Leila or, the Siege of Granada, Book III.

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Book III.



While this scene took place before the tribunal of Torquemada, Leila had
been summoned from the indulgence of fears, which her gentle nature and
her luxurious nurturing had ill-fitted her to contend against, to the
presence of the queen. That gifted and high-spirited princess, whose
virtues were her own, whose faults were of her age, was not, it is true,
without the superstition and something of the intolerant spirit of her
royal spouse: but, even where her faith assented to persecution, her
heart ever inclined to mercy; and it was her voice alone that ever
counteracted the fiery zeal of Torquemada, and mitigated the sufferings
of the unhappy ones who fell under the suspicion of heresy. She had,
happily, too, within her a strong sense of justice, as well as the
sentiment of compassion; and often, when she could not save the accused,
she prevented the consequences of his imputed crime falling upon the
innocent members of his house or tribe.

In the interval between his conversation with Ferdinand and the
examination of Almamen, the Dominican had sought the queen; and had
placed before her, in glowing colours, not only the treason of Almamen,
but the consequences of the impious passion her son had conceived for
Leila. In that day, any connection between a Christian knight and a
Jewess was deemed a sin, scarce expiable; and Isabel conceived all that
horror of her son’s offence which was natural in a pious mother and a
haughty queen. But, despite all the arguments of the friar, she could
not be prevailed upon to render up Leila to the tribunal of the
Inquisition; and that dread court, but newly established, did not dare,
without her consent, to seize upon one under the immediate protection
of the queen.

“Fear not, father,” said Isabel, with quiet firmness, “I will take upon
myself to examine the maiden; and, at least, I will see her removed from
all chance of tempting or being tempted by this graceless boy. But she
was placed under the charge of the king and myself as a hostage and a
trust; we accepted the charge, and our royal honor is pledged to the
safety of the maiden. Heaven forbid that I should deny the existence of
sorcery, assured as we are of its emanation from the Evil One; but I
fear, in this fancy of Juan’s, that the maiden is more sinned against
than sinning: and yet my son is, doubtless, not aware of the unhappy
faith of the Jewess; the knowledge of which alone will suffice to cure
him of his error. You shake your head, father; but, I repeat, I will act
in this affair so as to merit the confidence I demand. Go, good Tomas.
We have not reigned so long without belief in our power to control and
deal with a simple maiden.”

The queen extended her hand to the monk, with a smile so sweet in its
dignity, that it softened even that rugged heart; and, with a reluctant
sigh, and a murmured prayer that her counsels might be guided for the
best, Torquemada left the royal presence.

“The poor child!” thought Isabel, “those tender limbs, and that fragile
form, are ill fitted for yon monk’s stern tutelage. She seems gentle:
and her face has in it all the yielding softness of our sex; doubtless by
mild means, she may be persuaded to abjure her wretched creed; and the
shade of some holy convent may hide her alike from the licentious gaze of
my son and the iron zeal of the Inquisitor. I will see her.”

When Leila entered the queen’s pavilion, Isabel, who was alone, marked
her trembling step with a compassionate eye; and, as Leila, in obedience
to the queen’s request, threw up her veil, the paleness of her cheek and
the traces of recent tears appealed to Isabel’s heart with more success
than had attended all the pious invectives of Torquemada.

“Maiden,” said Isabel, encouragingly, “I fear thou hast been strangely
harassed by the thoughtless caprice of the young prince. Think of it no
more. But, if thou art what I have ventured to believe, and to assert
thee to be, cheerfully subscribe to the means I will suggest for
preventing the continuance of addresses which cannot but injure thy fair

“Ah, madam!” said Leila, as she fell on one knee beside the queen, “most
joyfully, most gratefully, will I accept any asylum which proffers
solitude and peace.”

“The asylum to which I would fain lead thy steps,” answered Isabel,
gently, “is indeed one whose solitude is holy—whose peace is that of
heaven. But of this hereafter. Thou wilt not hesitate, then, to quit
the camp, unknown to the prince, and ere he can again seek thee?”

“Hesitate, madam? Ah rather, how shall I express my thanks?”

“I did not read that face misjudgingly,” thought the queen, as she
resumed. “Be it so; we will not lose another night. Withdraw yonder,
through the inner tent; the litter shall be straight prepared for thee;
and ere midnight thou shalt sleep in safety under the roof of one of the
bravest knights and noblest ladies that our realm can boast. Thou shalt
bear with thee a letter that shall commend thee specially to the care of
thy hostess—thou wilt find her of a kindly and fostering nature. And,
oh, maiden!” added the queen, with benevolent warmth, “steel not thy
heart against her—listen with ductile senses to her gentle ministry; and
may God and His Son prosper that pious lady’s counsel, so that it may win
a new strayling to the Immortal Fold!”

Leila listened and wondered, but made no answer; until, as she gained the
entrance to the interior division of the tent, she stopped abruptly, and
said, “Pardon me, gracious queen, but dare I ask thee one question?—it
is not of myself.”

“Speak, and fear not.”

“My father—hath aught been heard of him? He promised, that ere the
fifth day were past, he would once more see his child; and, alas! that
date is past, and I am still alone in the dwelling of the stranger.”

“Unhappy child!” muttered Isabel to herself; “thou knowest not his
treason nor his fate—yet why shouldst thou? Ignorant of what would
render thee blest hereafter, continue ignorant of what would afflict thee
here. Be cheered, maiden,” answered the queen, aloud. “No doubt, there
are reasons sufficient to forbid your meeting. But thou shalt not lack
friends in the dwelling-house of the stranger.”

“Ah, noble queen, pardon me, and one word more! There hath been with me,
more than once, a stern old man, whose voice freezes the blood within my
veins; he questions me of my father, and in the tone of a foe who would
entrap from the child something to the peril of the sire. That man—thou
knowest him, gracious queen—he cannot have the power to harm my father?”

“Peace, maiden! the man thou speakest of is the priest of God, and the
innocent have nothing to dread from his reverend zeal. For thyself, I
say again, be cheered; in the home to which I consign thee thou wilt see
him no more. Take comfort, poor child—weep not: all have their cares;
our duty is to bear in this life, reserving hope only for the next.”

The queen, destined herself to those domestic afflictions which pomp
cannot soothe, nor power allay, spoke with a prophetic sadness which yet
more touched a heart that her kindness of look and tone had already
softened; and, in the impulse of a nature never tutored in the rigid
ceremonials of that stately court, Leila suddenly came forward, and
falling on one knee, seized the hand of her protectress, and kissed it
warmly through her tears.

“Are you, too, unhappy?” she said. “I will pray for you to my God!”

The queen, surprised and moved at an action which, had witnesses been
present, would only perhaps (for such is human nature) have offended her
Castilian prejudices, left her hand in Leila’s grateful clasp; and laying
the other upon the parted and luxuriant ringlets of the kneeling maiden,
said, gently,—”And thy prayers shall avail thee and me when thy God and
mine are the same. Bless thee, maiden! I am a mother; thou art
motherless—bless thee!”



It was about the very hour, almost the very moment, in which Almamen
effected his mysterious escape from the tent of the Inquisition, that the
train accompanying the litter which bore Leila, and which was composed of
some chosen soldiers of Isabel’s own body-guard, after traversing the
camp, winding along that part of the mountainous defile which was in the
possession of the Spaniards, and ascending a high and steep acclivity,
halted before the gates of a strongly fortified castle renowned in the
chronicles of that memorable war. The hoarse challenge of the sentry,
the grating of jealous bars, the clanks of hoofs upon the rough pavement
of the courts, and the streaming glare of torches—falling upon stern and
bearded visages, and imparting a ruddier glow to the moonlit buttresses
and battlements of the fortress—aroused Leila from a kind of torpor
rather than sleep, in which the fatigue and excitement of the day had
steeped her senses. An old seneschal conducted her, through vast and
gloomy halls (how unlike the brilliant chambers and fantastic arcades of
her Moorish home) to a huge Gothic apartment, hung with the arras of
Flemish looms. In a few moments, maidens, hastily aroused from slumber,
grouped around her with a respect which would certainly not have been
accorded had her birth and creed been known. They gazed with surprise at
her extraordinary beauty and foreign garb, and evidently considered the
new guest a welcome addition to the scanty society of the castle. Under
any other circumstances, the strangeness of all she saw, and the frowning
gloom of the chamber to which she was consigned, would have damped the
spirits of one whose destiny had so suddenly passed from the deepest
quiet into the sternest excitement. But any change was a relief to the
roar of the camp, the addresses of the prince, and the ominous voice and
countenance of Torquemada; and Leila looked around her, with the feeling
that the queen’s promise was fulfilled, and that she was already amidst
the blessings of shelter and repose. It was long, however, before sleep
revisited her eyelids, and when she woke the noonday sun streamed broadly
through the lattice. By the bedside sat a matron advanced in years, but
of a mild and prepossessing countenance, which only borrowed a yet more
attractive charm from an expression of placid and habitual melancholy.
She was robed in black; but the rich pearls that were interwoven in the
sleeves and stomacher, the jewelled cross that was appended from a chain
of massive gold, and, still more, a certain air of dignity and command,—
bespoke, even to the inexperienced eye of Leila, the evidence of superior

“Thou hast slept late, daughter,” said the lady, with a benevolent smile;
“may thy slumbers have refreshed thee! Accept my regrets that I knew not
till this morning of thine arrival, or I should have been the first to
welcome the charge of my royal mistress.”

There was in the look, much more than in the words of the Donna Inez de
Quexada, a soothing and tender interest that was as balm to the heart of
Leila; in truth, she had been made the guest of, perhaps, the only lady
in Spain, of pure and Christian blood, who did not despise or execrate
the name of Leila’s tribe. Donna Inez had herself contracted to a Jew a
debt of gratitude which she had sought to return to the whole race. Many
years before the time in which our tale is cast, her husband and herself
had been sojourning at Naples, then closely connected with the politics
of Spain, upon an important state mission. They had then an only son, a
youth of a wild and desultory character, whom the spirit of adventure
allured to the East. In one of those sultry lands the young Quexada was
saved from the hands of robbers by the caravanserai of a wealthy
traveller. With this stranger he contracted that intimacy which
wandering and romantic men often conceive for each other, without any
other sympathy than that of the same pursuits. Subsequently, he
discovered that his companion was of the Jewish faith; and, with the
usual prejudice of his birth and time, recoiled from the friendship he
had solicited, and shrank from the sense of the obligation he had
incurred he—quitted his companion. Wearied, at length, with travel, he
was journeying homeward, when he was seized with a sudden and virulent
fever, mistaken for plague: all fled from the contagion of the supposed
pestilence—he was left to die. One man discovered his condition—
watched, tended, and, skilled in the deeper secrets of the healing art,
restored him to life and health: it was the same Jew who had preserved
him from the robbers. At this second and more inestimable obligation the
prejudices of the Spaniard vanished: he formed a deep and grateful
attachment for his preserver; they lived together for some time, and the
Israelite finally accompanied the young Quexada to Naples. Inez retained
a lively sense of the service rendered to her only son, and the
impression had been increased not only by the appearance of the
Israelite, which, dignified and stately, bore no likeness to the cringing
servility of his brethren, but also by the singular beauty and gentle
deportment of his then newly-wed bride, whom he had wooed and won in that
holy land, sacred equally to the faith of Christian and of Jew. The
young Quexada did not long survive his return: his constitution was
broken by long travel, and the debility that followed his fierce disease.
On his deathbed he had besought the mother whom he left childless, and
whose Catholic prejudices were less stubborn than those of his sire,
never to forget the services a Jew had conferred upon him; to make the
sole recompense in her power—the sole recompense the Jew himself had
demanded—and to lose no occasion to soothe or mitigate the miseries to
which the bigotry of the time often exposed the oppressed race of his
deliverer. Donna Inez had faithfully kept the promise she gave to the
last scion of her house; and, through the power and reputation of her
husband and her own connections, and still more through an early
friendship with the queen, she had, on her return to Spain, been enabled
to ward off many a persecution, and many a charge on false pretences, to
which the wealth of some son of Israel made the cause, while his faith
made the pretext. Yet, with all the natural feelings of a rigid
Catholic, she had earnestly sought to render the favor she had thus
obtained amongst the Jews minister to her pious zeal for their more than
temporal welfare. She had endeavored, by gentle means, to make the
conversions which force was impotent to effect; and, in some instances,
her success had been signal. The good senora had thus obtained high
renown for sanctity; and Isabel thought rightly that she could not select
a protectress for Leila who would more kindly shelter her youth, or more
strenuously labor for her salvation. It was, indeed, a dangerous
situation for the adherence of the maiden to that faith which it had cost
her fiery father so many sacrifices to preserve and to advance.

It was by little and little that Donna Inez sought rather to undermine
than to storm the mental fortress she hoped to man with spiritual allies;
and, in her frequent conversation with Leila, she was at once perplexed
and astonished by the simple and sublime nature of the belief upon which
she waged war. For whether it was that, in his desire to preserve Leila
as much as possible from contact even with Jews themselves, whose general
character (vitiated by the oppression which engendered meanness, and the
extortion which fostered avarice) Almamen regarded with lofty though
concealed repugnance; or whether it was, that his philosophy did not
interpret the Jewish formula of belief in the same spirit as the herd,—
the religion inculcated in the breast of Leila was different from that
which Inez had ever before encountered amongst her proselytes. It was
less mundane and material—a kind of passionate rather than metaphysical
theism, which invested the great ONE, indeed, with many human sympathies
and attributes, but still left Him the August and awful God of the
Genesis, the Father of a Universe though the individual Protector of a
fallen sect. Her attention had been less directed to whatever appears,
to a superficial gaze, stern and inexorable in the character of the
Hebrew God, and which the religion of Christ so beautifully softened and
so majestically refined, than to those passages in which His love watched
over a chosen people, and His forbearance bore with their transgressions.
Her reason had been worked upon to its belief by that mysterious and
solemn agency, by which—when the whole world beside was bowed to the
worship of innumerable deities, and the adoration of graven images,—in a
small and secluded portion of earth, amongst a people far less civilised
and philosophical than many by which they were surrounded, had been alone
preserved a pure and sublime theism, disdaining a likeness in the things
of heaven or earth. Leila knew little of the more narrow and exclusive
tenets of her brethren; a Jewess in name, she was rather a deist in
belief; a deist of such a creed as Athenian schools might have taught to
the imaginative pupils of Plato, save only that too dark a shadow had
been cast over the hopes of another world. Without the absolute denial
of the Sadducee, Almamen had, probably, much of the quiet scepticism
which belonged to many sects of the early Jews, and which still clings
round the wisdom of the wisest who reject the doctrine of Revelation; and
while he had not sought to eradicate from the breast of his daughter any
of the vague desire which points to a Hereafter, he had never, at least,
directed her thoughts or aspirations to that solemn future. Nor in the
sacred book which was given to her survey, and which so rigidly upheld
the unity of the Supreme Power, was there that positive and unequivocal
assurance of life beyond “the grave where all things are forgotten,” that
might supply the deficiencies of her mortal instructor. Perhaps, sharing
those notions of the different value of the sexes, prevalent, from the
remotest period, in his beloved and ancestral East, Almamen might have
hopes for himself which did not extend to his child. And thus she grew
up, with all the beautiful faculties of the soul cherished and unfolded,
without thought, without more than dim and shadowy conjectures, of the
Eternal Bourne to which the sorrowing pilgrim of the earth is bound. It
was on this point that the quick eye of Donna Inez discovered her faith
was vulnerable: who would not, if belief were voluntary, believe in the
world to come? Leila’s curiosity and interest were aroused: she
willingly listened to her new guide—she willingly inclined to
conclusions pressed upon her, not with menace, but persuasion. Free from
the stubborn associations, the sectarian prejudices, and unversed in the
peculiar traditions and accounts of the learned of her race, she found
nothing to shock her in the volume which seemed but a continuation of the
elder writings of her faith. The sufferings of the Messiah, His sublime
purity, His meek forgiveness, spoke to her woman’s heart; His doctrines
elevated, while they charmed, her reason: and in the Heaven that a Divine
hand opened to all,—the humble as the proud, the oppressed as the
oppressor, to the woman as to the lords of the earth,—she found a haven
for all the doubts she had known, and for the despair which of late had
darkened the face of earth. Her home lost, the deep and beautiful love
of her youth blighted,—that was a creed almost irresistible which told
her that grief was but for a day, that happiness was eternal. Far, too,
from revolting such of the Hebrew pride of association as she had formed,
the birth of the Messiah in the land of the Israelites seemed to
consummate their peculiar triumph as the Elected of Jehovah. And while
she mourned for the Jews who persecuted the Saviour, she gloried in those
whose belief had carried the name and worship of the descendants of David
over the furthest regions of the world. Often she perplexed and startled
the worthy Inez by exclaiming, “This, your belief, is the same as mine,
adding only the assurance of immortal life—Christianity is but the
Revelation of Judaism.”

The wise and gentle instrument of Leila’s conversion did not, however,
give vent to those more Catholic sentiments which might have scared away
the wings of the descending dove. She forbore too vehemently to point
out the distinctions of the several creeds, and rather suffered them to
melt insensibly one into the other: Leila was a Christian, while she
still believed herself a Jewess. But in the fond and lovely weakness of
mortal emotions, there was one bitter thought that often and often came
to mar the peace that otherwise would have settled on her soul. That
father, the sole softener of whose stern heart and mysterious fates she
was, with what pangs would he receive the news of her conversion! And
Muza, that bright and hero-vision of her youth—was she not setting the
last seal of separation upon all hope of union with the idol of the
Moors? But, alas! was she not already separated from him, and had not
their faiths been from the first at variance? From these thoughts she
started with sighs and tears; and before her stood the crucifix already
admitted into her chamber, and—not, perhaps, too wisely—banished so
rigidly from the oratories of the Huguenot. For the representation of
that Divine resignation, that mortal agony, that miraculous sacrifice,
what eloquence it hath for our sorrows! what preaching hath the symbol
to the vanities of our wishes, to the yearnings of our discontent!

By degrees, as her new faith grew confirmed, Leila now inclined herself

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