her father and all those who had
been present at that meeting at Susan's house were arrested by
order of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, she still clung to
that belief. Yet presently a doubt crept in, a doubt that she
must at all costs resolve. And so presently she called for her
litter, and had herself carried to the Convent of St. Paul, where
she asked to see Frey Alonso de Ojeda, the Prior of the
Dominicans of Seville.
She was left to wait in a square, cheerless, dimly-lighted room
pervaded by a musty smell, that had for only furniture a couple
of chairs and a praying-stool, and for only ornament a great,
gaunt crucifix hanging upon one of its whitewashed walls.
Thither came presently two Dominican friars. One of these was a
harsh-featured man of middle height and square build, the
uncompromising zealot Ojeda. The other was tall and lean,
stooping slightly at the shoulders, haggard and pale of
countenance, with deep-set, luminous dark eyes, and a tender,
wistful mouth. This was the Queen's confessor, Frey Tomas de
Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of Castile. He approached her,
leaving Ojeda in the background, and stood a moment regarding her
with eyes of infinite kindliness and compassion.
"You are the daughter of that misguided man, Diego de Susan," he
said, in a gentle voice. "God help and strengthen you, my child,
against the trials that may be in store for you. What do you seek
at our poor hands? Speak, child, without fear."
"Father," she faltered, "I come to implore your pity."
"No need to implore it, child. Should I withhold pity who stand
myself in need of pity, being a sinner--as are we all."
"It is for my father that I come to beg your mercy."
"So I supposed." A shade crossed the gentle, wistful face; the
tender melancholy deepened in the eyes that regarded her. "If
your father is innocent of what has been alleged against him, the
benign tribunal of the Holy Office will bring his innocence to
light, and rejoice therein; if he is guilty, if he has strayed--
as we may all stray unless fortified by heavenly grace--he shall
be given the means of expiation, that his salvation may be
She shivered at the words. She knew the mercy in which the
inquisitors dealt, a mercy so spiritual that it took no account
of the temporal agonies inflicted to ensure it.
"My father is innocent of any sin against the Faith," said she.
"Are you so sure?" croaked the harsh voice of Ojeda, breaking in.
"Consider well. Remember that your duty as a Christian is above
your duty as a daughter."
Almost had she bluntly demanded the name of her father's accuser,
that thus she might reach the object of her visit. Betimes she
checked the rash impulse, perceiving that subtlety was here
required; that a direct question would close the door to all
information. Skilfully, then, she chose her line of attack.
"I am sure," she exclaimed, "that he is a more fervent and pious
Christian--New-Christian though he be--than his accuser."
The wistfulness faded from Torquemada's eyes. They grew keen, as
became the eyes of an inquisitor, the eyes of a sleuth, quick to
fasten on a spoor. But he shook his head.
Ojeda advanced. "That I cannot believe," said he. "The deletion
was made from a sense of duty so pure that the delator did not
hesitate to confess the sin of his own commission through which
he had discovered the treachery of Don Diego and his associates."
She could have cried out in anguish at this answer to her
unspoken question. Yet she controlled herself, and that no single
doubt should linger, she thrust boldly home.
"He confessed it?" she cried, seemingly aghast. The friar slowly
nodded. "Don Rodrigo confessed?" she insisted, as will the
Abruptly the friar nodded again; and as abruptly checked,