Spinoza: A novel/Chapter 5
FATHER AND SON.
AT the door the throng was great. Every one congratulated Baruch and his father on the honor that had befallen them.
"Certainly," said the father to his son on their homeward way, "the discourses have lasted over long to-day; the preachers should consider that they preach to empty stomachs (for no one must taste food before morning service). Let it be a warning to you never to preach too long. Are you pleased?"
"I am confused," answered Baruch, "with my rise to such a height; I am too weak."
"God keep you in that mind," said his father approvingly. "Well-balanced natures are easily abashed at the honors assigned to them. Trust in God who has chosen you out; he will give you strength to fulfil your vocation; only say to yourself you are chosen for it, because you have the strength to fulfil it."
On the threshold of their home, the father, as on the previous evening, laid his hands on his son's head, and blessed him thus: "The Lord make thee like unto Ephraim and Manasseh."
Miriam stood on the step, and gave Baruch a parchment that Rabbi Saul Morteira had sent. It was his diploma as Rabbi.
The father then opened his plate chest, and chose out his heaviest gilt goblet, to send it to the teacher some other day.
Baruch from that time was qualified to prefix the title of Rabbi to his name.
He felt a strange shock whenever visitors addressed him by the title: it seemed to him as if he wore an unseen crown on. his head. Soon, however, this exaltation of mind was disturbed by inner confusion, that henceforth augmented with ever increasing force.
Baruch now belonged to the qualified guardians of the law; and it was not mere modesty when he protested to his congratulators that he felt too weak for the burden imposed on him. Was it the shiver of weakness that overtakes those who have attained the goal long earnestly striven for?
What jealous demons would raise such inward doubts? Formerly they made themselves known but fleetingly, and were easily conquered; but now new ones too, unthought of before, forced themselves into notice, and mocked his honors.
Baruch seemed often lost in them. The ghost of Geronimo, the man with the double life, that had not appeared to him in the night, appeared to him now in full daylight, seizing on him at every corner.
At table, where every one drank Baruch's health and every one thought of him, he regained his spirits and joined in the festivity.
In the afternoon, as he read the extracts for the day of the week, and the commentary on them, he was again aware that only lips and eyes were reading; his mind was not there. He spurned the contrary spirit in him, and fervently prayed to God to stand by him, and help and strengthen his faith. Tears fell on the open book; they softened the anguish of his heart. In a clear, firm voice, as if he would proclaim them to a congregation, he read out the words of the law, and by this invocation banished the demons from his heart, and a happy animation pervaded his being.
His father came, and sat quietly beside him awhile; then said, closing the book:
"Baruch may now be less diligent, he has attained to the highest honor in his youth; he must now take pains to strengthen his body."
Baruch kissed the book again, and placed it on the shelf, then warmly clasped his father's hand.
"O my son!" began his father again, "your honor is sevenfold my own; you cannot realize it. May you one day experience the like! Naught is like unto the blessedness of the father who himself strives after an honor, and then sees his son attain to it; my happiness and joy rest on your head, are yours, and yet more than mine, better than mine. I see the time of the Messiah before me; I know now how it must be to the Father's heart to call his Son the Saviour. God pardon me, my heart is so overfull! I should not say so to you, but you may thus know how blessed you make me. My last brother is dead; that wound is healed with heavenly balm: you are my son, and brother also."
Baruch had never seen his father so agitated; with humble looks he gazed at his flashing eyes. The souls of father and son found peace in communion. The father covered his brow with one hand, and after a pause said in a quiet tone:
"Have you no wish, Baruch? Speak out; I would willingly reward you for the joy with which you have animated my heart."
It was a singular return to the common world, and only because the desire was habitual to him Baruch said:
"Let me at last learn the language of all secular learning—Latin. Why should I know less than my schoolfellows Isaak Pinhero, Ahron de Silva, and many others?"
"Yes, I will grant your request. God, the All-good, who has led you hitherto, will guard you further, that you may drink in no poison from such writings. And now, have you no other wish?"
"Is it true," said Baruch, looking at the ground and blushing, "is it true what Rodrigo Casseres said yesterday evening about the Moorish origin of my mother?—blessed be her memory! Did I wrong Chisdai Astruk when I struck him in the face a year ago because he mocked me with it?"
The father's face changed suddenly at these words, he gazed before him, and pressed his lips together: at last he took a key from his pocket, opened a chest, and took out the death-gear that every pious Jew keeps ready, unrolled them, until he found a paper; this he handed to Baruch with these words: "Take and read it; you have heard of the death of my brother; you are the heir of all our traditions. Remember that. These words should have been yours when my mouth was mute, but it is better so. You are strong enough."The father pushed the writing towards him with a trembling hand, and left the room to go with his guest to the harbor, the so-called Buitenkant, where the monotonous cry of the sailors echoed across the water, and his co-religionists passing in the enjoyment of the Sabbath repeatedly congratulated the happy father. He showed his guest the verdure of the reclaimed marshes; and to-day a certain pride in his new home, and in its position gained by unremitting energy, arose in him.
As he showed his friend the water-working windmills, and explained the plan of the dykes and dams, and how each piece of fruitful land had its history, his hearer looked on in astonished sympathy.
This man, who now first saw himself openly joining in the faith of his fathers, must have followed a devotional train of thought, for he said:
"In these Netherlands our God seems a second time to have miraculously dried up the sea, for the salvation of his people Israel. He has not done it by supernatural means, but taught his power to men."Meanwhile Baruch sat in his chamber and read:
FOR MY ONLY SON, BARUCH, ALONE.
WHEN these words come into your hands, my mouth will be mute, my soul again with her to whom it ever belonged, and of whom I am now about to tell you. . . . .
My whole youth rises before me, my cheeks burn; from scorn and lies I have won a blessed life.
I was twenty years old the spring when I travelled to Seville to visit my brother Moses, called Geronimo, in his monastery. I say I was twenty years of age; but I knew men, and their dishonest ways. Misfortune and deceit age men before their time and teach them experience. I arrived in Seville. My brother received me with cruel coldness, hardly giving me his hand through the bars of the grating in the monastery parlor. "Son of earth, I have naught in common with thee; what wouldst thou with me?" he exclaimed.
Such a reception did not attract me to him. I had business for some weeks in the town and neighborhood. I remained, therefore, a week in Seville, without seeing my brother again.
In the gay companionship of Lindos and Majos I passed many careless hours of pleasure, but the thought of the fate of the flower of our faith in Seville was too grimly earnest to be forgotten. I visited the graveyard before the Minjoar gate, destroyed five-and-twenty years ago: there the bones of the great men of Israel once rested; there once stood the noble monument of our ancestor, of the great Rabbi Baruch de Espinosa, whose name you bear; but nothing was to be seen, not a single inscription marked the spot wherein the bones of the noble man had been laid; even in the grave Spain had denied them rest, and searched it for gold, silver, and unholy books.
One day an irrepressible inclination (after what resulted, I must needs call it an inspiration) made me revisit my unnatural priestly brother.
As if I were mounting the holy hill of Zion, where once was enthroned the glory of God, I made my way with equal joy towards the Castle of Triana, where priests reigned in the name of the Creator. I could neither account for my joy nor control it.
As T entered the parlor I was met by a sobbing maiden, who left the room with veiled face.
"Señora," said I, "do you need a protector, and dare I—" I could not finish the sentence; the maiden raised her brilliant black eyes, a tear dropped from the long lashes, she shook her head slightly in denial, and went out.
I was led to my brother's cell by a familiar. He convulsively clasped my hand, and when the familiar left the cell, fell on my neck weeping.
"Benjamin, my brother, it is thou, indeed; but I am no Joseph: I have sold myself. But no! no! I will be quiet. See! it is just as if we were at home—thou art the younger, and yet thou hast power over me. 'Oh how lovely is it when brethren are together!'" he said.
He saw how the marked contrast between this reception and the last surprised me, and prayed me to pardon him; he could not act otherwise, because the parlor was so built, that the slightest whisper could be heard by the prior, whose cell was above.
They always half mistrusted him, and he wished to show that he, if need be, could forcibly tear asunder all the bonds of nature, and look upon the priests alone as his brethren, the Church as his true mother. He described his daily life to me, and how he secretly prayed to the God of his fathers; the most cunning intrigues, the most ghastly tales of murder, he related with unmoved and pious mien; only sometimes a faint smile hovered round the corners of his mouth. I expressed my wonder at this blank want of expression.
"An expressive countenance," he said, "is our greatest enemy. Therefore with God's help I have made mine blank and dull. Within all may be rage and rebellion if you will, but on the surface must be peace—the blessed eternal peace of the Holy One."
We talked long together. I reminded him of Eleazar, called Constantine Montefiore, who with the same view as Moses had become a Dominican.
"That is a case in point," said Geronimo; "he was caught in the invisible snares that surround the parlor. His father visited him, they were careless enough to trust their secrets to the gossiping walls: an hour later they were thrown in prison. Constantine (I will not blame him: he is dead) could not bear the thought that he was guilty of his father's tortures and death; with a piece of broken glass he opened a vein, and bled his young life away. Old Montefiore, already half a corpse, two days afterwards was burnt at an auto da fé, with the body of his son." Thus talked Geronimo. I conjured him, by everything sacred, according to our father's wishes, to take to flight; he swore hotly by all that is holy never to leave his cloister alive.I returned to the town; the inexplicable obstinacy of my brother, with his life lost to the outer world, made my whole being shudder; but all my thoughts vanished like empty shadows when I saw the maiden, who had met me on entering the parlor, now sitting on a stone by the roadside. She did not notice me, and I passed her; hardly was I three paces distant, however, when I was moved to return as if by enchantment.
"Señora," I said, "I have no right to penetrate the secrets of your heart; but I have a right, if you are in need of help, to offer it you, and you to demand it from me."
She told me afterwards that the earnest tone of my voice had given her more confidence in me than my chivalrous words could have done.
"Leave me alone, kind Caballero; my knight must be death alone," said she, in a voice in which tones of sorrowful refusal and timorous appeal combined in exquisite harmony. Oh, what an indescribable charm was in her whole appearance! I felt it, though in the twilight, and hidden by the carefully adjusted folds of her mantilla, I had seen little of her except her brilliant eyes.
An inexplicable thrill passed through me as I stood before her; I remained fast bound to her vicinity. It was more than mere pity, more than sympathy with unknown grief, that held me there; I did not know it was love, which reveals itself when we approach the being whom the Lord has created for us.
I talked longer with the maiden, or Manuela, as she was called. She excused herself for refusing my aid; I must not think ill of her; misfortune and grief had taught her mistrust of men. Tears choked her voice.
So grief was the companion of her youth also. Ah! the unhappy understand one another easily. She told me that her father had already been imprisoned in the castle three months. She wished to wait here till the Inquisitor should return from the town; she knew well enough that her own life was in danger, because the law forbade any one, even though a child, to beg for the pardon of one accused of heresy; she would die with her father, and yet she feared the approaching night.
"I see already," she said, "it must be so; and I must evermore await the morrow in weeping and wailing."
She rose, and went quickly away. I stood as one rooted to the spot, and when she disappeared from my eyes at a turn of the road, a longing like home-sickness overcame me, and I rushed after her. From the brow of the hill overlooking the magnificent bridge over the Guadalquivir I saw three veiled figures in white cloaks approaching with measured tread. Manuela threw herself at the feet of the foremost one; a piercing cry of grief reached me, and Manuela was forced aside. I sprang forward; the men quietly pursued their way, and advanced towards me; I checked my rapid course, removed my hat and bowed; it was the Inquisitor accompanied by two Dominicans, who were returning to the Castle of Triana from a hunt for souls.
The minutes I spent in humble trembling guise—a thousand curses for this villain, and a thousand cares for Manuela in my heart—were a foretaste of hell. Like an arrow shot swiftly from a bow, I sped on to support Manuela, whose trembling steps approached the gates. She recognized me, and stood still. I could not speak for gasping, and only grasped her hand.
"Leave me, I pray you," she said, but without withdrawing her hand. I swore to her—oh, then I felt how dreadful it was not to dare name the Holiest by which a man can swear! I thought my tongue would become incapable, when I, at the moment when I would have given the greatest assurance, was obliged to swear by St. Jago. I could not speak, my whole soul was so agitated. Manuela clasped my hand in both hers, her tearful eyes met mine confidingly.
"Yes," she said, "I will follow my impulse; unhappier than I am I cannot be; come with me, you shall hear all."
I offered her my arm, and with some hesitation she laid her trembling hand on it.
"These streets have never seen me thus," she said in a low voice as we turned into a side street from the gate.
I tried to soothe her; she was silent, and folded her mantilla closer. Without a word we went on, till in a narrow street, not far from the church of Our Lady of the Pillar, we entered an insignificant little house.
"Have you come at last, Manuela?" cried a loud treble voice; and a round figure, with a light, rolled like a woolsack down the steps.
"I have already prayed thirteen Ave Marias, and vowed a three-pound wax-candle to St. Jago, if you should come home safe. Ah! my sweet little dove, whom have you there? Praised be the Virgin, is not that Don Alfonso Sajavedra from Valencia? Excuse me, sir, my old eyes—"
"You have indeed seen wrong, Laura; it is not my cousin, but a stranger—a friend, I should have said, who will help us."
"Then I was right," continued the old woman; "have I not often told you that if you went some one would help us? Whenever I went I was thrown aside like a squeezed orange: but laugh away," she croaked on; "it is just as the proverb says, 'A fresh stamped real, with the king's image—God save him!—is better than one defaced with use.' You may pride yourself, noble knight, that my trembling dove has made an exception in your favor."
The old woman was never tired of praising Manuela, and said it could only be by a miracle that I had gained so much from her. Manuela silenced her with difficulty. After the old woman had reviewed me to her satisfaction, she went out. Manuela must have met my gaze, for she dropped her eyes."Señor," said she, and hastily grasped my hand, "Señor, what are you thinking of me?"
"That we love each other," I answered, kissing her hand.
"Yes, we love each other," said she. "God in heaven knows it, we love each other. O mother, mother, why must you die before seeing the infinite happiness of your child!"
The tears coursed down her glowing cheeks at these words.
"Dare I love you, Señor?" she whispered, and covered her eyes and cheeks with both hands; "do you know me? do I know you?"
"We knew each other," I answered, "the moment God kindled the spark of love in us; we love each other: is there a more intimate knowledge?"
Ah! it is but a feeble echo of that feeling that I can reawaken from the past; but even now, when I approach the grave, even now it thrills me like lightning, when I think how once almighty love exalted me. It was God's providence, this self-knowledge and comprehension without effort or search. Then, I confess, I felt nothing of this; sunk in unanticipated felicity I did not recognize the unseen hand which guided me as clearly as now it is evident to me it did.
In the midst of her joy, the memory of the joyless hours spent by her imprisoned father recurred to Manuela. I consoled her, promised my brother's aid; but she trusted little to that.The old woman came in with the supper.
"What is the noble Caballero's name?" she whispered to Manuela; I saw the maiden's confusion.
"Tell my name aloud, Señora," I broke in; "it sounds well in this land, and this good mother has guessed the half prophetically. I am Alfonso de Espinosa."
We sat down in comfort; the old woman watched me continually, and bade Manuela notice whether she were right or not in saying my hair was like this or that friend's.
"By G—'s blood!" said she, "how glad I am that there is again a sombrero on the nail! Two womankind alone are but desolate creatures, and who knows how things may go with old Valor?"
This name startled me; I pressed my Manuela to tell me her father's history; she looked down, and began after a short pause.
"You know there were many Moorish ladies from Grenada in Cardia when the edict was read, that in future none would be permitted to go out veiled in the national manner. Among the ladies whose veils were torn off by the soldiery in the market-place of Cardia was my uncle's wife, called the beautiful Mirzah. Her beauty was so great that you would have thought an angel from Paradise had been sent to bless the boldest of the followers of the former lords of Spain. No strange man's eye had ever rested on this loveliness, and now to be the prize of the rude mob! The news of this dreadful occurrence spread quickly amid the lamentations of the ladies; it was as if a violent earthquake had shaken the whole of Aljaniz, for the intention to abolish the remaining customs of the converted Moors was unmistakable. I do not know why I relate the story; I never knew Mirzah, who was cruelly repudiated by her husband, and her fate was wholly unconnected with ours. Excuse me if I do not know where to begin: I have not thought connectedly of these things, because I never expected to be allowed to give an account of them. My father, like the other Moorish Christians, then lived in Aljaniz of Grenada. Ah! I cannot tell it you to-day!" Manuela stopped and rose hastily from her chair.
"Well, well, I am here," said the Duenna; "don't I know it all as well as you? Was I not there when your mother—God rest her soul!—told it to you? I tremble to my heart's core when I think what life must have been like then."
With much questioning and many interruptions I learned at last that Manuela's father, Don Antonio de Valor, called by the Moors Aben Hamed, was a cousin of Aben Humega.
Don Antonio, who was averse to the Moorish rebellion, had remained a Christian, did not leave Grenada, and suffered as much abuse from his co-religionists as from the native Spaniards. Even Don Antonio's two sons were enraged with him, and when the premeditated storming of the Alhambra was unsuccessful, they fled to the so-called King of the Alpujarras, Aben Humega, in the Sierra Nevada, and fell covered with honor in that unexampled war of extermination.
"You should have come to us sooner," interrupted the Duenna; "then you would have looked round you: it was not as it is now; Flanders carpets on the floors, tapestry of gold and silk on the walls; gold and silver goblets on the tables, that one thought they must break under them." We silenced the old woman with difficulty, and Manuela went on with the narrative."The insurrection was suppressed, the Moors scattered, fallen, or imprisoned. As long as the philanthropic Marquis of Mondejar ruled in Grenada, my father lived undisturbed in the seclusion to which his own wish and his diminished fortune consigned him; when the noble Marquis was recalled, my father was arrested as a secret devotee of Islamism. The King's half-brother, Don John of Austria, who next held the government, again set him free from prison. My father came here to live in peace, far from the remains of his former associations. For ten years he remained undisturbed; he went daily to church, but otherwise never left the house, employing the whole of his time in the study of learned writings and in my education.
"Half a year later a malignant fever tore my mother from us; hardly any one dared approach her bed except my father; she died in his arms. From the day my mother was buried, my father never crossed the threshold of the house even I, who once could do anything with him, could not persuade him to go near the church.
"Twelve weeks ago yesternight—O God! I shall never forget that hou!—two familiars demanded admission to the house in the name of the Inquisition. Laura had the courage to admit them; I could not move from my place. They forced their way in, and dragged my father to the Castle of Triana, where he must defend himself from suspicion of heresy. An hour later everything in the house was searched and sealed; I had to look on, while they tore down my mother's picture, because they thought treasure might be concealed behind it, and, as they expressed it, the seductive heathen's face might have swallowed money." Here Manuela suddenly stopped.
"I have told you all," she then continued in a confiding tone; "I have neither misuse of it to fear, nor, alas! advantage from its use to hope."
I used every inducement to comfort Manuela; but the old woman looked ghostly to me, as, during the latter part of the narration, she sat with folded hands and staring eyes, her lips moving mechanically in whispered prayer. Manuela did not notice her; for I had succeeded in turning her mind from the sad visions of the past. Midnight had chimed when I arrived at my Posada. When I awoke next morning all seemed a dream.
I sought Manuela next day, and really believed I had reason to suppose it all a vision of my heated imagination.
Repentance for violated custom, trouble and doubt about the fate of her father, were evinced in every movement. She appeared completely altered; instead of bold, striving activity of mind, to-day she evinced mere broken will and slavish submission, and repulsed me from her.
I, like a fool, believed that the heavenly exultation that raised us above all considerations of everyday life could subsist forever with equal force. Angry, that now the celestial must give place to the terrestrial for me, I left Manuela, and only out of pity, and not to neglect a duty once undertaken, I went to Geronimo and told him all.
His sharp sight soon penetrated the state of affairs.
"The maiden is either an angel or a devil," said he. "Habitual dissimulation, like habitual virtue, is not possible in such an extraordinary degree. The perfectly passive submission to a higher will, which has so deceived you, is merely the first article of the Credo of the Great Prophet. But set your mind at ease: I think I can manage to set old Valor free, though he is as little a Christian as you and I. They found very little money belonging to him."
I wished not to revisit Manuela until her father was set at liberty, for that would most convincingly set her doubts at rest. That evening I again joined the company of my friends. With a loud "ola amigo! I was greeted by the assembly; each one wanted to know the reason of my two days' absence, and each one explained it according to his own particular habit of mind and manners. I was gay and jovial. The next day after matins I again visited my brother. It was astonishing to me how quickly Don Antonio was set at liberty. For Geronimo had hardly laid the affair before the Inquisitor when they set him free. I was now permitted to accompany Don Antonio home. At the entrance of his dungeon I waited till he came out; for no one but the accused might enter those dark regions. When the emancipated prisoner came forth, it was evident what rack and chains had done for him. Don Antonio had hardly strength to stand upright; his eyes, at the unaccustomed light, streamed with tears until he was obliged to close them. I led him forth, and related what had happened during the last few days: his white lips tried to form a smile, for he perceived in my representation of events my love for Manuela.
"Does my child know of my liberation?" he asked, and forced open his eyes, whose wild look went to my heart. I told him I wished to punish Manuela for her doubt, and that she should first see me again at his side. He did not answer, but shook his head, muttering some inaudible words. I was uncomfortable in his presence.
At last we arrived at Antonio's house. No one noticed us. With much labor, and stopping for breath at every step, Don Antonio mounted the staircase. We entered the room, and he sank into the easy-chair, in which he had borne his sorrows during so many years. Still no one was aware of our presence. I opened the inner door; in this room I saw Laura standing beside a bed, on which Manuela lay asleep. Don Antonio slid noiselessly past me. When the Duenna saw us she cried out in a fearfully shrill voice:
"O Jesu Maria, the master!" Manuela awoke, stared blankly at us for a time as if dreaming, and, trying to dispel the illusion, she passed her hand across her brow. "Manuela, my child!" cried Don Antonio. She rose quickly. "Father!" she cried, and fell sobbing on his neck. It was a rapturous moment, when words died away, powerless to express what soul would say to soul.
"Loose me, my child, loose me," said Don Antonio, and this time the tears that coursed down his hollow cheeks were of joy; "I am not strong enough to bear your caresses; command yourself, Manuela. See! there is our friend, our deliverer, Don Alfonso; thank him, who was sent by God to deliver us in our need."
Manuela loosed her father. Her expressive eyes had again the same entreating yet defiant expression as when I first saw her; she threw herself on her knees before me, seized my hand, and covered it with tears and kisses.
"Pardon me, dear sir," she entreated; "I did not realize your power and greatness; pardon a poor inexperienced girl."
"Rise, Manuela, rise, I command you; that is not what I meant; that is not the way to give thanks," said Don Antonio; and Manuela obeyed.
From that time I visited Manuela daily. Her father was very ill. The muscular action that had been half destroyed by the rack the physician hoped he might be able to restore, but despaired of saving his sight.
Don Antonio had made them swear to conceal nothing from him regarding his state; and at this news inexpressible wrath filled his soul. "Man," he once said, "is the most abject creature on earth. What beast of prey would be so cruel—I will not say to those of his own species, but to such as it is born to lord it over—as one man is to another? The hungry tiger and the tearing wolf suck the blood from their prey, but that is mercy compared to men who kill by thousand-fold deaths. They have noble gifts, boldly inventive minds, and they invent graves in which their fellow-creatures may rot alive. Oh, if I were but—"
He broke off, and gnashed his teeth. Manuela understood her father's condition; she did not venture to calm him with conversation, but she summoned all the resources of her wit to lighten his melancholy. The innumerable small attentions which she paid him so unassumingly, the wealth of little anecdotes and favorite reminiscences of her father's that flowed from her lips, the lively songs which she sang to her guitar accompaniment with all the freshness of youth—all this done in such a manner could only be prompted by a richly gifted mind.
Perhaps I wronged Manuela, but my vanity flattered itself that in causing this joyous outpouring of her inner life my presence had some part, as well as filial affection. We loved each other ever more and more tenderly and consciously. Don Antonio grew better day by day; some slight power of sight returned to his eyes by which he could see the outlines of objects as if covered with a dark veil. "Manuela," I said one day to her, when we were alone during Don Antonio's siesta, "Manuela, may I at last take some steps towards our final union?""Please, please, do not speak to me of anything so serious; I am too young to think of such things," she said.
"But I told you before that my love was not given to a child, but to a maiden with reason and will of her own."
"And who is that happy creature?" laughed Manuela. "I forgot to ask."
Then I swore I would no longer be put off with a jest; she must confess whether she knew her father's intentions or not.
"No," was the monosyllabic answer.
"And what have you determined to do, if your father—God forbid it—should refuse me?"
She answered in a decided voice, "Filial duty is above all others, but I will—" She could not finish, for Don Antonio called from his chamber, "What is that noise? What are you quarrelling about?"
"Don Alfonso will not believe that I was only fifteen a month ago."
"That you were already fifteen, say rather, my child, for the older the man is, the worse for him in this cursed land."
"Manuela is wrong," I said to Don Antonio as he came out; "she has misinformed you; she would not believe me when I said I should go away tomorrow."
"I am heartily sorry for that," said the old man; "I should like to have you always near me. Men get accustomed to new friends with difficulty when they are old, at least to friends of your age; but near you, I declare, I wish what I never wished before, to be young again, merely in order to be wholly your friend."
"Would you not rather be my father?" I felt how the blood rushed to my face, I saw how violently Manuela blushed, as I said these words with difficulty.
"Go, child," said Don Antonio indifferently, " go and fetch me that book from our neighbor, which he has had so long."
Manuela went out."I am much indebted to you," Don Antonio then said to me," but it is not manly to clothe service and thanks in soft words; also, according to the rules of our religion, men should neither demand nor offer thanks, since in all our goings and comings we are but tools in the hand of God. I do not know whether that is why there is so much ingratitude in the world; but now, ask what you would have, you shall have it, except my child, my Manuela! I cannot do without her, she is as needful to my life as the air I breathe, and as long as I live she shall be no man's wife. Press it no further, spare yourself and me the bootless words." I was stunned, and could say nothing; tears stood in my eyes, I took my hat, and went out. Don Antonio called after me to return, but I did not turn round. Manuela met me on the steps; I hardly saw her, and hastened away.
I went to Geronimo, and told him of my intention to travel, and the reason of it.
"It is not Manuela," he said, "whom you fly from: it is from yourself, from the inclinations of your own heart, you are forced to run; but they will follow you as your shadow, they will not vanish with distance; no, ever lovelier and more fascinating will they appear; and in longing and deferred hope you will linger on in sickness of mind. The Lord defend you doubly and trebly from the other course. Trust me, for you know that I too have loved, and my dead Isabella will live in my heart until it shall cease to beat. Therefore guard carefully your first love, or see to it that you take with you the certainty of your former delusion. Man yourself, and go again to Manuela."
I willingly followed his advice.
That evening I went to take leave of my joyous circle of friends. All congratulated me on my lovely bride; one said I was truly condescending still to remember my friends, when I was on the point of uniting myself with a descendant of the Chalifs of Cordova.
"The family is as noble as that of Ponce de Leon; and he who denies it, I will plant the point of my sword in his heart as the stem of a family tree," I replied, and was ready to follow my words with deeds.
All sprang up to appease the quarrel. My good humor, however, was ruffled by this, and I sought an opportunity to return home. I shook hands with one after the other, but they all cried, "No, we will not let you go that way; you shall see how much we think of you; we will go to your beloved's house with you, and send a musical scale of your feelings for her into that quiet chamber where she lies and dreams of you." The guitars and other instruments were quickly taken down from the walls of the Posada, and their harmony tried by a touch, and the throats cleared with another pull at the wine of La Mancha mixed with water. I thanked them, and protested against their intention, but all to no purpose.
"Will you not go with us?" they all cried together. "Very well, we will go alone; and to-morrow you will hear wonders of the heaven-storming love messages we have sent up to her." To temper their recklessness I went with them through the deserted streets with a beating heart; naught else was to be heard but the echoing steps and careless laughter of our jovial company. Hardly was our first "Farewell" sung, when the windows of the neighboring houses were filled with inquisitive fair ones in light night-gear; the house of Manuela alone remained blank and silent.My friends retired; I remained, and sang one more song of melancholy farewell; but still no one appeared, and I unwillingly returned home.
I went early next morning to Manuela's house with a doubting heart and trembling limbs. I surprised her in her light morning-gown; she gave a slight exclamation, and without answering my greeting disappeared through the inner door, which she closed after her.
"Good-morning, you haughty fugitive knight! Has your hot head left its ill-humors in its nightcap?" she called through to me laughingly. "Now who was right, father?" she continued; "do I not know something of human nature? Did I not say Don Alfonso would come again? I was certain of it. Now, Sir knight, as you have won me a victory over my father, I allow you, by virtue of my authority to bind and to loose, to remain three days longer in Seville, if you lay the penance upon yourself of making a pilgrimage every day to St. Manuela, and kneeling before her praying for an hour; or would you prefer some other favor?"
"Yes," I replied, "this: that you would not waste our limited number of minutes on unnecessary ornamentation, but come out as soon as possible."
She made no reply, but sang the "Farewell" of the previous evening in a trembling voice. She had hardly finished the first verse before she came out with her arms folded under a gray cloak.
"You Hotspur!" said she, "you are so niggardly with your seconds, you do not leave me time to dress myself properly. I am such a child, that for fear you should run away as you did yesterday evening, I come wrapped in an old mantle of my late mother's; but it is such an awkward old-fashioned thing, that I cannot hold it on long, so be quick that you may go away soon, or leave me now and come back again shortly."
"I shall not cause you inconvenience long, Señora," I replied, irritated at her last words; she perceived it, and walked backwards and forwards with her eyes fixed on the ground.
"If we must part," she said, "I should prefer to do so now; I see by your continued agitation that the memories which should illuminate our dark future will be colorless and broken. My father knows how much I love you, I have concealed nothing from him; Heaven grant that your love is equal to mine! I wish for nothing more. But I also know how to obey." Don Antonio sat silently in his arm-chair, wrapped in his dressing-gown, his hands clasped between his knees, and his shoulders bowed.
"What purifying fires of adversity has your mutual love stood yet?" he murmured in a strange voice, without moving in the least from his cowering position.
"It was born in adversity," I answered, "but we should soon forget that both freely and willingly."
"What would you have?" he cried, and rose trembling from his seat. "Because by chance you aided in my deliverance do you seek to rob me doubly and trebly of life, since you would rob me of my child's love and obedience. I have given you all, you proud Spaniards; you have sapped my trunk, drop by drop, of strength and power; I am but a dried stick; but as sure as the blood of the old Valors runs in my veins, my child, my life you shall not rob me of, as long as this hand has strength to bury this dagger in her weak maiden's heart. Go! old fool that I am, I was deluded into thinking you better than others. Go! you are as covetous and mischievous as all the rest."
His voice sounded like a war-cry, his foaming lips trembled with rage; he sank back powerless into his chair. Manuela hastened to him, stretched her bare arms towards him, and prayed him to be quiet.
"O God, where shall I turn to!" she cried. "I saw my mistake, offered Don Antonio my hand, and prayed him to forget the words he had just spoken as readily as I, too, would forget them, that we might part in peace. He pressed my hand convulsively.
"You irritated me too much," he said, "Don Antonio de Valor was never ungrateful, and never permitted such an accusation to be made to his face. My child is mine, as much my own as my right hand; shall I cut it off, and give it you with thanks? I am angry no more, certainly not; be patient, it is but a short span of life that I have yet to pass, and I shall not make the time longer."
He sat up, and concentrated all his powers of sight to read the effect of his words on our countenances; he must have found something satisfactory, for he continued in a gentler voice:
"I intended so well by you that in the spring who knows whether I may not come to Guadalaxara, to try, with your learned father's aid, to sharpen the sight of my bodily and spiritual eyes."
"Oh, that would be glorious!" said Manuela joyfully; "I will take such care of you, that you will be quite young again. How far will you come to meet us, Don Alfonso?"
The conversation now took a gayer tone.
"I never thought it would all end so well; it is lucky my father's old sword is rusted in its sheath on the wall, or perhaps our room would have been a bloody battle-field," said Manuela, her gayety blooming yet brighter through grief and tears.
Don Antonio did not speak again; but, amid memories of the past and plans for the future, I felt that the moment of separation had arrived, for I must tear myself away from such joyous associations. I put out my hand to take leave of Don Antonio."Depart in peace," he said; "at peace with yourself and with us; remember me to your worthy father."
"And shall we soon see each other again?" I asked; he pressed my hand and nodded assent. Manuela stood by motionless; our eyes met, as if each would impress the image of the other once more on the memory; the grief of parting agitated both alike, and each sought to repress it.
"Manuela, farewell!" I said, approaching my beloved.
"Farewell," she answered in a firm voice; "I am certain that you will never forget me; and, if it is fated that we should at one time belong to each other, we shall find each other again; if it is otherwise decreed, what is the use of complaint and opposition? Obedience is our duty. Be happy therefore with another, who, however, will not love you more than I have done; but all the powers of earth and heaven shall not prevent me from loving you till death and after. Farewell!"
I embraced her father again passionately; I believe I should have pressed the Grand Inquisitor himself to my heart. I know nothing more of how I tore myself away, but at the house-door the Duenna stopped me, and strange to say, every word of her address remains in my memory; I seem even to hear her voice—
It often annoys us, but it is wisely ordained, that near a nightingale there is always a cuckoo or some other every-day bird, or a frog croaks in the marsh.
"The world is always the same," the old woman began, as she kissed the hem of my mantle. "Laura, who means better than any one else in the world, is forgotten by every one. You must not think I have run after you to be thanked, for I do not know myself what for. But you are so proud that you hardly say 'Good-day' to Laura, and yet I have stood a good deal for you; I at least deserved that your Honor should say 'Good-by' to me. I should have been offended if I were not so long used to the ingratitude of the world. Holy Mary, Mother of God, be with me! poor sinner that I am, I could wish in my heart that they would bring me the last sacrament, and give me a house of six boards. Our dear good Don Alfonso goes away, and we shall have Ash Wednesday the whole year round. As St. Jago is good to me, you may believe me, if I were not so fond of Manuela I would not stay twenty-four hours with the old cripple, who makes a face like Judas every day in the year; and that good child, what she suffers from him no one knows. Oh! it would be well enough for you, if only I need not suffer from it. If it is all settled among ourselves, no one will tell a whisper of it abroad; you see what it is not to have old experienced persons who have been much about in the world for advisers. In my last situation I brought a pair together, whom the old ones were much more against than is our old grumbler upstairs; but they were not so proud that for mere billing and cooing they have looked their best friend under their very noses. It is true they rewarded me at last with ingratitude—but that is nothing. 'If you give to-day, you are forgotten to-morrow,' so says the proverb; and a proverb is a true speech. If you had but given me a wink, I would have contrived it better. You may be good and brave enough, but—don't be offended, your Honor; I mean well, as sure as I am a sinner—you are not clever. For six long weeks you have sneaked round it like a cat after hot meat. Why, the very next day, the very next hour, you brought the old man home, you should have wooed my sweet little dove. Put it to yourself, could he have refused you? 'Press the lemon dry before it is rotten,' says the proverb; but 'in six weeks—St. James! what cannot be forgotten in six weeks! I don't wonder he wipes his mouth, and dismisses you with a mere Gratias! There is no one prouder than a knight of the hills, but I always thought he was half a heathen—I would not stay in the house if it were not for the good child, who is as dear to me as if she were my own babe. I tell you I have seen many lovers; I myself, stare as you will, was once young and charming, and had good reason to show myself. I was very fond of my first husband—very fond indeed; but I never thought to see any one in love as Manuela is, my whole life long. What does the old man care? For him she might wait till her hair was gray and her soft flesh wrinkled; his life is tough enough, he will not die yet awhile; he will give her to no one else. God be merciful to me, I believe he would marry her himself, if it were not against nature. Oh! it makes my heart jump in my breast when I think how pleasant everything might have been; it would have been so different, and old Laura might then have had the pleasure of rocking a rosy young Manuelita or Alfonsito in her arms. But it is all talking to the winds now, and I keep you here for nothing. Don't take it amiss, your Honor; make haste to come back soon, then let Laura act, and you will see how well things will turn out."
I listened to the old woman, half unwillingly, as if compelled. Now I offered her some doubloons as a farewell; she said she would not take them; she did not know what they were for; she had not earned them. After some protest she took them, and with a roguish expression of gratitude said: "You should have seen sooner the truth of the proverb: 'Presents move rocks.' Have you no more commissions for Manuela?"
I knew of none; she kissed my hand, and went away grumbling and muttering at the heathenish bald-head. After an hour passed in visiting Geronimo I had left Seville. I saw clearly that here was a turning-point in my career that would influence my whole life.
But what are the intentions and decisions of men? A puff of wind, a shadow, disturbs them, and they are no more.
More than a year passed away; I had written twice to Manuela and her father, but received no answer. Her lovely image receded more and more into the background of my soul; the exclusiveness and self-sufficiency in which I had wrapped myself disappeared by degrees. The retreat of our uncle in Madrid and his family from our secret society, his bitter repentance, and the penance he did for the former half-heartedness of his faith, filled us all with grief and anxiety. The powerful Espinosas now in Spain are the descendants of this uncle. But not by a single betrayal of his coreligionists did he seek to lighten the hard penance laid upon him. We heard, however, from Geronimo that through a new edict of the Inquisition, which we had believed would affect the Moorish Christians alone, the Jewish Christians also would be exiled to Africa.
Amid anxiety for myself and those belonging to me, the memory of Manuela revived with all the fascinations of her angelic being. I saw the finger of God in it, when Rodrigo Casseres, who was travelling to Seville, offered to take charge of my commissions there.
I represented in my letter to Manuela all the horrors that awaited us, and besought her to come to us immediately with her father, that we might bear the future together. Almost without hope of any result, and merely to fulfil love's last duty, I sent off the letter.
My breast filled with a thousand cares and anxieties, and blaming our ancestors, who had laid on us a daily, ever-recurring, inglorious martyrdom, and doubled-faced religion, as an inheritance, I sauntered one day along the country road. There I saw a carriage advancing at a slow rate; I approached. A look, a cry, and Manuela was in my arms. As if by magical attraction had she lightly sprung over the side of the carriage. I quickly got into the conveyance with her, and drew the curtains, then drove towards the gate. Don Antonio sat by Manuela, wrapped in a large woollen rug; he, too, congratulated himself on the lucky accident that had allowed us to meet so soon.
"If I had gone much longer over hill and dale," he said, "Manuela would have brought me to you as a corpse; the journey rattled all my limbs together so, that I thought I was on the rack again. You have succeeded to your heart's content, have you not, Manuela, now you have persuaded the old fool to this long journey? Yes, yes; my life is worth nothing now; the sooner I die the better, is it not. Never mind, I shall not last long."
With a mocking laugh he scowled at us both, and pushed Manuela's arm away.
If his former refusal had seemed diabolical avarice to me before, the way he now poisoned his own child's happiness made it difficult for me to conquer my disgust; but he was nevertheless Manuela's father. Manuela understood how to dispel my annoyance by innumerable little questions and reminiscences. She easily succeeded, for what an infinitude we had to say to each other. But how strange it is, that, while a hundred important questions crowd into the mind, it is so often the least important that first forms itself into words!
"How is old Laura?" I inquired.
"She is dead, the false viper! Hear what happened to her. Hardly seven months since my father lay very ill (he has hardly enjoyed a month's health during your absence). Laura fell ill also; she was taken to the hospital of San Lorenzo, which she made heir to all her possessions. Her illness increased; she was incurable. After she had received the final sacrament, she expressed as a last wish that they should bring me to her; she could not die in peace till she had spoken to me once more alone. My father, too, advised me to go to her, and with almost insuperable disinclination I allowed myself to be conducted to the hospital. I should hardly have recognized Laura, so emaciated she had become in a few weeks; she, however, knew me at once, and wept as she stretched out her bony hands to me. Her habitual talkativeness had not yet deserted her, and in a low voice, broken by groaning and moaning, she avowed to me, that it was she who in confession to the priest had told that my father never went to church, and worshipped heathen gods in secret.
"The confessor, for this godly act, had absolved her from all her sins; but now it seemed to her as if she could not die before I too had forgiven her for the many troubles that had ensued to me in consequence. I must remember that she had pledged her own soul that I was a good Christian child, and thus I had been safe; I must remember, she said—and the old wretch winked with her half-closed eyes—that it was only so that I had come to know that dear good Don Alfonso, and she promised me soon to pray in heaven for our union. I thanked her for her good intentions, but could not embitter her dying hour, and forgave her, I must confess, with a not wholly willing heart."
I then told Manuela of my last conversation with Laura, and amid such talk we reached my father's house. The arrivals were very welcome to my father. Old Valor was carried up the steps, and their limited baggage soon stowed in its place. My sister, who was some years older than Manuela, was soon her dearest friend, so that she felt completely at home with us.
We quietly prepared for our departure, but the infirm state of Don Antonio, in which he would not hear of a journey, made us all anxious; my father, who was reputed to be the most experienced physician in New Castile, feared that he would linger long. We were astonished one morning, therefore, to find him dead in bed, with a frightfully swollen countenance. For this once, when Manuela first saw the horrible state of her father's face, her bodily powers sank unconscious under the burden of her woe; otherwise she had endured with fortitude all the vicissitudes of life.
My father thought that he had not the appearance of a natural death; and in fact, when the body was laid out, the amulet that Don Antonio had worn on his breast since his last imprisonment was found open and empty, and nowhere were to be discovered the remains of any poison. Manuela never heard anything of this circumstance.
As old Valor was now dead, my father thought our departure should be deferred no longer. The departed had left no intimation of his last will: what was more natural than that Manuela should travel with us? My father charged me to remind her to take into speedy consideration her somewhat unsettled affairs. I went to her, and found her alone, weeping, and pensive."We all honor you for these signs of filial affection," I said; "but why give yourself up any longer to such melancholy thoughts? My father will be your father, and I—you know what I would be to you."
"No, never!" she answered. "Have pity on me, poor orphan that I am, and let me go to my uncle in Valencia. He will not visit my father's enmity on me; he will not repel his sister's child. How willingly would I remain with you! but I see too late that an iron wall separates us forever."
"Do you know already?" I asked impatiently. "Did my sister confide it to you? Believe me, long ago my heart felt guilty of cowardly perjury not to have confessed everything to you; you would never have betrayed me. Yes, I am a Jew, and will stand by my oppressed brethren in the faith as long as a breath of life remains in me; and if you can desert me, well and good—you never loved me. Go to your uncle; no one will prevent you."
Manuela stared at me with despairing eyes.
"You are cruel, Señor," she said; "I should never have thought you could be so. Who has given you the right to treat me with such scorn, and yet that I must love you? Think you that I am faint-hearted, and ashamed of my faith? Say outright—I know you adhere to Islam, as your dead father did—and I will embrace your knees and beg forgiveness, but do not mock me. What have I done to you?"
A torrent of tears choked her voice; she turned from me sobbing. "O father, father!" she cried, "they treat your child so; why did you not take me with you into your grave?"
I called down all the curses of Heaven on my head if I had not told the truth. She looked at me kindly again, and the tears in her eyes witnessed her extreme sorrow for the injustice she had done me, and for the awful abyss that opened before our eyes.
"So near, and yet so infinitely far!" she said, giving me her hand in reconciliation. I besought her by all her former depth of love.
"God is a God of love wherever he is worshipped—in church, mosque, or synagogue. Were it not the will of God, should we have found and refound each other?" In fiery words I placed before her the differences of creed as they appeared to lovers; I troubled myself but little about what was written in books or taught by priests. God forgive me, I should not like to answer for it all now. Manuela but half listened to me, and cried in a heart-rending voice:
"Lord God, destroy me not because I still doubt. What law have I broken that you should lay on me so intolerable a burden? Can I cast out the faith of my childhood from my mind, and yet live? Why should I, even I, a weak girl, be fated to be Moslem at heart and Christian in appearance, at last to give the lie to both? Is there not one more Temple through which I may be hunted, and my poor heart torn asunder? My father was wrong to throw an old gypsy woman down the steps, as he did three years ago, so that I thought she would never get up again; he did it because she prophesied that I should not die in my present faith, and that I was born for great things: I wish I knew what the great things were to be. If the old witch should return, how surprised she would be at her own wisdom!" A shriek of horror interrupted Manuela's words.
"It is black art that plays such tricks!" she cried, and shrank close to me in fear. I glanced at the door: there stood an old gypsy woman leaning on a staff, and asking me for alms with a shrewd laugh. I soothed Manuela, who trembled all over; she recovered herself, however, and approaching the gypsy bravely, asked:
"Do you know me?"
"Why not, then?" answered the old woman, and raised her grinning face to hers. "Look, I have a good memorial of you—that scar over my left eye, I got it at your house in Seville. What do you say now to my prophecies? are they not fulfilled?"
"I do not know," answered Manuela.
"You don't know. Ay, ay, but I know."
"Thank you very much for your wisdom," answered Manuela, handing her a present.
"Just a minute yet: give me that little velvet hand; I know many another thing."Manuela only half opposed her. The old woman chuckled so much when she had looked at the lines on the hand for a time, that her stick fell from her grasp.
"That is beyond everything," she cried. "Look here! such a finely marked life-line I have only had to look at once before: a handsome knight will come and carry you over the sea; you may rely on it; it is as certainly true—as true as that I would I were as young and fair as you. Do you see that little line that goes across there? That means much sorrow and heartache. But wait a minute; you must listen to this: that is a fine boy that you will bear. You need not turn so red. There is a bold, widely famed knight, whom no one can stand against in the lists; he gives his strokes with such a sure, quiet aim, that all his adversaries are stretched on the sand; that circle outwards, that is a crown he refuses."
Such, and much more such, were the fool's jests that the garrulous old woman told us; I still wonder at myself for having retained such nonsense in my memory. Manuela seemed, however much she tried to hide it, to believe more than I; I never cared much for such things, and we have the clearest evidence now as to what they are worth. She would have prophesied for me also, but I had other things to do and think of. I gave her money, and told her to go on her way.
By this strange incident Manuela's extreme agitation, which had made me tremble, was happily diverted. I now quietly represented the case to her, and she, too, was quiet. I was obliged to promise not to disturb her with another word until the next morning.
"I will think over it all faithfully and conscientiously," she said; "no one may, no one can, advise me here."
When I awoke next morning my first thought was: to-day the course of my whole future life will be decided. It is not possible in such emergencies to remain master of our thoughts; anxiety and impatience disturb us too much. I hastened out on to the Alameda, spurred my horse, as if I could quicken the time like his paces and make the seconds run on, that I might at last go to Manuela.
"God alone knows how I have struggled," she said as she came to me. "You have won; but I entreat you, let us go away from here. I can bear this place no longer." I told my father everything.
"You have not done well, my son," said he, "to put such unequal weights in the scale; what you tell me is no news to me: but the maiden should not have been won to our faith and family with a broken spirit. I will explain to her all the hard duties which our faith enjoins, all the sorrows it is still condemned to bear; if then she still holds to her decision, may God grant his blessing, and make her the mother of a pious progeny!"
Manuela stood firm.
There was now nothing to prevent our departure. When we had with much difficulty put our possessions into a portable form, Immanuel started with our sister and Manuela, for we were obliged to do our utmost to avoid attracting notice. The night after, I followed with my father. I could hardly restrain my tears as we slipped through the familiar streets like thieves, surrounded by fear and darkness. Oh! we loved our step-fatherland with all our hearts; I feel it now. My father did not utter a syllable. When the red dawn first rose he commanded me there to take the sun to my witness, and swear by God Almighty, that I would not take Manuela to me as my own till she was accepted into our faith and bound to me in the bonds of marriage.
We overtook the others, and arrived after many difficulties at Oporto. There we dwelt with the father of Uriel da Costa till the day of our departure. We met Mendez Henrico from Madrid here; he left an honorable post at court, and a passionately beloved bride, to confess his faith with his brethren in a distant land. He was a taciturn fellow-traveller. A fearful curse, such as no tongue of man ever spoke before, he called down on unhappy Spain as we raised the anchor; his eyes rolled like a madman's, he gnashed his teeth and stamped his foot, till I was afraid of his wrath, and strove to soothe him. Without replying, or even looking round, he went to the other end of the ship, leant against a coil of ropes in a lonely corner, and cowered down. I had enough to do for my own people, and left Henrico to his own devices.
Our journey was fair in the beginning; the change of scene reawakened Manuela's gayety. But my father fell ill the first evening. He tried, as heretofore, to avert the evil by strong medicines: but it was no use; he grew worse from hour to hour.
"It is strange," he said to me once, as I sat beside his bed: "here I lie, old child that I am, in a great cradle, that will rock the life out of me. Do not throw my body out on to the cold flood. As Joseph once his brethren, so I conjure you, my children, take my bones and bury them in the land whereto the Lord will lead you; I feel that my eyes will never see it more."
I tried to divert him from such thoughts, but he said: "I know my hours are numbered. I have experienced much joy and much sorrow in this world; glory and thanks be to the Lord our God for both! Come, call my children—Manuela too; she also is my child; you will be happy with her. Do not weep," he said to them as they entered. "I sink into the grave in peace, for I know that you will go on unmolested, and may live at peace with your God; but should an oppressor's hand repulse you, despair not, for the law of our God, the Infinite and only One, will one day be gloriously recognized by all nations."
My father talked much longer about the regulation of our future life; his approaching death seemed to have lent him insight into unknown contingencies. He blessed us each singly, and departed after a few hours with prayerful lips. Since then I have seen the spirits of many depart from the body, but I have never since seen so celestially peaceful a countenance. Our tears flowed plenteously, but Manuela wept most violently; she was an orphan a second time. When a return of life to the body was hopeless, we emptied a large chest quietly, and wrapped the corpse in the winding-sheet my mother had prepared. A bag of earth from the promised land, for which my father had given much gold, lay beside the shroud. We placed this holy earth under his head, and laid the coffin in the lowest cabin, where my brother watched it.
It was a foggy morning when we proceeded onward. Towards midday a violent storm arose, with all the horrors of which I had hitherto only heard the narration in the numerous stories of my father's travels. I thanked God that he had spared him this fresh affliction, and sought by these thoughts to soothe the trembling maidens.
The captain came to us, and ordered us in few words to bring him the chest immediately wherein the corpse lay, that he might not be obliged to overturn everything, and lose much time thereby; it was a well-known rule that the sea would not become smooth until the corpse that a ship might hold was given up as an offering. I tried to pacify him, but was foolish enough to strive to show him the absurdity of his superstition. He had nearly stabbed me for my advice, if Manuela had not held his arm. I would have left my father's last wishes only unfulfilled by my death, and prepared for opposition; the girls wailed and wept; the whole ship's company came, and I was obliged to comply. When we had loaded the coffin with ballast, that it might sink, I came with it into the raging elements, and with a bleeding heart saw how the high swelling waves closed over the offered prey. For a long time my rest was sunk with it. The whole ship was in frightful commotion; one man alone stood unmoved amid the uproar: it was Mendez Henrico. A cocked pistol in one hand, and holding on with all his strength to a rope with the other, he stood on the deck.
"What do you want? are you mad?" I cried to him; he smiled pityingly.
"Do you see the sea there?" he said; "do you see? It is a great font; we shall all be baptized there according to the rites of the Greek Church; but they shall not compel me to it while I live—they, whom the elements deceive so slavishly. If that breaks (here he pointed to the mast), this ball shall burn in my heart; I will not—" At that moment the mast crashed down, a shot resounded, and Henrico fell head first overboard. I felt crushed by all that was around me; we were playthings in the hands of the storm.
My son, whoever would learn what is the good of his own life and of what, he knows of the world, and what is worthless in it, he will learn it best if he be placed with all he is and has on the boundless ocean. During that storm and the ensuing calm I saw deeper into the meaning of things than ever before. It was to me like the forty years' wandering in the wilderness of our forefathers; the old generation shall not enter into the promised land; it died out in me, and a new man saw the abode of freedom before him.
We landed at last in Antwerp, and it was in a season of mourning that I first learnt to love our new home.
For thirty days, as the law ordains, I mourned for my father; but for a much longer period I deplored my inability to carry out his last wishes. Manuela was meanwhile accepted as a member of the Jewish congregation, and at her side I found that peace and happiness for which I eternally thank God. We had both many hard struggles in life. We had both imagined the exercise of Judaism in a free community to be a very different thing; we did not know how strong the ties of habit were in us, and I especially could not reconcile myself to the mere freedom to live a life hemmed in by a thousand religious observances. God Almighty will forgive my sins, I have learned to know that His Holy Will is over all, and that the observance of the Law alone leads to him. We have devoted all we have to the end that our children might grow up in the peace of true faith. Be thankful for it. You above all, my son.Such is the story of my life and of my love, written for my only son, Baruch, alone.