1 THE SECRET SYNAGOGUE.
Ik the year which brought Menasseh ben Israel to England, on his memorable mission to Oliver Cromwell, there stood in Cree Church Lane, Leadenhall Street, a large and mysterious-looking gabled house, which differed from its fellows chiefly in the respect that the local gossips could make neither head nor tail of it. Its tenant and owner, one Moses Athias, was understood to be a clerk employed by a rich Spanish merchant and ship-owner, Don Antonio Fernandez de Carvajal, whose mansion almost faced the top of the lane ; but his dignified bearing and the marked respect paid to him by many of the foreign merchants, including Carvajal himself, seemed hardly consistent with this theory. Over a glass of canary in the Jeames Tavern hard by, garrulous busy-bodies would ask one another what use old Athias could have for so large a house, with its basements so strongly barred and its upper windows so impenetrably curtained ; and strange tales would sometimes be told of papistical mysteries enacted within its walls by the swarthy strangers and their mincing and bejewelled spouses who nocked thither at frequent but regular intervals. Muffled melodies and nasal recitatives were heard in the still morning air proceeding from the upper stories, and occasionally a newly arrived Dutchman or Italian?for the parish of St. Catherine was a foreign colony?would stop and listen to them, wondering where those uncanny sounds had saluted his ears before. Sometimes a gleam of angry intelligence would light up the listener's eyes, and hurriedly making a sign of the cross or growling out a malediction on the " accursed spawn of Jews," he would hasten on his way.
As a rule, however, the residents tempered their curiosity with a large infusion of tolerance. In any other district of London, Moses Athias's house would probably haye been indicted under the Bloody Statute or some other of the pious enactments for putting down seditious sectaries with which the Constitution had been thought? fully armed ; but the parish of St. Catherine had been from time immemorial a sanctuary for aliens and heretics, and a place of privilege for unfrocked priests, apostates from Christianity and even converts to Judaism.1 Consequently, however much the residents may have been scandalised by the mysterious heresy which Moses Athias was supposed to countenance, it was not in their interest to give audible expression to their indignation. Moreover, there was an impression in the locality that it was not quite safe to molest the strangers who frequented the Cree Church Lane conventicle. Don Antonio Carvajal was known to be hand in glove with the Secretary of State, and once when Will Sherman thought to turn an honest penny by denouncing him and his friends as recusants he?the pious Will?was summoned before the House of Lords and roundly upbraided for his pains.2 Some, too, kept their opinions to themselves from motives of personal prudence. Carvajal, for all his grizzled beard, had a fiery temper, and was no 'prentice hand with