Carmen Ariza Part 10

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Two summers came, and fled again before the chill winds which blew from the Alban hills. Then one day Jose's uncle appeared at the monastery door with a written order from His Holiness, effecting the priest's conditional release. Together they journeyed at once to Seville, the uncle alert and energetic as ever, showing but slight trace of time's devastating hand; Jose, the shadow of his former self physically, and his mind clouded with the somber pall of melancholia.

Toward the close of a quiet summer, spent with his mother in his boyhood home, Jose received from his uncle's hand another letter, bearing the papal insignia. It was evident that it was not unexpected, for it found the priest with his effects packed and ready for a considerable journey. A hurried farewell to his mother, and the life-weary Jose, combining innocence and misery in exaggerated proportions, and still a va.s.sal of Rome, set out for the port of Cadiz. There, in company with the Apostolic Delegate and Envoy Extraordinary to the Republic of Colombia, he embarked on the West Indian trader Sarnia, bound for Cartagena, in the New World.

CHAPTER 12

There is no region in the Western Hemisphere more invested with the spirit of romance and adventure than that strip of Caribbean coast stretching from the Cape of Yucatan to the delta of the Orinoco and known as the Spanish Main. No more superb setting could have been chosen for the opening scenes of the New World drama. Skies of profoundest blue--the tropical sun flaming through ma.s.sive clouds of vapor--a sea of exuberant color, foaming white over coral beaches--waving cocoa palms against a background of exotic verdure marking a tortuous sh.o.r.e line, which now rises sheer and precipitous from the water's edge to dizzy, snowcapped, cloud-hung heights, now stretches away into vast reaches of oozy mangrove bog and dank cinchona grove--here flecked with stagnant lagoons that teem with slimy, crawling life--there flattened into interminable, forest-covered plains and untrodden, primeval wildernesses, impenetrable, defiant, alluring--and all perennially bathed in dazzling light, vivid color, and soft, fragrant winds--with everywhere redundant foliage--humming, chattering, screaming life--profusion--extravagance--prodigality--riotous waste! Small wonder that when this enticing sh.o.r.e was first revealed to the astonished _Conquistadores_, where every form of Nature was wholly different from anything their past experience afforded, they were childishly receptive to every tale, however preposterous, of fountains of youth, of magical lakes, or enchanted cities with mountains of gold in the depths of the frowning jungle. They had come with their thought attuned to enchantment; their minds were fallow to the incredible; they were fresh from their conquest of the vast _Mare Tenebrosum_, with its mysteries and terrors.

At a single stroke from the arm of the intrepid Genoese the mediaeval superst.i.tions which peopled the unknown seas had fallen like fetters from these daring and adventurous souls. The slumbering spirit of knight-errantry awoke suddenly within their b.r.e.a.s.t.s; and when from their frail galleons they beheld with ravished eyes this land of magic and alluring mystery which spread out before them in such gorgeous panorama, they plunged into the glittering waters with waving swords and pennants, with shouts of praise and joy upon their lips, and inaugurated that series of prodigious enterprise, extravagant deeds of hardihood, and tremendous feats of prowess which still remain unsurpa.s.sed in the annals of history for brilliancy, picturesqueness, and wealth of incident.

With almost incredible rapidity and thoroughness the Spanish arms spread over the New World, urged by the corroding l.u.s.t of gold and the sharp stimulus afforded by the mythical quests which animated the simple minds of these hardy searchers for the Golden Fleece. Neither trackless forests, withering heat, miasmatic climate nor savage Indians could dampen their ardor or check their search for riches and glory. They penetrated everywhere, steel-clad and glittering, with lance and helmet and streaming banner. Every nook, every promontory of a thousand miles of coast was minutely searched; every island was bounded; every towering mountain scaled. Even those vast regions of New Granada which to-day are as unknown as the least explored parts of darkest Africa became the scenes of stirring adventure and brilliant exploit of these daring crusaders of more than three centuries ago.

The real wonders yielded by this newly discovered land of enchantment far exceeded the fabled Manoa or El Dorado of mythical lore; and the adventurous expeditions that were first incited by these chimeras soon changed into practical colonizing and developing projects of real and permanent value. Amazing discoveries were made of empires which had already developed a state of civilization, mechanical, military, and agricultural, which rivaled those of Europe. Natural resources were revealed such as the Old World had not even guessed were possible.

Great rivers, vast fertile plains, huge veins of gold and copper ore, inexhaustible timber, a wealth of every material thing desired by man, could be had almost without effort. Fortunate, indeed, was the Spanish _Conquistador_ in the possession of such immeasurable riches; fortunate, indeed, had he possessed the wisdom to meet the supreme test of character which this sudden accession of wealth and power was to bring!

With the opening of the vast treasure house flanked by the Spanish Main came the Spaniard's supreme opportunity to master the world.

Soon in undisputed possession of the greater part of the Western Hemisphere; with immeasurable wealth flowing into his coffers; sustained by dauntless courage and an intrepid spirit of adventure; with papal support, and the learning and genius of the centuries at his command, he faced the opportunity to extend his sway over the entire world and unite all peoples into a universal empire, both temporal and spiritual. That he failed to rise to this possibility was not due to any lack of appreciation of his tremendous opportunity, nor to a dearth of leaders of real military genius, but to a misapprehension of the great truth that the conquest of the world is not to be wrought by feats of arms, but by the exercise of those moral attributes and spiritual qualities of heart and soul which he did not possess--or possessing, had prost.i.tuted to the carnal influences of l.u.s.t of material riches and temporal power.

In the immediate wake of the Spanish _Conqueros_ surged the drift and flotsam of the Old World. Cities soon sprang up along the Spanish Main which reflected a curious blend of the old-time life of Seville and Madrid with the picturesque and turbulent elements of the adventurer and buccaneer. The spirit of the West has always been synonymous with a larger sense of freedom, a shaking off of prejudice and tradition and the trammels of convention. The sixteenth century towns of the New World were no exception, and their streets and _plazas_ early exhibited a multicolored panorama, wherein freely mingled knight and predaceous priest, swashbuckler and staid _hidalgo_, timid Indian and veiled _doncella_--a potpourri of merchant, prelate, negro, thief, the broken in fortune and the blackened in character--all poured into the melting pot of the new West, and there steaming and straining, scheming and plotting, attuned to any pitch of venturesome project, so be it that gold and fame were the promised emoluments thereof.

And gold, and fame of a certain kind, were always to be had by those whose ethical code permitted of a little straining. For the great s.h.i.+ps which carried the vast wealth of this new land of magic back to the perennially empty coffers of Old Spain const.i.tuted a temptation far more readily recognized than resisted. These huge, slow-moving galleons, gilded and carved, crawling lazily over the surface of the bright tropical sea, and often so heavily freighted with treasure as to be unsafe in rough weather, came to be regarded as special dispensations of Providence by the cattle thieves and driers of beef who dwelt in the pirates' paradise of Tortuga and Hispaniola, and little was required in way of soul-alchemy to transform the _boucanier_ into the lawless and sanguinary, though picturesque, corsair of that romantic age. The buccaneer was but a natural evolution from the peculiar conditions then obtaining. Where human society in the process of formation has not yet arrived at the necessity of law to restrain the l.u.s.t and greed of its members; and where at the same time untold wealth is to be had at the slight cost of a few lives; and, too, where even the children are taught that whosoever aids in the destruction of Spanish s.h.i.+ps and Spanish lives renders a service to the Almighty, the buccaneer must be regarded as the logical result. He multiplied with astonis.h.i.+ng rapidity in these warm, southern waters, and not a s.h.i.+p that sailed the Caribbean was safe from his sudden depredations. So extensive and thorough was his work that the bed of the Spanish Main is dotted with traditional treasure s.h.i.+ps, and to this day remnants of doubloons or "pieces of eight" and bits of bullion and jewelry are washed up on the s.h.i.+ning beaches of Panama and northern Colombia as grim memorials of his lawless activities.

The expenditure of energy necessary to transport the gold, silver and precious stones from the New World to the bottomless treasury of Spain was stupendous. Yet not less stupendous was the amount of treasure transported. From the distant mines of Potosi, from the Pilcomayo, from the almost inaccessible fastnesses of what are now Bolivia and Ecuador, a precious stream poured into the leaking treasure box of Spain that totalled a value of no less than ten billion dollars. Much of the wealth which came from Peru was s.h.i.+pped up to the isthmus of Panama, and thence transferred to plate-fleets. But the buccaneers became so active along the Pacific coast that water s.h.i.+pment was finally abandoned, and from that time transportation had to be made overland by way of the Andean plateau, sometimes a distance of two thousand miles, to the strongholds which were built to receive and protect the treasure until the plate-fleets could be made up. Of these strongholds there were two of the first importance, the old city of Panama, on the isthmus, and the almost equally old city of Cartagena, on the northern coast of what is now the Republic of Colombia.

The spirit of ancient Carthage must have breathed upon this "Very Royal and Loyal City" which Pedro de Heredia in the sixteenth century founded on the north coast of New Granada, and bequeathed to it a portion of its own romance and tragedy. Superbly placed upon a narrow, tongue-shaped islet, one of a group that s.h.i.+eld an ample harbor from the sharp tropical storms which burst unheralded over the sea without; girdled by huge, battlemented walls, and guarded by frowning fortresses, Cartagena commanded the gateway to the exhaustless wealth of the _Cordilleras_, at whose feet she still nestles, bathed in perpetual suns.h.i.+ne, and kissed by cool ocean breezes which temper the winds blowing hot from the steaming _llanos_ of the interior. By the middle of the sixteenth century she offered all that the adventurous seeker of fame and fortune could desire, and attracted to herself not only the chivalry, but the beauty, wealth and learning which, mingled with rougher elements, poured into the New World so freely in the opening scenes of the great drama inaugurated by the arrival of the tiny caravels of Columbus a half century before.

The city waxed quickly rich and powerful. Its natural advantages of location, together with its ma.s.sive fortifications, and its wonderful harbor, so extensive that the combined fleets of Spain might readily have found anchorage therein, early rendered it the choice of the Spanish monarch as his most dependable reservoir and s.h.i.+pping point for the acc.u.mulated treasure of his new possessions. The island upon which the city arose was singularly well chosen for defense. Fortified bridges were built to connect it with the mainland, and subterranean pa.s.sageways led from the great walls encircling it to the impregnable fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, on Mount San Lazaro, a few hundred yards back of the city and commanding the avenues and approaches of the land side. To the east, and about a mile from the walls, the abrupt hill of La Popa rises, surmounted by the convent of Santa Candelaria, likewise connected by underground tunnels to the interior of the city, and commanding the harbor and its approaches from the sea. The harbor formerly connected with the open sea through two entrances, the Boca Grande, a wide, fortified pa.s.s between the island of Tierra Bomba and the tongue on which the city stands, and the Boca Chica, some nine miles farther west, a narrow, tortuous pa.s.s, wide enough to permit entry to but a single vessel at a time, and commanded by forts San Fernando and San Jose.

By the middle of the seventeenth century Cartagena, "Queen of the Indies and Queen of the Seas," had expanded into a proud and beautiful city, the most important mart of the New World. Under royal patronage its merchants enjoyed a monopoly of commerce with Spain. Under the special favor of Rome it became an episcopal See, and the seat of the Holy Inquisition. Its docks and warehouses, its great centers of commerce, its sumptuous dwellings, its magnificent Cathedral, its colleges and monasteries, and its proud aristocracy, all reflected the spirit of enterprise which animated its sons and found expression in a city which could boast a pride, a culture, and a wealth almost unrivalled even in the Old World.

But, not unlike her ancient prototype, Cartagena succ.u.mbed to the very influences which had made her great. Her wealth excited the cupidity of freebooters, and her power aroused the jealousy of her formidable rivals. Her religion itself became an excuse for the plundering hands of Spain's enemies. Again and again the city was called upon to defend the challenge which her riches and ma.s.sive walls perpetually issued.

Again and again she was forced to yield to the heavy tributes and disgraceful penalties of buccaneers and legalized pirates who, like Drake, came to plunder her under royal patent. Cartagena rose and fell, and rose again. But the human heart which throbs beneath the lash of l.u.s.t or revenge knows no barriers. Her great forts availed nothing against the lawless hordes which swarmed over them. Neither were her tremendous walls proof against starvation. Again and again, her streets filled with her gaunt dead, she stubbornly held her gates against the enemies of Spain who a.s.saulted her in the name of religion, only at last to weaken with terror and throw them open in disgraceful welcome to the French de Pontis and his maudlin, rag-tag followers, who drained her of her last drop of life blood. As her gates swung wide and this nondescript band of marauders streamed in with curses and shouts of exultation, the glory of this royal mediaeval city pa.s.sed out forever.

Almost from its inception, Cartagena had been the point of attack of every enterprise launched with the object of wresting from Spain her rich western possessions, so much coveted by her jealous and revengeful rivals. It was Spain herself who fought for very existence while Cartagena was holding her gates against the enemies of Holy Church. And these enemies knew that they had pierced the Spanish heart when the "Queen of the Indies" fell. And in no small measure did Spain deserve the fate which overtook her. For, had it not been for the stupendous amount of treasure derived from these new possessions, the dramatic and dominant part which she played in the affairs of Europe during the sixteenth century would have been impossible. This treasure she wrested from her South American colonies at a cost in the destruction of human life, in the outraging of human instincts, in the debauching of ideals and the falsifying of hope, in h.e.l.lish oppression and ghastly torture, that can never be adequately estimated. Her benevolent instruments of colonization were cannon and saintly relics. Her agents were swaggering soldiers and bigoted friars. Her system involved the impression of her language and her undemonstrable religious beliefs upon the harmless aborigines. The fruits of this system, which still linger after three centuries, are superst.i.tion, black ignorance, and woeful mental r.e.t.a.r.dation. To the terrified aborigines the boasted Spanish civilization meant little more than "gold, liquor, and sadness." Small wonder that the simple Indians, unable to comprehend the Christian's l.u.s.t for gold, poured the molten metal down the throats of their captives, crying, "Eat, Christian, eat!" They had borrowed their ideals from the Christian Spaniards, who by means of the stake and rack were convincing them that G.o.d was not in this western land until they came, bringing their debauched concept of Christianity.

And so Cartagena fell, late in the seventeenth century, never to regain more than a shadow of her former grandeur and prestige. But again she rose, in a semblance of her martial spirit, when her native sons, gathering fresh courage and inspiration from the waning powers of the mother-country in the early years of the century just closed, organized that federation which, after long years of almost hopeless struggle, lifted the yoke of Spanish misrule from New Granada and proclaimed the Republic of Colombia. Cartagena was the first city of Colombia to declare its independence from Spain. And in the great war which followed the "Heroic City" pa.s.sed through terrible vicissitudes, emerging from it still further depleted and sunken, a sh.e.l.l of ma.s.sive walls and battered defenses, with desolated homes and empty streets echoing the tread of the mendicant _peon_.

As the nineteenth century, so rich in invention, discovery, and stirring activity in the great States to the north, drew to a close, a chance visitor to this battle-scarred, mediaeval city would have found her asleep amid the dreams of her former greatness. Approaching from the harbor, especially if he arrived in the early hours of morning, his eyes would have met a view of exquisite beauty. Seen thus, great moss-grown structures rise from within the lofty encircling walls, with many a tower and gilded dome glittering in the clear sunlight and standing out in sharp relief against the green background of forest-plumed hills and towering mountains. The abysmal blue of the untainted tropical sky overhead contrasts sharply with the red-tiled roofs and dazzling white exteriors of the buildings beneath; and the vivid tints, mingling with the iridescence of the scarcely rippling waters of the harbor, blend into a color scheme of rarest loveliness in the clear atmosphere which seems to magnify all distant objects and intensify every hue.

A closer approach to the citadel which lies within the landlocked harbor reveals in detail the features of the stupendous walls which guard this key to Spain's former treasure house. Their immensity and their marvelous construction bear witness to the genius of her famous military engineers, and evoke the same admiration as do the great temples and monuments of ancient Egypt. These grim walls, in places sixty feet through, and pierced by numerous gates, are frequently widened into broad esplanades, and set here and there with bastions and watch towers to command strategic points. At the north end of the city they expand into an elaborately fortified citadel, within which are enormous fresh water tanks, formerly supplied by the rains, and made necessary by the absence of springs so near the coast. Within the walls at various points one finds the now abandoned barracks, storerooms, and echoing dungeons, the latter in the days of the stirring past too often pressed into service by the Holy Inquisition.

Underground tunnels, still intact, lead from the walls to the Cathedral, the crumbling fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, and the deserted convent on the summit of La Popa. Time-defying, grim, dramatic reliques of an age forever past, breathing poetry and romance from every crevice--still in fancy echoing from moldering tower and scarred bulwark the clank of sabre, the tread of armored steed, and the shouts of exulting _Conquistadores_--aye, their ghostly echoes sinking in the fragrant air of night into soft whispers, which bear to the tropical moon dark hints of ancient tragedies enacted within these dim keeps and gloom-shrouded tunnels!

The pa.s.s of Boca Grande--"large mouth"--through which Drake's band of marauders sailed triumphantly in the latter part of the sixteenth century, was formerly the usual entrance to the city's magnificent harbor. But its wide, deep channel, only two miles from the city walls, afforded too easy access to undesirable visitors in the heyday of freebooters; and the hara.s.sed Cartagenians, wearied of the innumerable piratical attacks which this broad entrance constantly invited, undertook to fill it up. This they accomplished after years of heroic effort and an enormous expenditure of money, leaving the harbor only the slender, tortuous entrance of Boca Chica--"little mouth"--dangerous to incoming vessels because of the almost torrential flow of the tide through it, but much more readily defended. The two castles of San Fernando and San Jose, frowning structures of stone dominating this entrance, have long since fallen into disuse, but are still admirably preserved. Beneath the former, and extending far below the surface of the water, is the old Bastile of the Inquisition, occasionally pressed into requisition now to house recalcitrant politicians, and where no great effort of the imagination is required still to hear the groans of the tortured and the sighs of the condemned, awaiting in chains and _san benitos_ the approaching _auto da fe_.

But the greater distance from the present entrance of the harbor to the city walls affords the visitor a longer period in which to enjoy the charming panorama which seems to drift slowly out to meet him as he stands entranced before it. The spell of romance and chivalry is upon him long ere he disembarks; and once through the great gateway of the citadel itself, he yields easily to the ineluctable charm which seems to hover in the balmy air of this once proud city. Everywhere are evidences of ancient grandeur, mingling with memories of enormous wealth and violent scenes of strife. The narrow, winding streets, characteristic of oriental cities; the Moorish architecture displayed in the grandiose palaces and churches; the grated, unglazed windows, through which still peep timid _senoritas_, as in the romantic days of yore; the gaily painted balconies, over which bepowdered _doncellas_ lean to pa.s.s the day's gossip in the liquid tongue of Cervantes, all transport one in thought to the chivalrous past, when this picturesque survival of Spain's power in America was indeed the very Queen of the western world and the proud boast of the haughty monarchs of Castile.

Nor was the city more dear to the Spanish King than to the spiritual Sovereign who sat on Peter's throne. The Holy See strove to make Cartagena the chief ecclesiastical center of the New World; and churches, monasteries, colleges, and convents flourished there as luxuriantly as the tropical vegetation. The city was early elevated to a bishopric. A magnificent Cathedral was soon erected, followed by other churches and buildings to house ecclesiastical orders, including the Jesuit college, the University, the women's seminary, and the homes for religious orders of both s.e.xes. The same lavish expenditure of labor and wealth was bestowed upon the religious structures as on the walls and fortifications. The Cathedral and the church of San Juan de Dios, the latter the most conspicuous structure in the city, with its double towers and its immense monastery adjoining, became the special recipients of the liberal outpourings of a community rich not only in material wealth, but in culture and refinement as well. The latter church in particular was the object of veneration of the patrons of America's only Saint, the beneficent Pedro Claver, whose whitened bones now repose in a wonderful gla.s.s coffin bound with strips of gold beneath its magnificent marble altar. In the central _plaza_ of the city still stands the building erected to house the Holy Inquisition, so well preserved that it yet serves as a dwelling.

Adjacent to it, and lining the _plaza_, are s.p.a.cious colonial edifices, once the homes of wealth and culture, each shaded by graceful palms and each enclosing its inner garden, or patio, where tropical plants and aromatic shrubs riot in richest color and fragrance throughout the year.

In the halcyon days of Cartagena's greatness, when, under the protection of the powerful mother-country, her commerce extended to the confines of the known world, her streets and markets presented a scene of industry and activity wholly foreign to her in these latter days of her decadence. From her port the rich traffic which once centered in this thriving city moved, in constantly swelling volume, in every direction. In her marts were formulated those audacious plans which later took shape in ever-memorable expeditions up the Magdalena and Cauca rivers in search of gold, or to establish new colonies and extend the city's sphere of influence. From her gates were launched those projects which had for their object the discovery of the mysterious regions where rivers were said to flow over sands of pure gold and silver, or the kingdom of El Dorado, where native potentates sprinkled their bodies with gold dust before bathing in the streams sacred to their deities. From this city the bold Quesada set out on the exploits of discovery and conquest which opened to the world the rich plateau of Bogota, and ranked him among the greatest of the _Conquistadores_. In those days a ca.n.a.l had been cut through the swamps and dense coast lowlands to the majestic Magdalena river, some sixty-five miles distant, where a riverine town was founded and given the name of Calamar, the name Pedro de Heredia had first bestowed upon Cartagena. Through this _dique_ the city's merchant vessels pa.s.sed to the great arterial stream beyond, and thence some thousand miles south into the heart of the rich and little known regions of upper Colombia.

To-day, like the gra.s.s-grown streets of the ancient city, this ca.n.a.l, choked with weeds and _debris_, is but a green and turbid pool, but yet a reminder of the faded glory of the famous old town which played such a dramatic _role_ in that age of desperate courage.

In the finished town of Cartagena Spain's dreams of imperial pomp and magnificence were externalized. In her history the tragedy of the New World drama has been preserved. To-day, sunk in decadence, surrounded by the old mediaeval flavor, and steeped in the romance of an age of chivalry forever past, her muniments and donjons, her gray, crenelated walls and time-defying structures continue to express that dogged tenacity of belief and stern defiance of unorthodox opinion which for two hundred years maintained the Inquisition within her gates and sacrificed her fair sons and daughters to an undemonstrable creed. The heavy air of ecclesiasticism still hangs over her. The priests and monks who accompanied every sanguinary expedition of the _Conquistadores_, ready at all times to absolve any desperado who might slay a harmless Indian in the name of Christ, have their successors to-day in the astute and untiring sons of Rome, who conserve the interests of Holy Church within these battered walls and guard their portals against the entrance of radical thought. Heredia had scarcely founded the city when King Philip sent it a Bishop. And less than a decade later the Cathedral, which to-day stands as the center of the episcopal See, was begun.

The Cathedral, though less imposing than the church of San Juan de Dios, is a fine example of the ecclesiastical architecture of the colonial era. Occupying a central position in the city, its ever-open doors invite rich and poor alike, citizen and stranger, to enter and linger in the refres.h.i.+ng atmosphere within, where the subdued light and cool shadows of the great nave and chapels afford a grateful respite from the glare and heat of the streets without.

Ma.s.sive in exterior appearance, and not beautiful within, the Cathedral nevertheless exhibits a construction which is at once broad, simple and harmonious. The nave is more than usually wide between its main piers, and its rounded arches are lofty and well proportioned. Excellent portraits of former Bishops adorn its white walls, and narrow rectangular windows at frequent intervals admit a dim, mellow light through their dark panes. Before one of these windows--apparently with no thought of incongruity in the exhibition of such a gruesome object attached to a Christian church--there has been affixed an iron grating, said to have served the Holy Inquisition as a gridiron on which to roast its heretical victims.

Within, an ambulatory, supported on the first tier of arches, affords a walk along either side of the nave, and leads to the winding stairway of the bell tower. At one end of this ambulatory, its entrance commanding a full view of the nave and the _capilla mayor_, with its exquisitely carved marble altar, is located the Bishop's _sanctum_. It was here that the young Spanish priest, Jose de Rincon, stood before the Bishop of Cartagena on the certain midday to which reference was made in the opening chapter of this recital, and received with dull ears the ecclesiastical order which removed him still farther from the world and doomed him to a living burial in the crumbling town of Simiti, in the wilderness of forgotten Guamoco.

CHAPTER 13

"At last, you come!"

The querulous tones of the aged Bishop eddied the brooding silence within the Cathedral. Without waiting for a reply he turned again to his table and took up a paper containing a list of names.

"You wait until midday," he continued testily; "but you give me time to reflect and decide. The parish of Simiti has long been vacant. I have a.s.signed you to it. The Honda touches at Calamar to-morrow, going up-river. You will take it."

"Simiti! Father--!"

"_Bien_; and would you dispute this too!" quavered the ill-humored Bishop.

"But--Simiti--you surely cannot mean--!"

The Bishop turned sharply around. "I mean that after what I learn from Rome I will not keep you here to teach your heresies in our University! I mean that after what I hear this morning of your evil practices I will not allow you to spend another day in Cartagena!" The angry ecclesiastic brought his bony fist hard against the table to emphasize the remark.

"_Madre de Dios!_" he resumed, after some moments of nursing his choleric feelings. "Would you debate further! The Holy Father for some unexplained reason inflicts a madman upon me! And I, innocent of what you are, obey his instructions and place you in the University--with what result? You have the effrontery--the madness--to lecture to your cla.s.ses on the heresies of Rome!"

"But--"

"And as if that were not burden enough for these old shoulders, I must learn that I have taken a serpent to my bosom--but that you are still sane enough to propagate heresies--to plot revolution with the Radicals--and--shame consume you!--to wantonly ruin the fair daughters of our diocese! But, do you see now why I send you where you can do less evil than here in Cartagena?"

The priest slowly petrified under the tirade.

"The fault is not mine if I must act without instruction from Rome," the Bishop went on petulantly. "Twice have I warned you against your teachings--but I did not suspect then, for only yesterday did I learn that before coming to me you had been confined in a monastery--insane! But--_Hombre_! when you bring the blush of shame to my cheeks because of your G.o.dless practices--it is time to put you away without waiting for instruction!"

G.o.dless practices! Was the Bishop or the priest going mad?

"Go now to your room," the Bishop added, turning again to his table.

"You have little enough time to prepare for your journey. Wenceslas will give you letters to the Alcalde of Simiti."

Wenceslas! The priest's thought flew back over the events of the morning. Marcelena--Maria--the encounter below with--! _Dios!_ Could it be that Wenceslas had fastened upon him the stigma of his own crime? The priest found his tongue.

"Father!--it is untrue!--these charges are false as h.e.l.l!" he exclaimed excitedly. "I demand to know who brings them against me!"

Carmen Ariza Part 10

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Carmen Ariza Part 10 summary

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