Here a low laugh escaped the Emperor’s lips.
“The political course which could be thus firmly established is to be found, you experienced regent, only in one place—the strong imagination of a high hearted woman, who desires to accomplish what she deems right. I, too, you may believe me, am opposed to this war, and, as matters stand now, the German renegades, rather than we, may expect a glorious result. But, nevertheless, it may happen that I shall be compelled to ask you to give me back my promise.”
“I should like to see the person who could compel my august brother to undertake anything against his imperial will,” the Queen passionately interrupted.
“We will hope that this superior being may not appear only too soon,” replied the Emperor, smiling bitterly. “The invincible oppressor bears the name of unexpected circumstances; I encountered one of his harbingers to-day. There lie the documents. Do you know to what those miserable papers force me, the Emperor?—ay, force, I repeat it. To nothing less, Mary, than consciously to deal a blow in the face of justice, whose defender I ought and desire to be. I am not exaggerating, for I am withdrawing a fratricide from the courts, nay, am paving the way for him to evade punishment.”
“You mean Alfonso Diaz, who had his brother murdered by a hired assassin because he abandoned the holy Church and accepted the Lutheran religion,” said the Queen sorrowfully. “Malvenda was just telling me——”
“He was the instigator of the crime,” interrupted the Emperor. “Now he rejoices in it as a deed well pleasing to God, and many thousands, I know, agree with him. And I? Had Juan Diaz been a German Johannes or Hans, the Emperor Charles would have made Alfonso expiate his crime upon the block this very day. But the brothers were Spaniards, and that alters the case.”
With this sentence, which fell from his lips in firm, resolute tones, his bearing regained its old decision, and his eyes met his sister’s with a flashing glance as he continued:
“The seed which here in the North, in carefully prepared soil and under the fostering care of men only too skilful and ready for conflict, took deep root in the domain of religion, which we were obliged to tolerate because it grew too rapidly and strongly for us to extirpate or crush it without depopulating a great empire and jeopardizing other very important matters, would mean ruin to our Spain. Whoever dared to transplant the heresy to her soil would be the most infamous of the corrupters of a nation, for the holy Church and the kingdom of Spain are one. The mere thought of a Juan Diaz, who had absorbed the heretical Lutheran doctrine here, returning home to infect the hearts of the Castilians with its venom, makes my blood boil also. Therefore, for the sake of Spain, a higher justice compels me to offend the secular one. The people beyond the Pyrenees shall learn that, even for the brother, it is no sin, but a duty, to shorten the life of the brother who abandoned the holy Church. Let Alfonso Diaz strive to obtain absolution. It will not be difficult. He can sleep calmly, so far as the judges are concerned who dispense justice in the name of Charles V.”