The Christ of Toro

The Christ of Toro

By

Mrs. Cunninghame Graham

            I


            The Prediction


VERY many centuries ago, when monastic life was as much a
life of the people as any other life, a man resolved to enter a
certain monastery in a small town of Castille. He had in his
time been many things. The son of a wealthy merchant, he had
spent much of his youth in Flanders, where he went at his
father's bidding to purchase merchandise and to sell it. Instead
of devoting himself to the mysteries of trade, he learnt those or
painting from the most famous masters of the Low Countries.
His father dead, his father's fame as one of the greatest merchants
of the day kept his credit going for some time, but at last he fell
into difficulties. Menaced with ruin, he became a soldier, and
fought under Ferdinand and Isabella before the walls of Granada.
His bravery procured him no reward, and he retired from the
wars and married. For a few years he was happy—at least he
knew he had been so when he knelt for the last time beside his
wife's bier. And then he bethought himself of this monastery
that he had once seen casually on a summer's day. There he

might

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 57

might find rest ; there end the turmoil of an unlucky and dis-
appointed life. He saw the quiet cloisters flooded with sunlight
looking out into the greenery of the monastery garden. He
heard the splashing of the drops from the fountain fall peacefully
on the hot silence. Nay, he even smelt the powerful scent of the
great myrtle bushes whose shadows fell blue and cool athwart the
burning alleys.

His servants' tears fell fast as he distributed amongst them the
last fragments of his once immense fortune ; they fell faster when
they saw the solitary figure disappearing over the ridge of the
sandy path, for, although they knew not of his resolution, they
felt that they should see his face no more.

But we cannot escape from ourselves, even in the cloister.
There he felt the fires of an ambition that untoward circumstances
had chilled in his youth. The longing to leave some tangible
record of a life that he knew had been useless, fell upon him and
consumed him. He opened his mind to the prior. The prior
was a man of the world (there have always been such in the
cloister), and knew the workings of the human heart.

The monks began to whisper to each other that Brother
Sebastian was changed. Sometimes, at vespers, one or other
would look at him and note that his eyes had lost their
melancholy, and were as bright as stars. Then it got rumoured
about amongst them that he was painting a picture.

The monastery is, and especially a mediaeval one, full or
schisms and cabals. In it the rigour of the ultra-pietists who
stormed heaven by fire and sword, and whose hearts were shut to
all kindliness and charity, was to be found side by side with mild
and gentle spirits, who, through the gift of tears and ecstatic
revery, caught sight of the mystic and universal Bond of Love,
which, linked together in one common union, Nature, animal,

and

58 The Christ of Toro

and sinner. To them all things palpitated in a Divine Mist of
Benignity and Tenderness—the terrorist and the rigorist on the
one hand ; on the other, serenity, charity, and compassion.

Now there was a certain Brother Matthias in this convent—
the hardest, bitterest zealot in the community, whom even his
own partisans looked at with dread. Of his birth little was
known, for all are equal in Religion, but the knotted joints of
his hairy hands, the hair which bristled black against his low
furrowed brow, were those of a peasant. No arm so strong or
merciless as his to wield the discipline on recalcitrant shoulders
(neither, it is fair to state, did he spare his own). The more
Blood the more Religion ; the more Blood the more Heaven.
He practised austerely all the theological virtues as far as his
lights and his mental capacity permitted, and it was as hard and
as stubborn as the clods which he had ploughed in his youth. He
did not despise, but bitterly loathed, all books or learning as the
works and lures of Satan. If he had had his will he would have
burnt the convent library long ago in the big cloister, all except
the Breviary and the offices therein contained. The liberal
Arts, and those who practised or had any skill in them, he would
fain have banished from the convent. The flowers even that
grew in the friars' garden he neither smelt nor looked at. They
were beautiful, and Sin lurked in the heart of the rose, and all the
pleasures of the senses, and all the harmonies of sound. It was a
small, black, narrow world that mind of his, heaped up with the
impenetrable shadows of Ignorance, Intolerance, Contempt, and
Fear.

"Better he went and dug in the vineyard," he would mutter
sourly, when he saw some studious Brother absorbed in a black-
letter Tome of Latinity in the monastery library. Once when
Fray Blas the sculptor had finished one of his elaborate crucifixes

of

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 59

or ivory, he had watched his opportunity and, seizing it un-
perceived in his brawny hand, waited until nightfall and threw it
into the convent well with the words, "Vade Retro ! Satanas !"

One day, as he passed through the corridor into which opened
Sebastian's cell, his steps were arrested by the murmur or voices
which floated through the half-open door. He leaned against the
Gothic bay of the marble pillars that looked into the cloister
below, uncertain whether to go or stay. The hot sunlight filled
the dusky corridor with a drowsy sense of sleep and stillness.
The swallows flitted about the eaves, chirping as they wheeled
hither and thither with a throbbing murmur of content. The
roses climbed into the bay, lighting up the dusky corridors with
sprays of crimson ; they brushed against his habit. He beat
them off contemptuously. The eavesdropper could see nothing,
hear nothing, but what was framed in, or came through, that
half-open door.

Suddenly the two friars, the Prior and Fray Sebastian, were
startled by a tall figure framed suddenly in the doorway.
Blocking the light, it loomed on them like the gigantic and
menacing image of Elijah on the painted retablo of the High
Altar. Its face was livid. From underneath the black bushy
brows the eyes burned like coals of fire. The figure shook and
the hands twitched for a moment of speechless, unutterable
indignation. In that moment Sebastian turned, and placed
the canvas, which stood in the middle of the cell, with its
face against the wall, and the two men quietly faced their
antagonist.

Fray Matthias strode forward, as if to strike them.

"By Him that cursed the money-changers in the temple," he
thundered, "what abomination is this ye have brewing in the
House of the Lord ? What new-fangled devilries are here ? This

is

60 The Christ of Toro

is fasting, this is discipline, this is the prayer without ceasing ye
came here to perform. One holy monk daubing colours on a bit
of rag, and this reverend father, who should be the pattern and
exemplar of his community, aiding and abetting him !"

"Silence !" the Prior said. The one word was not ungently
spoken, but it was that of a man accustomed to command and to
be obeyed, and imposed on the coarse-grained peasant before him ;
nay, even left his burst of prophetic ire trembling on his tongue
unspoken. The Prior had drawn his slender figure up to its full
height ; a spot of red tinged his cheeks, as with quiet composure
he faced his aggressor. Never before had Matthias seen him as
lie was now, for he had always despised him for a timid, delicate,
effeminate soul, scarce fit to rule the turbulent world of the
convent. For a brief moment the Prior of Toro became again
that Count of Trevino who had led the troops of his noble house
to victory on more than one occasion, and whose gallant doings
even then were not quite forgotten in the court and world of
Spain. The habitual respect of the lowly-born for a man of
higher station and finer fibre asserted itself. He stood before his
Prior pale and downcast, like a frightened hound.

"Listen," the prior continued. "Oh you, my brother, of little
charity. What you call zeal, I call malice. To you has been given
your talent. It led you to these convent walls. Develop it. To
this, my brother, and your brother, although you seem to know it
not, has been entrusted another talent. Who are you, to declaim
against the gifts of God ? There are talents, ay ! and even virtues,
that neither fructify to the owner nor to the world. Will you
have saved other men from sin or helped the sinner by your
flagellations and your fastings ? He who has so little kindness in
his heart, I fear me, would do neither. Yea, he would scarce save
them if he could. Nay, brother," he added softly, "I doubt me

if

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 61

if ye would have done what He did." Moving swiftly to the wall,
he turned the picture full on the gaze of the astounded brother.
"Behold Love !"


It was a marvellous picture, fresh and living from the brain of
its creator. Every speck of colour had been placed on with a hand
sure of its power. Christ nailed to the cross ; His hands and feet
seemed to palpitate as if still imbued with some mysterious vestiges
of life. The drops of blood which fell slowly down might have
been blood indeed. But it was in the face—not in the vivid
realism of the final scene of the tremendous drama—that the
beauty lay. One doubted if it did not retain some strange element
of life, some hidden vitality, rather felt than actually perceived,
under the pallid flesh. As the light flickered over them, one would
have said that the eyelids had not yet lost their power of con-
tractability, as if at any moment one would find them wide open
under the shadow of the brow ; the mouth seemed still fresh with
ghostly pleadings.

"Go, brother," said the Prior, "and meditate, and when you
have learnt to do even such as this for your brethren, then turn
the money-changers from the hallowed temple. I tell you"—
and his face grew like one inspired—"I tell you this picture shall
yet save a soul, unbind the ropes of sin, and lead a tortured one to
heaven. Perhaps when we who stand here are gone," he added
musingly. "Go, brother, and meditate."


When the picture was finished and its frame ready, the sculp-
tured wood dazzling in its fresh gold and silver, on the day of St.
Christopher, borne high amidst a procession of the monks, it was
taken and hung up before the high altar.

Whether

62 The Christ of Toro

Whether Brother Sebastian painted any more pictures ; whether
Brother Matthais learnt love and charity when they and the Prior
passed from the generations of men, the old chronicles which tell
the story omit to state, or whether they left any further record of
their lives in the convent beyond this scene which has been kept
alive by a monkish chronicler's hand.

It is even a matter of doubt what cloister slab covers the dust
of the Count of Treviño, Prior of the Augustinian monastery of
Toro, or of Sebastian Gomez, the painter, or of Fray Matthias,
the peasant's son.


But now comes the strange part of the relation, for the picture,
the miracle-working picture, is still to be seen in the monastery of
Toro. The Prior, the painter, the peasant died, but the picture
lived. For a century at least after their death it listened from its
station above the high altar to all the sounds of the monastery
church. Vespers trembled in the air before it and the roll of
midnight complines. It felt the priest's voice strike against its
surface when he sanctified the sacrifice ; the shuffle of the monks'
feet as they took their places in the choir above, the echo of their
coughs, the slamming of the doors were the familiar records of its
life. In the redness of the morning, when the friars slept after
their orisons, and the birds began to sing in the first light of dawn,
it looked on the pavement of the church suffused with the wavering
reflections of the painted windows, and watched the thin stains
advance, as the day lengthened, and then recede in the weird pallor
of the dying day. In the gloaming it watched the mysterious grey-
ness sweep towards it and envelop it as in a shroud. All night
long, as from a mirror, it gave back the red flame of the lamps
that swung before it, and yet the words of the Prior seemed no
nearer their fulfilment. And the picture mourned.

Then

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 63

Then it fell from its high estate to make place for some gilt
stucco monstrosity placed there by a blundering prior, and was
hung amidst the cobwebs of the duskiest corner of the monastery
gateway.



            II


            The Fulfilment


Now there lived in Toro, in the reign of Philip II., a certain
hidalgo—Don Juan Perez. Besides his possessions in the neigh-
bouring country, he had amassed a large fortune as oidor of his
native town. He and his wife had one son. They would that
they had none—or more ! On this son they lavished all their
love, and all their riches. None so handsome, none with so fine
an air as he in Toro. When he came back to them, a young
man of twenty fresh from the schools of Salamanca, the old people
trembled with joy at the sight of him. It was true that they had
paid his debts at cards, that they had condoned a thousand scandals,
but they had put it down to the hot blood of youth—youth was
ever thus—blood which would calm down and yet do honour to
its honourable ancestry. The lad's conduct soon dispelled any
such hopes. In a short time, it seemed to them as if he was
possessed by a very devil. All Toro rang with his misdeeds—his
midnight brawls, his drunken frolics. Don Juan and his wife
looked at each other in anguish as one story after another reached
their ears of dishonour and disgrace, of maidens seduced, and duels
after some low tavern squabble over wine and cards. Each won-
dered which would succumb the first to the sorrow that was
bringing them to the grave, and yet neither of them confessed
to the other the cause. Their happiness fled. A shadow fell

over

64 The Christ of Toro

over the house, which seemed to have been stricken by some
appalling calamity. One day the son suddenly disappeared—none
knew whither, except that he had fled—oh ! sacrilege of sacri-
lege !—with a professed nun, from the convent of the Clarisas.
His gambling debts had well-nigh exhausted his father's coffers,
but this time he had broken open his father's money chest, and
made away with all of value he could find. This time, too, he
had broken his mother's heart, and yet she died, tortured with
an unextinguishable desire to see her scapegrace son once more.
If a mother cannot condone her children's crimes, whatever they
may be, who else shall do so ? When the old hidalgo looked on
the dead face of the wife of his youth, stamped with so lasting an
expression of pain that death itself was powerless to efface it—his
soul burnt with a resentment almost as deep as the grief which
bowed him to the earth.

When at the end of a few months, a ragged, travel-stained
wayfarer reappeared at his father's house, the latter said nothing.
Without a word, without a gesture, he accepted his son's presence
at the board, as if he had never been away. A deep gulf yawned
between the two which nothing could bridge. The son was too
cynical to promise an amendment which he did not intend.
When he had appeased his hunger, and exchanged his dirty
raiments for those of a gentleman of his rank, he began his old
course of dissipation and wickedness. The old hidalgo looked on
and said nothing. He knew remonstrance was useless, but on his
death-bed he called to him his son. They were the first words
that had passed between them since the mother's death, and they
were the last.

"I have," he said, "the misfortune to call you my son. Had
your mother not been so holy as she was, I should have thought
you had been devil's spawn. To all that you have left me, you

are

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 65

are heir. In that chest in the corner are my ready money, my
bonds, mortgages and jewels. By my calculations they will last
you just six months. It matters little to me whether you spend
it all in one day or not, that is your business, not mine. I make
myself no illusions. You broke your mother's heart, you have
killed your father. I attempt no remonstrance, for, I know, it
would take another Christ to come down from the Cross to save such
as you. Still I gave you, when you were born, an old and honour-
able name and a proud lineage. To save these at all hazards from
being tarnished further than they have already been, I give and
bequeath to you this oak box. Swear to me that you will not
open it until you are in the extremest necessity, until there is no
help left to you from any living man. Nay, hardened as you are,
false to the marrow of your bones as you are, you dare not break
an oath sworn by the Body and Blood of Christ. Swear !" said
the old man, "as you hope to be saved !"

"I neither wish nor hope to be saved," said the son, "but I
will swear, and moreover, I will keep my oath. I will not open
the box until there is no hope to me in Life but Death !"


The storm swept over mediaeval Toro. The narrow street
imprisoned amidst the stern grey houses, whose shadows had shut
it in for centuries with their menacing presence and the myste-
rious records of their lives and crimes, was now a yellow turbulent
torrent, washing against the palatial gateways. The wind howled
and moaned with the sound of creaking woodwork, and eddied in
gusts through the hollow gully, rather than a street, which sepa-
rated the great, gaunt buildings. Through the thin rift, left by
the almost meeting eaves, scarce a hand-breadth across, a flash
of lightning, every now and then, broke through the lurid sky,
and zigzagged for a moment across streaming facade and running

water ;

66 The Christ of Toro

water ; followed by a gigantic and terrific peal or thunder
which shook and rolled against the heavy masonry and then died
away in faint repercussions in the distance. Then all was still
except for the battering and tearing of the rain against the walls,
as if it sought to gain an entry by force and permeate the very
stones. In heavy sullen drops it dripped from knightly helmet
and escutcheon with the monotony of a pendulum, or soaked into
the soft films of moss and tufts of grass which filled the time-worn
hollows of the sculptured granite.

The city was as one of the dead. It was no day for a Christian
to be abroad. The beggars even had sought the shelter of a roof,
and the very dogs—the half-starved curs that haunted the gutters
for garbage all day long—lay cowering and silent in the shadow of
some deep-mouthed gateway.

And on this unholy day, from one of the frowning palaces, a
man emerged, his soul riven by a tempest as deep as that which
raged around him. The great gates shut to with a clang that
shook the street, and dominated for a moment the strife of the
rain and the groaning wind. He might have been himself the
spirit of the storm, this black figure, cloaked to the eyes, which
brushed furtively against the houses, as if afraid to face the light
of day. He turned back once to take a last look at the house he
had left. That house which only a few hours before had been
his until on the stroke of midnight he had played his last stake
and lost. Even now he heard the slow clanging of the bells as
they woke the silence of the street, the knell to him of ruin. He
lived through every detail of the last hateful hours. One hope
had remained to him. His father's box ; that box he had sworn
never to open until no remedy was left in life but death. The
time had come. It could not be otherwise, but that the old man,
foreseeing this final crisis, had saved for him the means to repair

his

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 67

his fortunes, and stored up in that little chest shut in by its triple
locks of iron which bore the gilt escutcheon of his family, jewels,
bonds, censos of great value, which might save him even now.
As his footsteps resounded through the empty streets, and his
sword, clinking against the pavement, roused hollow echoes, he
had made plans for the future. He would amend his ways. He
would marry. He would eschew gambling, drink, and women.
He would have the masses said for his father's soul in the Monas-
tery of Sto Tomé, even as the old man had charged him to have
done in his will. He would dower a poor maiden in the Convent
of the Clarisas. Let him have one more chance !

He knew that in that small chest lay the sentence of his Life or
Death. Yet he opened it boldly, nor did his fingers tremble as
they struggled with the intricacies of the triple lock, nor yet did
any added pallor blanch his face when he threw back the lid and
saw a rope, a new rope coiled neatly within the small compass of
the box and tied into a noose, adjusted to the exact size of a man's
neck !

The moonbeams trembled in at the narrow window. The lamp
burnt red in the shadow of the vast space of the empty chamber.
He wondered vaguely why the moon should be as bright and the
lamp as red as yesterday. The old housekeeper was startled by his
peals of laughter. He called for wine and she brought it. He
held it up to the light, watched the moonbeams die in the bubbles
and he thought it glistened like blood. He wondered if she saw
the resemblance, and holding up the cup high above his head, he
waved it in the air :

"To the memory of my father and of his most excellent jest,"
and then forced her to drink the toast. That was only a few
hours ago.

Now he was hurrying headlong through the beating of the

tempest

68 The Christ of Toro

tempest, and he pressed his arm against the rope lying nestled at
his side as if to assure himself that it was still there. It was the
last friend he had left ; his only friend ! With it he would
seek——

"Hell !" a voice seemed to ring through his brain. Juan
Perez, brave as he was, felt a sudden chill.

The rain had penetrated the thick folds of his cloak and soaked
into his doublet, and still he urged on, pursued by Fate. Whither ?
That he knew not. Let Chance, the gambler's God, decide that.
What he had got to do was to obey his father. The time had
come, and no man can struggle against Fate, especially the Fate
he himself has made. After all it was only an unlucky throw of
the dice. He was even happy as he strode on, the gale singing in
his ears ; happier he thought than he had been for years. He
knew not—cared not where the deed was done. All he knew was
that before night closed over Toro, there would be a dead body
hanging somewhere that had once been a man. It was the
simplest and best solution—the only one possible.

As he turned a corner, a gateway standing open arrested his
attention. He entered and shook the raindrops from his hat. He
had an excellent idea, almost as good, he thought, as his father's.
He recognised the place as the locutory of the Augustinian
Friars where he had often come with his mother as a boy—never
since.

"Strange that the old fools should leave the gates open on such
a day as this !" he muttered.

He looked around. All was still. He smiled quietly. "Why
not here ? What a pleasure for the saintly hypocrites to-morrow
morning to find a dead man's body hanging from their holy walls.
Oh, my father ! you have been an excellent jester, but your son is
almost as good."

He

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 69

He looked for, and found, a nail in the whitewashed wall. He
tried it. It was firm and strong, quite able to bear the weight of
a man's body. He carefully attached the rope, and then examined
the space below with a faint smile of irony, as if he sought to fix
in his memory for ever the slightest detail of the breadth of line
which would soon be covered by himself. Now that this matter
was settled, there was no hurry, and he sat him down on the
rough bench that lined the locutory—the bench made for beggars
and suppliants and ruined men such as he. One thought gave
him intense delight. "If my father was a good jester, I am as
good !"

He sat himself down on the bench with his head between his
hands pondering over many things. It would seem that all he had
ever done, all the places he had ever seen, the faces he had kissed,
those whom he had ruined or fought with and wounded, one or
two he had killed, had joined together as if he must behold them—
see them—be tortured by them in this moment. The oath of the
man he had run his sword through rang through his brain.
Tremulous hands seemed to clutch at him from space. The wind
as it entered seemed to bring sighings, wailings, reproaches. He
saw his mother's race, and he wondered how it was he had for-
gotten to visit her grave. Then he laughed inwardly at the
scandal of the town to-morrow—he should not hear it—it would
be no morrow to him, and at the clatter of tongues his death
would arouse amongst the gossips of Toro. Death ! Well, there
hung Death ! that rope dangling across the wall. A rope and a
gurgle in the throat, that was Death. Nothing so terrible, after
all, except to fools—not to men like him of blood and valour, who
had faced and defied it every day for the last fifteen years of his
life.

Then he rose, and with bended brows leant against the gate-

post.

70 The Christ of Toro

post. In vain the torrential storm swept over the cornfields and
vineyards of Toro, obscuring them in mist. He had no need of
eyes, for he knew every league of the country ; every undulation
of the plain framed in the narrow space of the gate-posts was
burnt on his brain. He could see them without eyes, and re-
member every familiar feature. He had ridden them in the hot
sun, he had paced every weary step of them. He could have
sworn that he still smelt the dust of it in his nostrils, and saw the
magpie which had flown across the track when he returned to
Toro after his mother's death. The innate egotism that lies in us
all, making each one think himself the pivot of the world, arose
within him in an intense revolt. That the sun should rise on
the morrow and sparkle on the yellow cornfields, or that the
morrow should again waken over them soaked in rain, as if
he had never been, seemed to him unnatural, monstrous, in-
credible.

The pattering of the rain on the flagstones of the locutory, the
moaning of the wind, formed a sort of symphony to his shapeless
meditations. He turned from the door, and in the vacancy of his
mood scanned the whitewashed walls. A few old pictures of
saints—he recognised them as old acquaintances from the time he
had come there with his mother ; they burnt themselves into his
brain now. If there was some remembering faculty in man that
lived after the extinction of the body, he felt that he should know
them again through all Eternity. There was one picture, half
hidden in a dusky corner almost under the beams, that roused
his curiosity. It must have been placed there since—life still
presented problems to solve. He rose and stood before it, shading
his eyes. "A fine picture," he muttered ; "how in God's name
has it got stranded here," and he looked again—looked intensely.
There was something in it that touched him as he had never been

touched

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 71

touched since he was a boy. Why ? Because he, too, was to
suffer presently, by his own Free Will, something of the same
torture which still writhed in the pale limbs, still seemed to
quiver in the eyelids of the man before him. Something in the
image fascinated and subdued him, seized, held him, bound him
so that his feet were as if they had been riveted to the floor with
lead. A great pity, a supreme tenderness for the other man who
had also suffered, not as he was about to do, for his own sins, but
for the sins of the world, thrilled through his soul with a spasm of
pain. His mother's eyes seemed to shine down on him from the
canvas, swept away the next moment as if by a swift river. She
too had suffered for his sins. She had thought of him, the son
who had killed her, even in her death throes. Perhaps if she
had been alive, his death, if not his life, might have been
different.

And then happened what no words, colours, or sounds can
translate, for it seemed to him (it is the Chronicler who speaks)
that the dusky corner grew full of a soft radiance which suffused
itself out of and about the picture. It seemed to him too that he
heard strains of melody, now faint, now louder, which must have
come from the harps and psalteries of the angels, so far away, so
strangely sweet it floated in the atmosphere about him. It
seemed too as if the locutory was full of motion, as if invisible
figures were passing to and fro in a glad joyousness. It was as if
a gentle flapping, a noiseless beating of wings that fanned his brow
and stirred his hair, accompanied that marvellous music. And as
he still looked confounded, and as it translated, the figure in the
picture became distinct and more distinct, grew larger and still
larger until he could see neither frame nor picture, but only the
gigantic figure of the crucified looming from a celestial light—
and in the excessive radiance that enveloped him, he saw the

The Yellow Book—Vol. XIII. E

eyelids

72 The Christ of Toro

eyelids stir, the mouth open, and He, the Son of God, with
outstretched arms was gazing on him with an ineffable smile.

For what Juan Perez had taken in his frenzy to be a lifeless
picture was a living thing—with breath and motion ! A living
thing—a living man, but a man clothed with glory ! A living
man who, how he knew not, had left the Cross and was even then
moving towards him with arms extended as if he would clasp him
to his heart. Was he dreaming ? Nay, he was not dreaming.
For a touch as soft and noiseless as a flake of snow had fallen upon
his shoulder—lingered there wistfully. Eyes looked into his that
confounded his senses and bewildered his brain with their
sweetness.

And he, Juan Perez, the lawless gambler returned their
compassionate gaze, and as he did so, his soul melted.

He often wondered afterwards whether he had heard it in a
dream, or if it was only the soughing of the wind, or a voice
borne from Eternity, so faint, so diaphanous that uttered no sound,
woke no responsive echo in his brain. It might have been the
breath of the wind. It might have been the very breath of the
Holy Ghost. "Juan," it seemed to say—and it might have been
the breath of the wind—"Juan Perez, thou hast sinned
greatly, but much shall be forgiven thee. Great is my love,
deeper than a mother's. Be your sins scarlet, yet they shall be
whiter than snow ! Sin no more but live, even for My sake ! I
have waited for you—waited for years—for a century. You have
come. Go ! and sin no more !"


Fray Juan de la Misericordia de Dios is still remembered in the
annals of the Monastery of Toro. Thrice was he prior, and
when the Bishop of Salamanca preached his funeral sermon, he
described him as a man sent from God, so great the consolation

he

By Mrs. Cunninghame Graham 73

he had administered to souls, so boundless his compassion for the
poor. It was in his time that the miracle-working picture was
restored once more to its old place over the High Altar, and in
any great and poignant distress, the inhabitants of Toro to this
day betake themselves to the Good Christ of Fray Juan de la
Misericordia de Dios.





MLA citation: Graham, Mrs. Cunninghame. "The Christ of Toro." The Yellow Book 13 (April 1897): 56-73. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University. Web. [Date of access]. http://1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=YBV13_graham_christ.html