about two years the first time, a few weeks the second.
A most dramatic scene, and probably almost successful, had but the Bishop only reckoned with two things: Firstly, he had forgotten that the Governor was an old Indian fighter, and ready for surprises; and, secondly, he had not taken into account the usual apathy of the common people when their leaders fight. Dumbly and quite unmoved the people stood, staring like armadillos at a snake, and made no sign. Then word was brought that the Governor had left the church and was assembling a force of arquebusiers.
Surrounded only by clergymen, Don Bernardino had to yield, and yielded like a Levite, with a subterfuge. He sent a priest to beg the magistrates to come to the Cathedral and reason with him. After a consultation this was done, and Cardenas consented to abate his fury and exhale his wrath. He said that Holy Writ itself gave leave to recur to force in self-defence (but did not quote the text), and that the Governor had meditated a like enterprise against himself; moreover, that, he being an excommunicated man, it became lawful for God's vicegerent to lay hold on him.
After the scene was over, and the Bishop was escorted back to his palace by the magistrates, a second letter came from Tucuman making plain his conduct to him after the manner of a friend. The rector of the Jesuits also thought fit to remonstrate, and say that Cardenas had gone too far in attempting to assume the temporal power. This sufficed to further strain the relations between the Bishop and the Jesuits.
As, even in Asuncion in 1643, it was unusual that the Governor should remain for ever under the ban of Holy Mother Church, arbiters were chosen to discuss the matter, and provide means whereby the Bishop could conveniently climb down. The arbiters absolved the Governor on the condition that he paid a fine of four thousand arrobas* of `yerba mate', which in money amounted to eight thousand crowns. Quite naturally, the Bishop refused to abide by the decision, replaced his adversary under the ban, and recommenced to preach against him with considerable force.
-- * The arroba is about twenty-five pounds weight. --
The higgling of the market not having proved effectual in the adjustment of the sum to be paid by the Governor, a priest, one Juan Lozano, who had been condemned to imprisonment by his superiors for his loose life, and who had taken refuge with the Bishop, hit on a stroke of veritable genius. At a conference which took place between the Bishop and several notables of the place, including the rector of the Jesuits, Lozano gave it as his opinion that, if the Governor refused to pay, a general interdict should be proclaimed. The rector of the Jesuits retired indignantly, and `Pe\re Lozano, retroussant sa robe le poursuivit en criant a\ pleine te^te, et s'exprimant en des termes peu seans a\ sa profession.'* By this time Asuncion must have been like a madhouse, for no one seems to have been astonished, or even to have thought his conduct singular. The Bishop, always ready to take the worst advice, got ready for his task, and on Easter Eve embarked upon the river, leaving his Vicar-General under orders to proclaim the general ban. This was done, and the edict so contrived as to catch the luckless Governor in every church. The practical effect was to close all the churches, for to whatever church the Governor went the priest refused to celebrate the Mass. Several other persons were mentioned in the ban, which was posted up below a crucifix in the choir of the Cathedral. As Don Bernardino had omitted to state the particular offences for which they were condemned, the general confusion became intense, and no one attended Mass, so that the churches were deserted. After a little some of the churches opened in a clandestine manner, others remained closed, and the followers of the Bishop and the Governor alternately assembled in a rabble, and threw stones at all the churches, dispensing their favours quite impartially. The various religious Orders, not to be behindhand, also took sides, the Jesuits giving as their opinion that the Governor, not having a war upon his back, was really excommunicated; the Dominicans holding that the Bishop, in the general interest, ought to absolve him. He, armed with the opinion of the latter Order, marched to the dwelling of the Bishop's Vicar-General, and, having nailed up both doors and windows, sent a trumpeter to tell him he should not leave his house till absolution had been granted. Still nothing came of it, and then the Governor did what he should have done at first: he sent a statement of the whole proceedings to the high court at Charcas. This high court (Audiencia) was situated right in the middle of what is now Bolivia, miles away from Lima, half a world from Paraguay, at least two thousand miles from Buenos Ayres, and separated from Chile by the whole Cordillera of the Andes. Even to-day the journey from Paraguay often exceeds a month.
The Bishop, not to be outdone, also prepared a statement, in which he accused his adversary of all the crimes that he could think of, and confirmed his statement with an oath. The chapter, thinking things were in an impossible condition, besought that the fine laid on the excommunicated folk should be raised or lessened, as it appeared to them there was not money in the town to satisfy it. Cardenas refused, and thus four months elapsed. Soon after this arrived one Father Truxillo, of the Order of St. Francis, who came from Tucuman as Vice-Provincial. Cardenas, thinking, as they were both Franciscans, that Truxillo must needs be favourable to his cause, made him his Vicar-General, with power to bind and to unloose -- that is, to free the excommunicated folk from all their disabilities if, on examination, it seemed good to him. Truxillo, who was quite unbiassed as to matters in Asuncion, looked into everything, and declared the Governor and everybody ought to be absolved. He further gave it as his opinion that, the affair having gone to the high court at Charcas, he could do nothing but give an interim decree. Don Bernardino heard the news at Itati, an Indian village a few miles outside Asuncion. From thence he went to a somewhat larger village called Yaguaron, and shut himself up in a convent, after declaring everyone (except the superior clergy) under the severest censure of the Church if they should dare approach. Not a bad place for prayer and meditation is Yaguaron. A score or two of little houses, built of straw and wood and thatched with palm-leaves, straggle on the hillside above the shores of a great camalote-covered* lake. Parrots scream noisily amongst the trees, and red macaws hover like hawks over the little patches of maize and mandioca planted amongst the palms. Round every house is set a grove of orange-trees, mingled with lemons, sweet limes, and guayabas. Inside the houses all is so clean that you could eat from any floor with less repulsion than from the plates at a first-class hotel. A place where life slips on as listless and luxuriant as the growth of a banana, and where at evening time, when the women of the place go to fetch water in a long line with earthen jars balanced upon their heads, the golden age seems less improbable even than in Theocritus. To Yaguaron the higher clergy flocked to intercede for the good people of Asuncion, all except Father Truxillo, who, knowing something of his Bishop, did not go. That he was wise, events proved shortly. Two canons -- Diego Ponce de Leon and Fernando Sanchez -- he imprisoned in their rooms, calling them traitors to their Bishop and their Church. Deputations came from the capital to beg for their release, but all in vain. The Bishop answered them that he had set his mind to purge his diocese of traitors; and the two canons remained in prison. After a detention which lasted forty days, they escaped and fled to Corrientes, which must have looked upon Asuncion as a vast madhouse. Truxillo, who seems to have been a man not quite so absolutely devoid of sense as the other clergy, endeavoured to organize a religious `coup d'etat'; but, most unfortunately, a letter he had written to some of the saner clergy fell into the Bishop's hands. Excommunications now positively rained upon the land. The Governor, the Jesuits, the Dominicans, each had their turn; but, curiously enough, the poorer people still stood firm to Cardenas, thinking, no doubt, a man who treated all the richer sort so harshly must do something for the poor. Nothing, however, was further from the thoughts of Cardenas, who thought the whole world circled round himself. The Bishop's nephew having returned to Corrientes and his former naughty life, Don Bernardino, casting about for another secretary, came on one Francisco Nieto, an apostate from the Order of St. Francis, and living openly with an Indian woman, by whom he had a son. Him the Bishop made his chaplain, then his confessor; and poor Nieto found himself obliged to send his Indian wife away in spite of all his protests and his wish to live obscurely as he had been living before his elevation to the post of secretary. A veritable beachcomber Father Francisco Nieto seems to have been, and the type of many a European in Paraguay, who asks no better than to forget the tedium of our modern life and pass his days in a little palm-thatched hut lost in a clearing of a wood or near some lake.
-- * Camalote is a species of water-lily which forms a thick covering on stagnant rivers and lakes in Paraguay and in the Argentine Republic. --
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