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Grace Aguilar
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 282 pages of information about The Vale of Cedars.
prompt obedience, and in exerting themselves in their several spheres, to second the sovereign’s will.  The chivalric qualities of Ferdinand, his undoubted wisdom and unwavering firmness, excited both love and fear; while devotion itself is not too strong a term to express the national feeling entertained toward Isabella.  Her sweet, womanly gentleness, blended as it was with the dignity of the sovereign; her ready sympathy in all that concerned her people—­for the lowest of her subjects; doing justice, even if it were the proud noble who injured, and the serf that suffered—­all was so strange, yet fraught with such national repose, that her influence every year increased; while every emotion of chivalry found exercise, and yet rest in the heart of the aristocracy for their Queen; her simple word would be obeyed, on the instant, by men who would have paused, and weighed, and reasoned, if any other—­even Ferdinand himself—­had spoken.  Isabella knew her power; and if ever sovereign used it for the good, the happiness of her people, that proud glory was her own.

In spite of the miserable condition of the people during the civil struggles, the wealth of Spain had not decreased.  It was protected and increased by a class of people whose low and despised estate was, probably, their safeguard—­these were the Jews, who for many centuries had, both publicly and secretly, resided in Spain.  There were many classes of this people in the land, scattered alike over Castile, Leon, Arragon, Navarre, and also in the Moorish territories; some there were confined to the mystic learning and profound studies of the schools, whence they sent many deeply learned men to other countries, where their worth and wisdom gained them yet greater regard than they received in Spain:  others were low and degraded in outward seeming, yet literally holding and guiding the financial and commercial interests of the kingdom;—­whose position was of the lowest—­scorned and hated by the very people who yet employed them, and exposed to insult from every class; the third, and by far the largest body of Spanish Jews, were those who, Israelites in secret, were so completely Catholic in seeming, that the court, the camp, the council, even the monasteries themselves, counted them amongst them.  And this had been the case for years—­we should say for centuries—­and yet so inviolable was the faith pledged to each other, so awful the dangers around them, were even suspicion excited, that the fatal secret never transpired; offices of state, as well as distinctions of honor, were frequently conferred on men who, had their faith or race been suspected, would have been regarded as the scum of the earth, and sentenced to torture and death, for daring to pass for what they were not.  At the period of which we write, the fatal enemy to the secret Jews of more modern times, known as the Holy Office, did not exist; but a secret and terrible tribunal there was, whose power and extent were unknown to the Sovereigns of the land.

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