After the Dominicans walked five penitents; each with a sergeant, or Familiar, attending. Two of the five wore black mitres, three were bareheaded. All walked barefoot, clad in black sleeveless coats, and each carried a long wax candle. These had escaped the extreme sentence; and after them came one, a woman, who had escaped it also, but narrowly and as by fire. In token of this her black robe was painted over with flames, having their points turned downward. Close behind followed three men on whose san-benitos the flames pointed upward. These were being led to execution, and two of them who carried boards on their breasts, painted with dogs and serpents, were to die by fire for having professed doctrines contrary to the Faith; the third, who carried no board, was a “Relapsed,” and might look forward to the privilege of being strangled before being cast to the flame. To each of these three was assigned, in addition to the Familiar, a couple of Jesuit priests, to walk beside him and exhort him.
The man who was to be strangled came through the gateway of the Inquisition Office with his gaze bent to the ground, apparently insensible to the mob of sightseers gathered in the Square. The doomed man who followed—a mere youth, and, by his face, a Jew—stared about him fiercely and eagerly. The third was an old man, with ragged hair and beard, and a complexion bleached by long imprisonment in the dark. He halted, blinking, uncertain how to plant his steps. Then, feeling rather than seeing the sun, he stretched up both arms to it, dropping his taper, calling aloud as might a preacher, “How is it possible for people, beholding that glorious Body, to worship any Being but Him who created it!”
A Jesuit at his side flung an arm across the old man’s mouth; and as quickly the Familiar whipped out a cloth, pulled his head back, and gagged him. The young Jew had turned and was staring, still with his fierce, eager look. He was wheeled about and plucked forward.
Next through the gateway issued a troupe of Familiars on horseback, some of them nobles of the first families in Portugal; after them the Inquisitors and other Officers of the Court upon mules; last of all, amid a train of nobles, the Inquisitor-General himself on a white horse led by two grooms: his delicate hands resting on the reins, his face a pale green by reason of the sunlight falling on it through a silken scarf of that colour pendant over the brim of his immense black hat.
All this passed before Ruth’s eyes, and close, as she sat in the mule-chaise beside Sir Oliver. She would have drawn the leathern curtains, but he had put out a hand forbidding this.
She could not at any rate have escaped hearing the old man’s exclamation; for their chaise was jammed in the crowd beside the gateway. Her ears still kept the echo of his vibrant voice; almost she was persuaded that his eyes had singled her out from the crowd.