of the authors and the events of the corresponding period.
Finding that he had failed with the University of Cordova, Don Bernardino took his way to Santa Fe, from whence he wrote an insulting letter to the poor rector. The letter was conceived in such outrageous terms that the Bishop of Tucuman wrote in expostulation, saying he expected to see something extraordinary happen in Paraguay if he gave way to such excess of passion.
Don Bernardino's usual luck attended him in Santa Fe. This town then formed part of the diocese of Buenos Ayres, though situated about four hundred miles from the metropolis. It happened that the see of Buenos Ayres was vacant, and the chapter of the cathedral invited Cardenas to visit that portion of the diocese through which he had to pass. Cardenas was, of course, delighted to show his talents for preaching, as he had done before in Charcas and in Potosi. When he arrived at Corrientes the enthusiasm for his holiness and talents was extraordinary. In Corrientes, Don Bernardino seems to have felt, for the first time, his calling and election really sure. At the time he landed (1642) the land was sunk in ignorance and superstition. Even to-day in Corrientes (the city of the seven currents), situated just at the junction of the rivers Parana and Paraguay, close to the celebrated missions of the Jesuits, the inhabitants, living in a country almost tropical, are half Indians in type.
What Corrientes looked like in Don Bernardino's time is matter of conjecture. Perhaps it was not greatly different from some remote Spanish-American frontier towns some five-and-twenty years ago, save for the groups of Spanish soldiery, with their steel morions, trunk hose and heavy arquebuses lounging about, and in the matter of the scarcity of horses in the streets. No doubt the self-same listless air hung over everything, and in the place of the modern blue and white barred flags with a rising sun or cap of liberty stuck like a trade-mark in the corner, the blood and orange Spanish colours with the quarterings of castles and of lions flapped heavily against the flagstaff of the fort. The Indian women dressed all in white, their hair cut square across the forehead and hanging down their backs, sat with their baskets of fruit and flowers in the market-place. The town, as now, built chiefly of adobes, with a few wooden huts dotted about, was semi-oriental in design. On every church were cupolas after the eastern fashion, flat roofs on every house, and everything shone dazzling white against the dark, metallic-looking foliage of the trees. The streets, as now, were sandy water-courses, crossed here and there with traverses of rough-hewn stone to break the force of the water in the season of the rains.
At night the fireflies glistened amongst the heavy leaves of the mamayes and the orange-trees, whilst from the Chaco rose the mysterious voices of the desert night, and from the outskirts of the town the wailing Indian Jarabis and Cielitos sung in a high falsetto key to the tinkling of a cracked guitar, but broken now and then by the sharp warning cry `Alerta centinela!' of the soldiers on the walls. Could one have landed there, one would have felt much as a sailor feels, dropped on the beach of Eromango or on some yet unbemissionaried island of the Paumotus Group.
Embarking from Corrientes up the river Paraguay, the Bishop met two vessels sent from Asuncion to do him honour. When night approached he put in practice one of the manoeuvres which in Peru had stood him in good stead. On every side a swarm of launches and canoes accompanied the ship to see the Bishop, whom already many believed a saint. He asked them all to retire a little from his ship. All did so but the guard of honour sent from Asuncion. Towards the middle of the night the sound of scourging wakened them. It was their Bishop trying to prepare himself for the duties that awaited him. Every succeeding night the same thing happened. During the day he celebrated Mass pontifically upon the deck. Voyages upon the river Paraguay before the days of steamers took a considerable time, especially as every night the custom was to anchor or to make fast the vessel to a tree. Soon the rumour reached Asuncion that a second St. Thomas was on his way to visit them. St. Thomas, as is said, once visited Paraguay, and a cave in the vicinity of a town called Paraguari, where he once lived, exists to-day to prove the passage of the saint.
Fate seemed determined that the Bishop should always meet the Jesuits, no matter where he went.
Becoming weary of the slow progress of the ships, he disembarked four leagues below Asuncion, at a farm belonging to the Company. He managed to dissemble his resentment so perfectly that no one knew he had a grudge against them. Arrived at the capital, he went at once to the church of San Blas, then to the Cathedral, where he celebrated Mass and preached, his mitre on his head. After service he dismissed the people to their homes to dine, saying, however, that he himself was nourished by an invisible food and by a beverage which men could not perceive. `My food' (he said) `is but to do the work and will of Him who sent me.' Therefore he remained in prayer and meditation until vespers, and that office finished, he retired to the palace accompanied by a shouting crowd.
In his position his conduct was most adroit, for, as his Bulls had not arrived, he must have known he had no legal status, and that, in default of that, he had to conquer public sympathy. The chapter never doubted that Don Bernardino would place himself entirely in their hands as his Bulls had not arrived. He, however, seems to have thought that the act of celebrating Mass pontifically in the Cathedral had put him in possession of his powers. So he named one Cristobal Sanchez as his Vicar-General. Two of the members of the chapter, Don Diego Ponce de Leon and Don Fernando Sanchez, remonstrated, but a considerable portion of the chapter sided with Cardenas. The stronger party left the Cathedral and celebrated Mass in the church belonging to the Jesuits, thus giving Cardenas a second cause of offence against the Company.
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