The Last Look

W.H.G. Kingston

The Last Look
A Tale of the Spanish Inquisition
by W.H.G. Kingston
The beauty of Seville is proverbial. "Who has not seen Seville, has not seen a wonder of loveliness," say the Spaniards. They are proud indeed of Seville, as they are of everything else belonging to them, and of themselves especially, often with less reason. We must carry the reader back about three hundred years, to a beautiful mansion not far from the banks of the famed Guadalquiver. In the interior were two courts, open to the sky. Round the inner court were marble pillars richly carved and gilt, supporting two storeys of galleries; and in the centre a fountain threw up, as high as the topmost walls, a bright jet of water, which fell back in sparkling spray into an oval tank below, full of many-coloured fish. In the court, at a sufficient distance from the fountain to avoid its spray, which, falling around, increased the delicious coolness of the air, sat a group of ladies employed in working tapestry, the colours they used being of those bright dyes which the East alone could at that time supply. The only person who was moving was a young girl, who was frolicking round the court with a little dog, enticed to follow her by a coloured ball, which she kept jerking, now to one side, now to the other, laughing as she did so at the animal's surprise, in all the joyousness of innocent youth. She had scarcely yet reached that age when a girl has become conscious of her charms and her power over the sterner sex. The ladies were conversing earnestly together, thinking, it was evident, very little of their work, when a servant appearing announced the approach of Don Gonzales Munebrega, Bishop of Tarragona. For the peculiar virtues he possessed in the eye of the supreme head of his Church, he was afterwards made Archbishop of the same see. Uneasy glances were exchanged among the ladies; but they had scarcely time to speak before a dignified-looking ecclesiastic entered the court, followed by two inferior priests.
One of the ladies, evidently the mistress of the house, advanced to meet him, and after the usual formal salutations had been exchanged, he seated himself on a chair which was placed for him by her side, at a distance from the rest of the party, who were joined, however, by the two priests. The young girl no sooner caught sight of the Bishop from the farther end of the hall, where the little dog had followed her among the orange trees, than all trace of her vivacity disappeared.
"Ah, Dona Mercia, your young daughter reminds me greatly of you at the same age," observed the Bishop, with a sigh, turning to the lady, who still retained much of the beauty for which the young girl was conspicuous.
"You had not then entered the priesthood; and on entering it, and putting off the secular habit, I should have thought, my lord, that you would have put off all thoughts and feelings of the past," answered Dona Mercia calmly.
"Not so easy a task," replied the Bishop. "A scene like this conjures up the recollection of days gone by and never to return. You--you, Dona Mercia, might have saved me from what I now suffer."
"You speak strangely, Don Gonzales," said Dona Mercia. "Why address such words to me? Our feelings are not always under our own control. I know that you offered me your hand, and the cause of my rejecting your offer was that I could not give you what alone would have made my hand of value. I never deceived you, and as soon as I knew your feelings, strove to show you what were mine."
"Indeed, you did!" exclaimed the Bishop, in a tone of bitterness. "You say truly, too, that we cannot always control our feelings. My rival is no more; and did not the office into which I rashly plunged cut me off from the domestic life I once hoped to enjoy, what happiness might yet be mine!"
"Oh, my lord, let me beg you not to utter such remarks," said Dona Mercia, in a voice of entreaty. "The past cannot be recalled. God chasteneth whom He loveth. He may have reserved for you more happiness than any earthly prosperity can give."
A frown passed over the brow of the priest of Rome.
The lady of the mansion, anxious to turn the current of the Bishop's thoughts, and to put a stop to a conversation which was annoying her-- fearing, indeed, from her knowledge of the man, that it might lead to some proposal still more painful and disagreeable--called her young daughter, Leonor de Cisneros, to her. Dona Leonor approached the Bishop with downcast looks.
"You are wonderfully demure now, my pretty maiden," he remarked in
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