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Title: Melmoth the Wanderer Vol. 1 (of 4)
Author: Maturin, Charles Robert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Melmoth the Wanderer Vol. 1 (of 4)" ***

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    Transcriber’s Notes:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
    possible, including inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, and
    punctuation. Some corrections of spelling and punctuation have been
    made. They are listed at the end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.




  VOL. I.



  This Romance
  Is, by her Ladyship’s permission,
  Respectfully inscribed by


The hint of this Romance (or Tale) was taken from a passage in one of my
Sermons, which (as it is to be presumed very few have read) I shall here
take the liberty to quote. The passage is this.

    “At this moment is there one of us present, however we may have
    departed from the Lord, disobeyed his will, and disregarded his
    word--is there one of us who would, at this moment, accept all that
    man could bestow, or earth afford, to resign the hope of his
    salvation?--No, there is not one--not such a fool on earth, were the
    enemy of mankind to traverse it with the offer!”

This passage suggested the idea of “Melmoth the Wanderer.” The Reader
will find that idea developed in the following pages, with what power or
success _he_ is to decide.

The “Spaniard’s Tale” has been censured by a friend to whom I read it,
as containing too much attempt at the revivification of the horrors of
Radcliffe-Romance, of the persecutions of convents, and the terrors of
the Inquisition.

I defended myself, by trying to point out to my friend, that I had made
the misery of conventual life depend less on the startling adventures
one meets with in romances, than on that irritating series of petty
torments which constitutes the misery of life in general, and which,
amid the tideless stagnation of monastic existence, solitude gives its
inmates leisure to invent, and power combined with malignity, the full
disposition to practise. I trust this defence will operate more on the
conviction of the Reader, than it did on that of my friend.

For the rest of the Romance, there are some parts of it which I have
borrowed from real life.

The story of John Sandal and Elinor Mortimer is founded in fact.

The original from which the Wife of Walberg is imperfectly sketched is a
living woman, and _long may she live_.

I cannot again appear before the public in so unseemly a character as
that of a writer of romances, without regretting the necessity that
compels me to it. Did my profession furnish me with the means of
subsistence, I should hold myself culpable indeed in having recourse to
any other, but--am I allowed the choice?

       Dublin,      }
  31st August 1820. }



    Alive again? Then show me where he is;
    I’ll give a thousand pounds to look upon him.


In the autumn of 1816, John Melmoth, a student in Trinity College,
Dublin, quitted it to attend a dying uncle on whom his hopes for
independence chiefly rested. John was the orphan son of a younger
brother, whose small property scarce could pay John’s college expences;
but the uncle was rich, unmarried, and old; and John, from his infancy,
had been brought up to look on him with that mingled sensation of awe,
and of the wish, without the means to conciliate, (that sensation at
once attractive and repulsive), with which we regard a being who (as
nurse, domestic, and parent have tutored us to believe) holds the very
threads of our existence in his hands, and may prolong or snap them when
he pleases.

On receiving this summons, John set immediately out to attend his uncle.

The beauty of the country through which he travelled (it was the county
Wicklow) could not prevent his mind from dwelling on many painful
thoughts, some borrowed from the past, and more from the future. His
uncle’s caprice and moroseness,--the strange reports concerning the
cause of the secluded life he had led for many years,--his own dependent
state,--fell like blows fast and heavy on his mind. He roused himself to
repel them,--sat up in the mail, in which he was a solitary
passenger,--looked out on the prospect,--consulted his watch;--then he
thought they receded for a moment,--but there was nothing to fill their
place, and he was forced to invite them back for company. When the mind
is thus active in calling over invaders, no wonder the conquest is soon
completed. As the carriage drew near the Lodge, (the name of old
Melmoth’s seat), John’s heart grew heavier every moment.

The recollection of this awful uncle from infancy,--when he was never
permitted to approach him without innumerable lectures,--_not to be
troublesome_,--not to go too near his uncle,--not to ask him any
questions,--on no account to disturb the inviolable arrangement of his
snuff-box, hand-bell, and spectacles, nor to suffer the glittering of
the gold-headed cane to tempt him to the mortal sin of handling
it,--and, finally, to pilot himself aright through his perilous course
in and out of the apartment without striking against the piles of books,
globes, old newspapers, wig-blocks, tobacco-pipes, and snuff-cannisters,
not to mention certain hidden rocks of rat-traps and mouldy books
beneath the chairs,--together with the final reverential bow at the
door, which was to be closed with cautious gentleness, and the stairs to
be descended as if he were “shod with felt.”--This recollection was
carried on to his school-boy years, when at Christmas and Easter, the
ragged poney, the jest of the school, was dispatched to bring the
reluctant visitor to the Lodge,--where his pastime was to sit vis-a-vis
to his uncle, without speaking or moving, till the pair resembled Don
Raymond and the ghost of Beatrice in the Monk,--then watching him as he
picked the bones of lean mutton out of his mess of weak broth, the
latter of which he handed to his nephew with a needless caution not to
“take more than he liked,”--then hurried to bed by day-light, even in
winter, to save the expence of an inch of candle, where he lay awake and
restless from hunger, till his uncle’s retiring at eight o’clock gave
signal to the governante of the meagre household to steal up to him with
some fragments of her own scanty meal, administering between every
mouthful a whispered caution not to tell his uncle. Then his college
life, passed in an attic in the second square, uncheered by an
invitation to the country; the gloomy summer wasted in walking up and
down the deserted streets, as his uncle would not defray the expences of
his journey;--the only intimation of his existence, received in
quarterly epistles, containing, with the scanty but punctual remittance,
complaints of the expences of his education, cautions against
extravagance, and lamentations for the failure of tenants and the fall
of the value of lands. All these recollections came over him, and along
with them the remembrance of that last scene, where his dependence on
his uncle was impressed on him by the dying lips of his father.

“John, I must leave you, my poor boy; it has pleased God to take your
father from you before he could do for you what would have made this
hour less painful to him. You must look up, John, to your uncle for
every thing. He has oddities and infirmities, but you must learn to bear
with them, and with many other things too, as you will learn too soon.
And now, my poor boy, may He who is the father of the fatherless look on
your desolate state, and give you favour in the eyes of your uncle.” As
this scene rose to John’s memory, his eyes filled fast with tears, which
he hastened to wipe away as the carriage stopt to let him out at his
uncle’s gate.

He alighted, and with a change of linen in a handkerchief, (his only
travelling equipment), he approached his uncle’s gate. The lodge was in
ruins, and a barefooted boy from an adjacent cabin ran to lift on its
single hinge what had once been a gate, but was now a few planks so
villainously put together, that they clattered like a sign in a high
wind. The stubborn post of the gate, yielding at last to the united
strength of John and his barefooted assistant, grated heavily through
the mud and gravel stones, in which it left a deep and sloughy furrow,
and the entrance lay open. John, after searching his pocket in vain for
a trifle to reward his assistant, pursued his way, while the lad, on his
return, cleared the road at a hop step and jump, plunging through the
mud with all the dabbling and amphibious delight of a duck, and scarce
less proud of his agility than of his “sarving a gentleman.” As John
slowly trod the miry road which had once been the approach, he could
discover, by the dim light of an autumnal evening, signs of increasing
desolation since he had last visited the spot,--signs that penury had
been aggravated and sharpened into downright misery. There was not a
fence or a hedge round the domain: an uncemented wall of loose stones,
whose numerous gaps were filled with furze or thorns, supplied their
place. There was not a tree or shrub on the lawn; the lawn itself was
turned into pasture-ground, and a few sheep were picking their scanty
food amid the pebble-stones, thistles, and hard mould, through which a
few blades of grass made their rare and squalid appearance.

The house itself stood strongly defined even amid the darkness of the
evening sky; for there were neither wings, or offices, or shrubbery, or
tree, to shade or support it, and soften its strong harsh outline. John,
after a melancholy gaze at the grass-grown steps and boarded windows,
“addressed himself” to knock at the door; but knocker there was none:
loose stones, however, there were in plenty; and John was making
vigorous application to the door with one of them, till the furious
barking of a mastiff, who threatened at every bound to break his chain,
and whose yell and growl, accompanied by “eyes that glow and fangs that
grin,” savoured as much of hunger as of rage, made the assailant raise
the siege on the door, and betake himself to a well-known passage that
led to the kitchen. A light glimmered in the window as he approached: he
raised the latch with a doubtful hand; but, when he saw the party
within, he advanced with the step of a man no longer doubtful of his

Round a turf-fire, whose well-replenished fuel gave testimony to the
“master’s” indisposition, who would probably as soon have been placed on
the fire himself as seen the whole _kish_ emptied on it once, were
seated the old housekeeper, two or three _followers_, (_i. e._ people
who ate, drank, and lounged about in any kitchen that was open in the
neighbourhood, on an occasion of grief or joy, all for his honor’s sake,
and for the great rispict they bore the family), and an old woman, whom
John immediately recognized as the doctress of the neighbourhood,--a
withered Sybil, who prolonged her squalid existence by practising on the
fears, the ignorance, and the sufferings of beings as miserable as
herself. Among the better sort, to whom she sometimes had access by the
influence of servants, she tried the effects of some simples, her skill
in which was sometimes productive of success. Among the lower orders she
talked much of the effects of the “evil eye,” against which she boasted
a counter-spell, of unfailing efficacy; and while she spoke, she shook
her grizzled locks with such witch-like eagerness, that she never failed
to communicate to her half-terrified, half-believing audience, some
portion of that enthusiasm which, amid all her consciousness of
imposture, she herself probably felt a large share of; still, when the
case at last became desperate, when credulity itself lost all patience,
and hope and life were departing together, she urged the miserable
patient to confess “_there was something about his heart_;” and when
this confession was extorted from the weariness of pain and the
ignorance of poverty, she nodded and muttered so mysteriously, as to
convey to the bystanders, that she had had difficulties to contend with
which were invincible by human power. When there was no pretext, from
indisposition, for her visiting either “his honor’s” kitchen, or the
cottar’s hut,--when the stubborn and persevering convalescence of the
whole country threatened her with starvation,--she still had a
resource:--if there were no lives to be shortened, there were fortunes
to be told;--she worked “by spells, and by such daubry as is beyond our
element.” No one twined so well as she the mystic yarn to be dropt into
the lime-kiln pit, on the edge of which stood the shivering inquirer
into futurity, doubtful whether the answer to her question of “who
holds?” was to be uttered by the voice of demon or lover.

No one knew so well as she to find where the four streams met, in which,
on the same portentous season, the chemise was to be immersed, and then
displayed before the fire, (in the name of one whom we dare not mention
to “ears polite”), to be turned by the figure of the destined husband
before morning. No one but herself (she said) knew the hand in which the
comb was to be held, while the other was employed in conveying the apple
to the mouth,--while, during the joint operation, the shadow of the
phantom-spouse was to pass across the mirror before which it was
performed. No one was more skilful or active in removing every iron
implement from the kitchen where these ceremonies were usually performed
by the credulous and terrified dupes of her wizardry, lest, instead of
the form of a comely youth exhibiting a ring on his white finger, an
headless figure should stalk to the rack, (_Anglicè_, dresser), take
down a long spit, or, in default of that, snatch a poker from the
fire-side, and mercilessly take measure with its iron length of the
sleeper for a coffin. No one, in short, knew better how to torment or
terrify her victims into a belief of that power which may and has
reduced the strongest minds to the level of the weakest; and under the
influence of which the cultivated sceptic, Lord Lyttleton, yelled and
gnashed and writhed in his last hours, like the poor girl who, in the
belief of the horrible visitation of the vampire, shrieked aloud, that
her grandfather was sucking her vital blood while she slept, and expired
under the influence of imaginary horror. Such was the being to whom old
Melmoth had committed his life, half from credulity, and (_Hibernicè_
speaking) _more than half_ from avarice. Among this groupe John
advanced,--recognising some,--disliking more,--distrusting all. The old
housekeeper received him with cordiality;--he was always her
“whiteheaded boy,” she said,--(_imprimis_, his hair was as black as
jet), and she tried to lift her withered hand to his head with an action
between a benediction and a caress, till the difficulty of the attempt
forced on her the conviction that that head was fourteen inches higher
than her reach since she had last patted it. The men, with the national
deference of the Irish to a person of superior rank, all rose at his
approach, (their stools chattering on the broken flags) and wished his
honor “a thousand years and long life to the back of that; and would not
his honor take something to keep the grief out of his heart;” and so
saying, five or six red and bony hands tendered him glasses of whiskey
all at once. All this time the Sybil sat silent in the ample
chimney-corner, sending redoubled whiffs out of her pipe. John gently
declined the offer of spirits, received the attentions of the old
housekeeper cordially, looked askance at the withered crone who occupied
the chimney corner, and then glanced at the table, which displayed other
cheer than he had been accustomed to see in his “honor’s time.” There
was a wooden dish of potatoes, which old Melmoth would have considered
enough for a week’s subsistence. There was the salted salmon, (a luxury
unknown even in London. _Vide_ Miss Edgeworth’s Tales, “The Absentee”).

There was the _slink-veal_, flanked with tripe; and, finally, there were
lobsters and _fried_ turbot enough to justify what the author of the
tale asserts, “suo periculo,” that when his great grandfather, the Dean
of Killala, hired servants at the deanery, they stipulated that they
should not be required to eat turbot or lobster more than twice a-week.
There were also bottles of Wicklow ale, long and surreptitiously
borrowed from his “honor’s” cellar, and which now made their first
appearance on the kitchen hearth, and manifested their impatience of
further constraint, by hissing, spitting, and bouncing in the face of
the fire that provoked its animosity. But the whiskey (genuine
illegitimate potsheen, smelling strongly of weed and smoke, and
breathing defiance to excisemen) appeared, the “veritable Amphitryon” of
the feast; every one praised, and drank as deeply as he praised.

John, as he looked round the circle, and thought of his dying uncle, was
forcibly reminded of the scene at Don Quixote’s departure, where, in
spite of the grief caused by the dissolution of the worthy knight, we
are informed that “nevertheless the niece eat her victuals, the
housekeeper drank to the repose of his soul, and even Sancho cherished
his little carcase.” After returning, “as he might,” the courtesies of
the party, John asked how his uncle was. “As bad as he can be;”--“Much
better, and many thanks to your honor,” was uttered in such rapid and
discordant unison by the party, that John turned from one to the other,
not knowing which or what to believe. “They say his honor has had a
fright,” said a fellow, upwards of six feet high, approaching by way of
whispering, and then bellowing the sound six inches above John’s head.
“But then his honor has had _a cool_ since,” said a man who was quietly
swallowing the spirits that John had refused. At these words the Sybil
who sat in the chimney corner slowly drew her pipe from her mouth, and
turned towards the party: The oracular movements of a Pythoness on her
tripod never excited more awe, or impressed for the moment a deeper
silence. “It’s not _here_,” said she, pressing her withered finger on
her wrinkled forehead, “nor _here_,--nor _here_;” and she extended her
hand to the foreheads of those who were near her, who all bowed as if
they were receiving a benediction, but had immediate recourse to the
spirits afterwards, as if to ensure its effects.--“It’s all _here_--it’s
all _about the heart_;” and as she spoke she spread and pressed her
fingers on her hollow bosom with a force of action that thrilled her
hearers.--“It’s all _here_,” she added, repeating the action, (probably
excited by the effect she had produced), and then sunk on her seat,
resumed her pipe, and spoke no more. At this moment of involuntary awe
on the part of John, and of terrified silence on that of the rest, an
unusual sound was heard in the house, and the whole company started as
if a musket had been discharged among them:--it was the unwonted sound
of old Melmoth’s bell. His domestics were so few, and so constantly near
him, that the sound of his bell startled them as much as if he had been
ringing the knell for his own interment. “He used always to _rap down_
for me,” said the old housekeeper, hurrying out of the kitchen; “he said
pulling the bells wore out the ropes.”

The sound of the bell produced its full effect. The housekeeper rushed
into the room, followed by a number of women, (the Irish præficæ), all
ready to prescribe for the dying or weep for the dead,--all clapping
their hard hands, or wiping their dry eyes. These hags all surrounded
the bed; and to witness their loud, wild, and desperate grief, their
cries of “Oh! he’s going, his honor’s going, his honor’s going,” one
would have imagined their lives were bound up in his, like those of the
wives in the story of Sinbad the Sailor, who were to be interred alive
with their deceased husbands.

Four of them wrung their hands and howled round the bed, while one, with
all the adroitness of a Mrs Quickly, felt his honor’s feet, and “upward
and upward,” and “all was cold as any stone.”

Old Melmoth withdrew his feet from the grasp of the hag,--counted with
his keen eye (keen amid the approaching dimness of death) the number
assembled round his bed,--raised himself on his sharp elbow, and
pushing away the housekeeper, (who attempted to settle his nightcap,
that had been shoved on one side in the struggle, and gave his haggard,
dying face, a kind of grotesque fierceness), bellowed out in tones
that made the company start,--“What the devil brought ye all here?”
The question scattered the whole party for a moment; but rallying
instantly, they communed among themselves in whispers, and frequently
using the sign of the cross, muttered “The devil,--Christ save us, the
devil in his mouth the first word he spoke.” “Aye,” roared the invalid,
“and the devil in my eye the first sight I see.” “Where,--where?”
cried the terrified housekeeper, clinging close to the invalid in her
terror, and half-hiding herself in the blanket, which she snatched
without mercy from his struggling and exposed limbs. “There, there,” he
repeated, (during the battle of the blanket), pointing to the huddled
and terrified women, who stood aghast at hearing themselves arointed
as the very demons they came to banish. “Oh! Lord keep your honor’s
head,” said the housekeeper in a more soothing tone, when her fright
was over; “and sure your honor knows them all, is’n’t _her_ name,--and
_her_ name,--and _her_ name,”--and she pointed respectively to each
of them, adding their names, which we shall spare the English reader
the torture of reciting, (as a proof of our lenity, adding the last
only, Cotchleen O’Mulligan), “Ye lie, ye b----h,” growled old Melmoth;
“their name is Legion, for they are many,--turn them all out of the
room,--turn them all out of doors,--if they howl at my death, they
shall howl in earnest,--not for my death, for they would see me dead
and damned too with dry eyes, but for want of the whiskey that they
would have stolen if they could have got at it,” (and here old Melmoth
grasped a key which lay under his pillow, and shook it in vain triumph
at the old housekeeper, who had long possessed the means of getting
at the spirits unknown to his “honor”), “and for want of the victuals
you have pampered them with.” “_Pampered_, oh Ch--st!” ejaculated the
housekeeper. “Aye, and what are there so many candles for, all _fours_,
and the same below I warrant. Ah! you--you--worthless, wasteful old
devil.” “Indeed, your honor, they are all _sixes_.” “Sixes,--and
what the devil are you burning sixes for, d’ye think it’s _the wake_
already? Ha?” “Oh! not yet, your honor, not yet,” chorussed the
beldams; “but in God’s good time, your honor knows,” in a tone that
spoke ill suppressed impatience for the event. “Oh! that your honor
would think of making your soul.” “That’s the first sensible word you
have said,” said the dying man, “fetch me the prayer-book,--you’ll
find it there under that old boot-jack,--blow off the cobwebs;--it has
not been opened this many a year.” It was handed to him by the old
governante, on whom he turned a reproaching eye. “What made you burn
sixes in the kitchen, you extravagant jade? How many years have you
lived in this house?” “I don’t know, your honor.” “Did you ever see
any extravagance or waste in it?” “Oh never, never, your honor.” “Was
any thing but a farthing candle ever burned in the kitchen?” “Never,
never, your honor.” “Were not you kept as tight as hand and head and
heart could keep you, were you not? answer me that.” “Oh yes, sure,
your honor; every _sowl_ about us knows that,--every one does your
honor justice, that you kept the closest house and closest hand in
the country,--your honor was always a good warrant for it.” “And how
dare you unlock my hold before death has unlocked it,” said the dying
miser, shaking his meagre hand at her. “I smelt meat in the house,--I
heard voices in the house,--I heard the key turn in the door over and
over. Oh that I was up,” he added, rolling in impatient agony in his
bed, “Oh that I was up, to see the waste and ruin that is going on. But
it would kill me,” he continued, sinking back on the bolster, for he
never allowed himself a pillow; “it would kill me,--the very thought
of it is killing me now.” The women, discomfited and defeated, after
sundry winks and whispers, were huddling out of the room, till recalled
by the sharp eager tones of old Melmoth.--“Where are ye trooping to
now? back to the kitchen to gormandize and guzzle? Won’t one of ye
stay and listen while there’s a prayer read for me? Ye may want it one
day for yourselves, ye hags.” Awed by this expostulation and menace,
the train silently returned, and placed themselves round the bed,
while the housekeeper, though a Catholic, asked if his honor would not
have a clergyman to give him _the rights_, (rites) of his church. The
eyes of the dying man sparkled with vexation at the proposal. “What
for,--just to have him expect a scarf and hat-band at the funeral.
Read the prayers yourself, you old ------; that will save something.”
The housekeeper made the attempt, but soon declined it, alleging, as
her reason, that her eyes had been watery ever since his honor took
ill. “That’s because you had always a drop in them,” said the invalid,
with a spiteful sneer, which the contraction of approaching death
stiffened into a hideous grin.--“Here,--is not there one of you that’s
gnashing and howling there, that can get up a prayer to keep me from
it?” So adjured, one of the women offered her services; and of her it
might truly be said, as of the “most desartless man of the watch” in
Dogberry’s time, that “her reading and writing came by nature;” for
she never had been at school, and had never before seen or opened a
Protestant prayer book in her life; nevertheless, on she went, and with
more emphasis than good discretion, read nearly through the service for
the “churching of women;” which in our prayer-books following that of
the burial of the dead, she perhaps imagined was someway connected with
the state of the invalid.

She read with great solemnity,--it was a pity that two interruptions
occurred during the performance, one from old Melmoth, who, shortly
after the commencement of the prayers, turned towards the old
housekeeper, and said, in a tone scandalously audible, “Go down and draw
the niggers of the kitchen fire closer, and lock the door, and let me
_hear it locked_. I can’t mind any thing till that’s done.” The other
was from John Melmoth gliding into the room, hearing the inappropriate
words uttered by the ignorant woman, taking quietly as he knelt beside
her the prayer-book from her hands, and reading in a suppressed voice
part of that solemn service which, by the forms of the Church of
England, is intended for the consolation of the departing.

“That is John’s voice,” said the dying man; and the little kindness he
had ever shewed this unfortunate lad rushed on his hard heart at this
moment, and touched it. He saw himself, too, surrounded by heartless and
rapacious menials; and slight as must have been his dependence on a
relative whom he had always treated as a stranger, he felt at this hour
he was no stranger, and grasped at his support like a straw amid his
wreck. “John, my good boy, you are there.--I kept you far from me when
living, and now you are nearest me when dying.--John, _read on_.” John,
affected deeply by the situation in which he beheld this _poor man_,
amid all his wealth, as well as by the solemn request to impart
consolation to his dying moments, read on;--but in a short time his
voice became indistinct, from the horror with which he listened to the
increasing hiccup of the patient, which, however, he struggled with from
time to time, to ask the housekeeper if _the niggers were closed_. John,
who was a lad of feeling, rose from his knees in some degree of
agitation. “What, are you leaving me like the rest?” said old Melmoth,
trying to raise himself in the bed. “No, Sir,” said John; “but,”
observing the altered looks of the dying man, “I think you want some
refreshment, some support, Sir.” “Aye, I do, I do, but whom can I trust
to get it for me. _They_, (and his haggard eye wandered round the
groupe), _they_ would poison me.” “Trust me, Sir,” said John; “I will go
to the apothecary’s, or whoever you may employ.” The old man grasped his
hand, drew him close to his bed, cast a threatening yet fearful eye
round the party, and then whispered in a voice of agonized constraint,
“I want a glass of wine, it would keep me alive for some hours, but
there is not one I can trust to get it for me,--_they’d steal a bottle,
and ruin me_.” John was greatly shocked. “Sir, for God’s sake, let _me_
get a glass of wine for you.” “Do you know where?” said the old man,
with an expression in his face John could not understand. “No, Sir; you
know I have been rather a stranger here, Sir.” “Take this key,” said old
Melmoth, after a violent spasm; “take this key, there is wine in that
closet,--_Madeira_. I always told them there was nothing there, but they
did not believe me, or I should not have been robbed as I have been. At
one time I said it was whiskey, and then I fared worse than ever, for
they drank twice as much of it.”

John took the key from his uncle’s hand; the dying man pressed it as he
did so, and John, interpreting this as a mark of kindness, returned the
pressure. He was undeceived by the whisper that followed,--“John, my
lad, don’t drink any of that wine while you are there.” “Good God!” said
John, indignantly throwing the key on the bed; then, recollecting that
the miserable being before him was no object of resentment, he gave the
promise required, and entered the closet, which no foot but that of old
Melmoth had entered for nearly sixty years. He had some difficulty in
finding out the wine, and indeed staid long enough to justify his
uncle’s suspicions,--but his mind was agitated, and his hand unsteady.
He could not but remark his uncle’s extraordinary look, that had the
ghastliness of fear superadded to that of death, as he gave him
permission to enter his closet. He could not but see the looks of horror
which the women exchanged as he approached it. And, finally, when he was
in it, his memory was malicious enough to suggest some faint traces of a
story, too horrible for imagination, connected with it. He remembered in
one moment most distinctly, that no one but his uncle had ever been
known to enter it for many years.

Before he quitted it, he held up the dim light, and looked around him
with a mixture of terror and curiosity. There was a great deal of
decayed and useless lumber, such as might be supposed to be heaped up to
rot in a miser’s closet; but John’s eyes were in a moment, and as if by
magic, rivetted on a portrait that hung on the wall, and appeared, even
to his untaught eye, far superior to the tribe of family pictures that
are left to moulder on the walls of a family mansion. It represented a
man of middle age. There was nothing remarkable in the costume, or in
the countenance, but _the eyes_, John felt, were such as one feels they
wish they had never seen, and feels they can never forget. Had he been
acquainted with the poetry of Southey, he might have often exclaimed in
his after-life,

    “Only the eyes had life,
     They gleamed with demon light.”--THALABA.

From an impulse equally resistless and painful, he approached the
portrait, held the candle towards it, and could distinguish the words on
the border of the painting,--Jno. Melmoth, anno 1646. John was neither
timid by nature, or nervous by constitution, or superstitious from
habit, yet he continued to gaze in stupid horror on this singular
picture, till, aroused by his uncle’s cough, he hurried into his room.
The old man swallowed the wine. He appeared a little revived; it was
long since he had tasted such a cordial,--his heart appeared to expand
to a momentary confidence. “John, what did you see in that room?”
“Nothing, Sir.” “That’s a lie; every one wants to cheat or to rob me.”
“Sir, I don’t want to do either.” “Well, what did you see that you--you
took notice of?” “Only a picture, Sir.” “A picture, Sir!--the original
is still alive.” John, though under the impression of his recent
feelings, could not but look incredulous. “John,” whispered his
uncle;--“John, they say I am dying of this and that; and one says it is
for want of nourishment, and one says it is for want of medicine,--but,
John,” and his face looked hideously ghastly, “I am dying of a fright.
That man,” and he extended his meagre arm toward the closet, as if he
was pointing to a living being; “that man, I have good reason to know,
is alive still.” “How is that possible, Sir?” said John involuntarily,
“the date on the picture is 1646.” “You have seen it,--you have noticed
it,” said his uncle. “Well,”--he rocked and nodded on his bolster for a
moment, then, grasping John’s hand with an unutterable look, he
exclaimed, “You will see him again, he is alive.” Then, sinking back on
his bolster, he fell into a kind of sleep or stupor, his eyes still
open, and fixed on John.

The house was now perfectly silent, and John had time and space for
reflection. More thoughts came crowding on him than he wished to
welcome, but they would not be repulsed. He thought of his uncle’s
habits and character, turned the matter over and over again in his mind,
and he said to himself, “The last man on earth to be superstitious. He
never thought of any thing but the price of stocks, and the rate of
exchange, and my college expences, that hung heavier at his heart than
all; and such a man to die of a fright,--a ridiculous fright, that a man
living 150 years ago is alive still, and yet--he is dying.” John paused,
for facts will confute the most stubborn logician. “With all his
hardness of mind, and of heart, he is dying of a fright. I heard it in
the kitchen, I have heard it from himself,--he could not be deceived. If
I had ever heard he was nervous, or fanciful, or superstitious, but a
character so contrary to all these impressions;--a man that, as poor
Butler says, in his Remains of the Antiquarian, would have ”sold Christ
over again for the numerical piece of silver which Judas got for
him,“--such a man to die of fear! Yet he _is_ dying,” said John,
glancing his fearful eye on the contracted nostril, the glazed eye, the
dropping jaw, the whole horrible apparatus of the _facies Hippocratica_
displayed, and soon to cease its display.

Old Melmoth at this moment seemed to be in a deep stupor; his eyes lost
that little expression they had before, and his hands, that had
convulsively been catching at the blankets, let go their short and
quivering grasp, and lay extended on the bed like the claws of some bird
that had died of hunger,--so meagre, so yellow, so spread. John,
unaccustomed to the sight of death, believed this to be only a sign that
he was going to sleep; and, urged by an impulse for which he did not
attempt to account to himself, caught up the miserable light, and once
more ventured into the forbidden room,--the _blue chamber_ of the
dwelling. The motion roused the dying man;--he sat bolt upright in his
bed. This John could not see, for he was now in the closet; but he heard
the groan, or rather the choaked and guggling rattle of the throat, that
announces the horrible conflict between muscular and mental convulsion.
He started, turned away; but, as he turned away, he thought he saw the
eyes of the portrait, on which his own was fixed, _move_, and hurried
back to his uncle’s bedside.

Old Melmoth died in the course of that night, and died as he had lived,
in a kind of avaricious delirium. John could not have imagined a scene
so horrible as his last hours presented. He cursed and blasphemed about
three half-pence, missing, as he said, some weeks before, in an account
of change with his groom, about hay to a starved horse that he kept.
Then he grasped John’s hand, and asked him to give him the sacrament.
“If I send to the clergyman, he will charge me something for it, which I
cannot pay,--I cannot. They say I am rich,--look at this blanket;--but I
would not mind that, if I could save my soul.” And, raving, he added,
“Indeed, Doctor, I am a very poor man. I never troubled a clergyman
before, and all I want is, that you will grant me two trifling requests,
very little matters in your way,--save my soul, and (whispering) make
interest to get me a parish coffin,--I have not enough left to bury me.
I always told every one I was poor, but the more I told them so, the
less they believed me.”

John, greatly shocked, retired from the bed-side, and sat down in a
distant corner of the room. The women were again in the room, which was
very dark. Melmoth was silent from exhaustion, and there was a
death-like pause for some time. At this moment John saw the door open,
and a figure appear at it, who looked round the room, and then quietly
and deliberately retired, but not before John had discovered in his face
the living original of the portrait. His first impulse was to utter an
exclamation of terror, but his breath felt stopped. He was then rising
to pursue the figure, but a moment’s reflection checked him. What could
be more absurd, than to be alarmed or amazed at a resemblance between a
living man and the portrait of a dead one! The likeness was doubtless
strong enough to strike him even in that darkened room, but it was
doubtless only a likeness; and though it might be imposing enough to
terrify an old man of gloomy and retired habits, and with a broken
constitution, John resolved it should not produce the same effect on

But while he was applauding himself for this resolution, the door
opened, and the figure appeared at it, beckoning and nodding to him,
with a familiarity somewhat terrifying. John now started up, determined
to pursue it; but the pursuit was stopped by the weak but shrill cries
of his uncle, who was struggling at once with the agonies of death and
his housekeeper. The poor woman, anxious for her master’s reputation and
her own, was trying to put on him a clean shirt and nightcap, and
Melmoth, who had just sensation enough to perceive they were taking
something from him, continued exclaiming feebly, “They are robbing
me,--robbing me in my last moments,--robbing a dying man. John, won’t
you assist me,--I shall die a beggar; they are taking my last shirt,--I
shall die a beggar.”--And the miser died.


    You that wander, scream, and groan,
    Round the mansions once your own.


A few days after the funeral, the will was opened before proper
witnesses, and John was found to be left sole heir to his uncle’s
property, which, though originally moderate, had, by his grasping
habits, and parsimonious life, become very considerable.

As the attorney who read the will concluded, he added, “There are some
words here, at the corner of the parchment, which do not appear to be
part of the will, as they are neither in the form of a codicil, nor is
the signature of the testator affixed to them; but, to the best of my
belief, they are in the hand-writing of the deceased.” As he spoke he
shewed the lines to Melmoth, who immediately recognized his uncle’s
hand, (that perpendicular and penurious hand, that seems determined to
make the most of the very paper, thriftily abridging every word, and
leaving scarce an atom of margin), and read, not without some emotion,
the following words: “I enjoin my nephew and heir, John Melmoth, to
remove, destroy, or cause to be destroyed, the portrait inscribed J.
Melmoth, 1646, hanging in my closet. I also enjoin him to search for a
manuscript, which I think he will find in the third and lowest left-hand
drawer of the mahogany chest standing under that portrait,--it is among
some papers of no value, such as manuscript sermons, and pamphlets on
the improvement of Ireland, and such stuff; he will distinguish it by
its being tied round with a black tape, and the paper being very mouldy
and discoloured. He may read it if he will;--I think he had better not.
At all events, I adjure him, if there be any power in the adjuration of
a dying man, to burn it.”

After reading this singular memorandum, the business of the meeting was
again resumed; and as old Melmoth’s will was very clear and legally
worded, all was soon settled, the party dispersed, and John Melmoth was
left alone.

We should have mentioned, that his guardians appointed by the will (for
he was not yet of age) advised him to return to College, and complete
his education as soon as proper; but John urged the expediency of paying
the respect due to his uncle’s memory, by remaining a decent time in the
house after his decease. This was not his real motive. Curiosity, or
something that perhaps deserves a better name, the wild and awful
pursuit of an indefinite object, had taken strong hold of his mind. His
guardians (who were men of respectability and property in the
neighbourhood, and in whose eyes John’s consequence had risen rapidly
since the reading of the will), pressed him to accept of a temporary
residence in their respective houses, till his return to Dublin. This
was declined gratefully, but steadily. They called for their horses,
shook hands with the heir, and rode off--Melmoth was left alone.

The remainder of the day was passed in gloomy and anxious
deliberation,--in traversing his late uncle’s room,--approaching the
door of the closet, and then retreating from it,--in watching the
clouds, and listening to the wind, as if the gloom of the one, or the
murmurs of the other, relieved instead of increasing the weight that
pressed on his mind. Finally, towards evening, he summoned the old
woman, from whom he expected something like an explanation of the
extraordinary circumstances he had witnessed since his arrival at his
uncle’s. The old woman, proud of the summons, readily attended, but she
had very little to tell,--her communication was nearly in the following
words: (We spare the reader her endless circumlocutions, her Irishcisms,
and the frequent interruptions arising from her applications to her
snuff-box, and to the glass of whiskey punch with which Melmoth took
care to have her supplied). The old woman deposed, “That his honor (as
she always called the deceased) was always intent upon the little room
inside his bed-chamber, and reading there, within the last two
years;--that people, knowing his honor had money, and thinking it must
be there, had broke into that room, (in other words, there was a robbery
attempted there), but finding nothing but some papers, they had
retired;--that he was so frightened, he had bricked up the window; but
_she thought there was more in it than that_, for when his honor missed
but a half-penny, he would make the house ring about it, but that, when
the closet was bricked up, he never said a word;--that afterwards his
honor used to lock himself up in his own room, and though he was never
fond of reading, was always found, when his dinner was brought him,
hanging over a paper, which he hid the moment any one came into the
room, and once there was a great bustle about a picture that he tried to
conceal;--that knowing there was an _odd story in the family_, she did
her best to come at it, and even went to Biddy Brannigan’s, (the medical
Sybil before mentioned), to find out the rights of it; but Biddy only
shook her head, filled her pipe, uttered some words she did not
understand, and smoked on;--that it was but two evenings before his
honor _was struck_, (_i. e._ took ill), she was standing at the door of
the court, (which had once been surrounded by stables, pigeon-house, and
all the usual etceteras of a gentleman’s residence, but now presented
only a ruinous range of dismantled out-offices, thatched with thistles,
and tenanted by pigs), when his honor called to her to lock the door,
(his honor was always _keen_ about locking the doors early); she was
hastening to do so, when he snatched the key from her, swearing at her,
(for he was always very keen about locking the doors, though the locks
were so bad, and the keys so rusty, that it was always like _the cry of
the dead_ in the house when the keys were turned);--that she stood aside
for a minute, seeing he was angry, and gave him the key, when she heard
him utter a scream, and saw him fall across the door-way;--that she
hurried to raise him, _hoping_ it was a fit;--that she found him stiff
and stretched out, and called for help to lift him up;--that then people
came from the kitchen to assist;--that she was so bewildered and
terrified, she hardly knew what was done or said; but with all her
terror remembered, that as they raised him up, the first sign of life he
gave was lifting up his arm, and pointing it towards the court, and at
that moment she saw the figure of a tall man cross the court, and go out
of the court, she knew not where or how, for the outer gate was locked,
and had not been opened for years, and they were all gathered round his
honor at the other door;--she saw the figure,--she saw the shadow on the
wall,--she saw him walk slowly through the court, and in her terror
cried, “Stop him,” but nobody minded her, all being busy about her
master; and when he was brought to his room, nobody thought but of
getting him to himself again. And further she could not tell. His honor
(young Melmoth) knew as much as she,--he had witnessed his last illness,
had heard his last words, he saw him die,--how could she know more than
his honor.”

“True,” said Melmoth, “I certainly saw him die; but--you say _there was
an odd story in the family_, do you know any thing about it?” “Not a
word, it was long before my time, as old as I am.” “Certainly it must
have been so; but, was my uncle ever superstitious, fanciful?”--and
Melmoth was compelled to use many synonymous expressions, before he
could make himself understood. When he did, the answer was plain and
decisive, “No, never, never. When his honor sat in the kitchen in
winter, to save a fire in his own room, he could never bear the talk of
the old women that came in to light their pipes _betimes_, (from time to
time). He used to shew such impatience of their superstitious nonsense,
that they were fain to smoke them in silence, without the consolatory
accompaniment of one whisper about a child that the evil eye had looked
on, or another, that though apparently a mewling, peevish, crippled brat
all day, went regularly out at night to dance with the _good people_ on
the top of a neighbouring mountain, summoned thereto by the sound of a
bag-pipe, which was unfailingly heard at the cabin door every night.”
Melmoth’s thoughts began to take somewhat of a darker hue at this
account. If his uncle was not superstitious, might he not have been
guilty, and might not his strange and sudden death, and even the
terrible visitation that preceded it, have been owing to some wrong that
his rapacity had done the widow and the fatherless. He questioned the
old woman indirectly and cautiously on the subject,--her answer
completely justified the deceased. “He was a man,” she said, “of a hard
hand, and a hard heart, but he was as jealous of another’s right as of
his own. He would have starved all the world, but he would not have
wronged it of a farthing.”

Melmoth’s last resource was to send for Biddy Brannigan, who was still
in the house, and from whom he at least hoped to hear the odd story that
the old woman confessed was in the family. She came, and, on her
introduction to Melmoth, it was curious to observe the mingled look of
servility and command, the result of the habits of her life, which was
alternately one of abject mendicity, and of arrogant but clever
imposture. When she first appeared, she stood at the door, awed and
curtseying in the presence, and muttering sounds which, possibly
intended for blessings, had, from the harsh tone and witch-like look of
the speaker, every appearance of malediction; but when interrogated on
the subject of the story, she rose at once into consequence,--her figure
seemed frightfully dilated, like that of Virgil’s Alecto, who exchanges
in a moment the appearance of a feeble old woman for that of a menacing
fury. She walked deliberately across the room, seated, or rather
squatted herself on the hearth-stone like a hare in her form, spread her
bony and withered hands towards the blaze, and rocked for a considerable
time in silence before she commenced her tale. When she had finished it,
Melmoth remained in astonishment at the state of mind to which the late
singular circumstances had reduced him,--at finding himself listening
with varying and increasing emotions of interest, curiosity, and terror,
to a tale so wild, so improbable, nay, so actually incredible, that he
at least blushed for the folly he could not conquer. The result of these
impressions was, a resolution to visit the closet, and examine the
manuscript that very night.

This resolution he found it impossible to execute immediately, for, on
inquiring for lights, the gouvernante confessed the very last had been
burnt at _his honor’s_ wake; and a bare-footed boy was charged to run
for life and death to the neighbouring village for candles; and if you
could _borry_ a couple of candlesticks, added the housekeeper. “Are
there no candlesticks in the house?” said Melmoth. “There are, honey,
plinty, but it’s no time to be opening the old chest, for the plated
ones, in regard of their being at the bottom of it, and the brass ones
that’s _in it_ (in the house), one of them has no socket, and the other
has no bottom.” “And how did you make shift yourself,” said Melmoth. “I
stuck it in a potatoe,” quoth the housekeeper. So the _gossoon_ ran for
life and death, and Melmoth, towards the close of the evening, was left
alone to meditate.

It was an evening apt for meditation, and Melmoth had his fill of it
before the messenger returned. The weather was cold and gloomy; heavy
clouds betokened a long and dreary continuance of autumnal rains; cloud
after cloud came sweeping on like the dark banners of an approaching
host, whose march is for desolation. As Melmoth leaned against the
window, whose dismantled frame, and pieced and shattered panes, shook
with every gust of wind, his eye encountered nothing but that most
cheerless of all prospects, a miser’s garden,--walls broken down,
grass-grown walks whose grass was not even green, dwarfish, doddered,
leafless trees, and a luxuriant crop of nettles and weeds rearing their
unlovely heads where there had once been flowers, all waving and bending
in capricious and unsightly forms, as the wind sighed over them. It was
the verdure of the church yard, the garden of death. He turned for
relief to the room, but no relief was there,--the wainscotting dark with
dirt, and in many places cracked and starting from the walls,--the rusty
grate, so long unconscious of a fire, that nothing but a sullen smoke
could be coaxed to issue from between its dingy bars,--the crazy chairs,
their torn bottoms of rush drooping inwards, and the great leathern seat
displaying the stuffing round the worn edges, while the nails, though
they kept their places, had failed to keep the covering they once
fastened,--the chimney-piece, which, tarnished more by time than by
smoke, displayed for its garniture half a pair of snuffers, a tattered
almanack of 1750, a time-keeper dumb for want of repair, and a rusty
fowling-piece without a lock.--No wonder the spectacle of desolation
drove Melmoth back to his own thoughts, restless and uncomfortable as
they were. He recapitulated the Sybil’s story word by word, with the air
of a man who is cross-examining an evidence, and trying to make him
contradict himself.

“The first of the Melmoths, she says, who settled in Ireland, was an
officer in Cromwell’s army, who obtained a grant of lands, the
confiscated property of an Irish family attached to the royal cause. The
elder brother of this man was one who had travelled abroad, and resided
so long on the Continent, that his family had lost all recollection of
him. Their memory was not stimulated by their affection, for there were
strange reports concerning the traveller. He was said to be (like the
“damned magician, great Glendower,”) “a gentleman profited in strange

It must be remembered, that at this period, and even to a later, the
belief in astrology and witchcraft was very general. Even so late as the
reign of Charles II. Dryden calculated the nativity of his son Charles,
the ridiculous books of Glanville were in general circulation, and
Delrio and Wierus were so popular, that even a dramatic writer
(Shadwell) quoted copiously from them, in the notes subjoined to his
curious comedy of the Lancashire witches. It was said, that during the
life-time of Melmoth, the traveller paid him a visit; and though he must
have then been considerably advanced in life, to the astonishment of his
family, he did not betray the slightest trace of being a year older than
when they last beheld him. His visit was short, he said nothing of the
past or the future, nor did his family question him. It was said that
they did not feel themselves perfectly at ease in his presence. On his
departure he left them his picture, (the same which Melmoth saw in the
closet, bearing date 1646), and they saw him no more. Some years after,
a person arrived from England, directed to Melmoth’s house, in pursuit
of the traveller, and exhibiting the most marvellous and unappeasable
solicitude to obtain some intelligence of him. The family could give him
none, and after some days of restless inquiry and agitation, he
departed, leaving behind him, either through negligence or intention, a
manuscript, containing an extraordinary account of the circumstances
under which he had met John Melmoth the Traveller (as he was called).

The manuscript and portrait were both preserved, and of the original a
report spread that he was still alive, and had been frequently seen in
Ireland even to the present century,--but that he was never known to
appear but on the approaching death of one of the family, nor even then,
unless when the evil passions or habits of the individual had cast a
shade of gloomy and fearful interest over their dying hour.

It was therefore judged no favourable augury for the spiritual
destination of the last Melmoth, that this extraordinary person had
visited, or been imagined to visit, the house previous to his decease.”

Such was the account given by Biddy Brannigan, to which she added her
own solemnly-attested belief, that John Melmoth the Traveller was still
without a hair on his head changed, or a muscle in his frame
contracted;--that she had seen those that had seen him, and would
confirm their evidence by oath if necessary;--that he was never heard to
speak, seen to partake of food, or known to enter any dwelling but that
of his family;--and, finally, that she herself believed that his late
appearance boded no good either to the living or the dead.

John was still musing on these things when the lights were procured,
and, disregarding the pallid countenances and monitory whispers of the
attendants, he resolutely entered the closet, shut the door, and
proceeded to search for the manuscript. It was soon found, for the
directions of old Melmoth were forcibly written, and strongly
remembered. The manuscript, old, tattered, and discoloured, was taken
from the very drawer in which it was mentioned to be laid. Melmoth’s
hands felt as cold as those of his dead uncle, when he drew the blotted
pages from their nook. He sat down to read,--there was a dead silence
through the house. Melmoth looked wistfully at the candles, snuffed
them, and still thought they looked dim, (perchance he thought they
burned blue, but such thought he kept to himself.) Certain it is, he
often changed his posture, and would have changed his chair, had there
been more than one in the apartment.

He sunk for a few moments into a fit of gloomy abstraction, till the
sound of the clock striking twelve made him start,--it was the only
sound he had heard for some hours, and the sounds produced by inanimate
things, while all living beings around are as dead, have at such an hour
an effect indescribably awful. John looked at his manuscript with some
reluctance, opened it, paused over the first lines, and as the wind
sighed round the desolate apartment, and the rain pattered with a
mournful sound against the dismantled window, wished----what did he wish
for?--he wished the sound of the wind less dismal, and the dash of the
rain less monotonous.----He may be forgiven, it was past midnight, and
there was not a human being awake but himself within ten miles when he
began to read.


    Apparebat eidolon _senex_.


The manuscript was discoloured, obliterated, and mutilated beyond any
that had ever before exercised the patience of a reader. Michaelis
himself, scrutinizing into the pretended autograph of St Mark at Venice,
never had a harder time of it.--Melmoth could make out only a sentence
here and there. The writer, it appeared, was an Englishman of the name
of Stanton, who had travelled abroad shortly after the Restoration.
Travelling was not then attended with the facilities which modern
improvement has introduced, and scholars and literati, the intelligent,
the idle, and the curious, wandered over the Continent for years, like
_Tom Coryat_, though they had the modesty, on their return, to entitle
the result of their multiplied observations and labours only

Stanton, about the year 1676, was in Spain; he was, like most of the
travellers of that age, a man of literature, intelligence, and
curiosity, but ignorant of the language of the country, and fighting his
way at times from convent to convent, in quest of what was called
“Hospitality,” that is, obtaining board and lodging on the condition of
holding a debate in Latin, on some point theological or metaphysical,
with any monk who would become the champion of the strife. Now, as the
theology was Catholic, and the metaphysics Aristotelian, Stanton
sometimes wished himself at the miserable Posada from whose filth and
famine he had been fighting his escape; but though his reverend
antagonists always denounced his creed, and comforted themselves, even
in defeat, with the assurance that he must be damned, on the double
score of his being a heretic and an Englishman, they were obliged to
confess that his Latin was good, and his logic unanswerable; and he was
allowed, in most cases, to sup and sleep in peace. This was not doomed
to be his fate on the night of the 17th August 1677, when he found
himself in the plains of Valencia, deserted by a cowardly guide, who had
been terrified by the sight of a cross erected as a memorial of a
murder, had slipped off his mule unperceived, crossing himself every
step he took on his retreat from the heretic, and left Stanton amid the
terrors of an approaching storm, and the dangers of an unknown country.
The sublime and yet softened beauty of the scenery around, had filled
the soul of Stanton with delight, and he enjoyed that delight as
Englishmen generally do, silently.

The magnificent remains of two dynasties that had passed away, the ruins
of Roman palaces, and of Moorish fortresses, were around and above
him;--the dark and heavy thunder-clouds that advanced slowly, seemed
like the shrouds of these spectres of departed greatness; they
approached, but did not yet overwhelm or conceal them, as if nature
herself was for once awed by the power of man; and far below, the lovely
valley of Valencia blushed and burned in all the glory of sunset, like a
bride receiving the last glowing kiss of the bridegroom before the
approach of night. Stanton gazed around. The difference between the
architecture of the Roman and Moorish ruins struck him. Among the former
are the remains of a theatre, and something like a public place; the
latter present only the remains of fortresses, embattled, castellated,
and fortified from top to bottom,--not a loop-hole for pleasure to get
in by,--the loop-holes were only for arrows; all denoted military power
and despotic subjugation _a l’outrance_. The contrast might have pleased
a philosopher, and he might have indulged in the reflection, that though
the ancient Greeks and Romans were savages, (as Dr Johnson says all
people who want a press must be, and he says truly), yet they were
wonderful savages for their time, for they alone have left _traces of
their taste for pleasure_ in the countries they conquered, in their
superb theatres, temples, (which were also dedicated to pleasure one way
or another), and baths, while other conquering bands of savages never
left any thing behind them but traces of their rage for power. So
thought Stanton, as he still saw strongly defined, though darkened by
the darkening clouds, the huge skeleton of a Roman amphitheatre, its
arched and gigantic colonnades now admitting a gleam of light, and now
commingling with the purple thunder-cloud; and now the solid and heavy
mass of a Moorish fortress, no light playing between its impermeable
walls,--the image of power, dark, isolated, impenetrable. Stanton forgot
his cowardly guide, his loneliness, his danger amid an approaching storm
and an inhospitable country, where his name and country would shut every
door against him, and every peal of thunder would be supposed justified
by the daring intrusion of a heretic in the dwelling of an _old
Christian_, as the Spanish Catholics absurdly term themselves, to mark
the distinction between them and the baptised Moors.--All this was
forgot in contemplating the glorious and awful scenery before
him,--light struggling with darkness,--and darkness menacing a light
still more terrible, and announcing its menace in the blue and livid
mass of cloud that hovered like a destroying angel in the air, its
arrows aimed, but their direction awfully indefinite. But he ceased to
forget these local and petty dangers, as the sublimity of romance would
term them, when he saw the first flash of the lightning, broad and red
as the banners of an insulting army whose motto is _Væ victis_, shatter
to atoms the remains of a Roman tower;--the rifted stones rolled down
the hill, and fell at the feet of Stanton. He stood appalled, and,
awaiting his summons from the Power in whose eye pyramids, palaces, and
the worms whose toil has formed them, and the worms who toil out their
existence under their shadow or their pressure, are perhaps all alike
contemptible, he stood collected, and for a moment felt that defiance of
danger which danger itself excites, and we love to encounter it as a
physical enemy, to bid it “do its worst,” and feel that its worst will
perhaps be ultimately its best for us. He stood and saw another flash
dart its bright, brief, and malignant glance over the ruins of ancient
power, and the luxuriance of recent fertility. Singular contrast! The
relics of art for ever decaying,--the productions of nature for ever
renewed.--(Alas! for what purpose are they renewed, better than to mock
at the perishable monuments which men try in vain to rival them by). The
pyramids themselves must perish, but the grass that grows between their
disjointed stones will be renewed from year to year. Stanton was
thinking thus, when all power of thought was suspended, by seeing two
persons bearing between them the body of a young, and apparently very
lovely girl, who had been struck dead by the lightning. Stanton
approached, and heard the voices of the bearers repeating, “There is
none who will mourn for her!” “There is none who will mourn for her!”
said other voices, as two more bore in their arms the blasted and
blackened figure of what had once been a man, comely and
graceful;--“there is not _one_ to mourn for her now!” They were lovers,
and he had been consumed by the flash that had destroyed her, while in
the act of endeavouring to defend her. As they were about to remove the
bodies, a person approached with a calmness of step and demeanour, as if
he were alone unconscious of danger, and incapable of fear; and after
looking on them for some time, burst into a laugh so loud, wild, and
protracted, that the peasants, starting with as much horror at the sound
as at that of the storm, hurried away, bearing the corse with them. Even
Stanton’s fears were subdued by his astonishment, and, turning to the
stranger, who remained standing on the same spot, he asked the reason of
such an outrage on humanity. The stranger, slowly turning round, and
disclosing a countenance which---- (Here the manuscript was illegible
for a few lines), said in English---- (A long hiatus followed here, and
the next passage that was legible, though it proved to be a continuation
of the narrative, was but a fragment). * * * * * *

The terrors of the night rendered Stanton a sturdy and unappeasable
applicant; and the shrill voice of the old woman, repeating, “no
heretic--no English--Mother of God protect us--avaunt Satan!”--combined
with the clatter of the wooden casement (peculiar to the houses in
Valentia) which she opened to discharge her volley of anathematization,
and shut again as the lightning glanced through the aperture, were
unable to repel his importunate request for admittance, in a night whose
terrors ought to soften all the miserable petty local passions into one
awful feeling of fear for the Power who caused it, and compassion for
those who were exposed to it.--But Stanton felt there was something more
than national bigotry in the exclamations of the old woman; there was a
peculiar and personal horror of the English.--And he was right; but this
did not diminish the eagerness of his * * * * * The house was handsome
and spacious, but the melancholy appearance of desertion * * * * * * * *
* * * --The benches were by the wall, but there were none to sit there;
the tables were spread in what had been the hall, but it seemed as if
none had gathered round them for many years;--the clock struck audibly,
there was no voice of mirth or of occupation to drown its sound; time
told his awful lesson to silence alone;--the hearths were black with
fuel long since consumed;--the family portraits looked as if they were
the only tenants of the mansion; they seemed to say, from their
mouldering frames, “there are none to gaze on us;” and the echo of the
steps of Stanton and his feeble guide, was the only sound audible
between the peals of thunder that rolled still awfully, but more
distantly,--every peal like the exhausted murmurs of a spent heart. As
they passed on, a shriek was heard. Stanton paused, and fearful images
of the dangers to which travellers on the Continent are exposed in
deserted and remote habitations, came into his mind. “Don’t heed it,”
said the old woman, lighting him on with a miserable lamp;--“it is only
he * * * * * * * * * * * The old woman having now satisfied herself, by
ocular demonstration, that her English guest, even if he was the devil,
had neither horn, hoof, or tail, that he could bear the sign of the
cross without changing his form, and that, when he spoke, not a puff of
sulphur came out of his mouth, began to take courage, and at length
commenced her story, which, weary and comfortless as Stanton was, * * *
* *

“Every obstacle was now removed; parents and relations at last gave up
all opposition, and the young pair were united. Never was there a
lovelier,--they seemed like angels who had only anticipated by a few
years their celestial and eternal union. The marriage was solemnized
with much pomp, and a few days after there was a feast in that very
wainscotted chamber which you paused to remark was so gloomy. It was
that night hung with rich tapestry, representing the exploits of the
Cid, particularly that of his burning a few Moors who refused to
renounce their accursed religion. They were represented beautifully
tortured, writhing and howling, and “Mahomet! Mahomet!” issuing out of
their mouths, as they called on him in their burning agonies;--you could
almost hear them scream. At the upper end of the room, under a splendid
estrade, over which was an image of the blessed Virgin, sat Donna
Isabella de Cardoza, mother to the bride, and near her Donna Ines, the
bride, on rich almohadas; the bridegroom sat opposite to her; and though
they never spoke to each other, their eyes, slowly raised, but suddenly
withdrawn, (those eyes that blushed), told to each other the delicious
secret of their happiness. Don Pedro de Cardoza had assembled a large
party in honour of his daughter’s nuptials; among them was an Englishman
of the name of _Melmoth_, a traveller; no one knew who had brought him
there. He sat silent like the rest, while the iced waters and the
sugared wafers were presented to the company. The night was intensely
hot, and the moon glowed like a sun over the ruins of Saguntum; the
embroidered blinds flapped heavily, as if the wind made an effort to
raise them in vain, and then desisted.

(Another defect in the manuscript occurred here, but it was soon

* * * *

“The company were dispersed through various alleys of the garden; the
bridegroom and bride wandered through one where the delicious perfume of
the orange trees mingled itself with that of the myrtles in blow. On
their return to the hall, both of them asked, Had the company heard the
exquisite sounds that floated through the garden just before they
quitted it? No one had heard them. They expressed their surprise. The
Englishman had never quitted the hall; it was said he smiled with a most
particular and extraordinary expression as the remark was made. His
silence had been noticed before, but it was ascribed to his ignorance of
the Spanish language, an ignorance that Spaniards are not anxious either
to expose or remove by speaking to a stranger. The subject of the music
was not again reverted to till the guests were seated at supper, when
Donna Ines and her young husband, exchanging a smile of delighted
surprise, exclaimed they heard the same delicious sounds floating round
them. The guests listened, but no one else could hear it;--every one
felt there was something extraordinary in this. Hush! was uttered by
every voice almost at the same moment. A dead silence followed,--you
would think, from their intent looks, that they listened with their very
eyes. This deep silence, contrasted with the splendour of the feast, and
the light effused from torches held by the domestics, produced a
singular effect,--it seemed for some moments like an assembly of the
dead. The silence was interrupted, though the cause of wonder had not
ceased, by the entrance of Father Olavida, the Confessor of Donna
Isabella, who had been called away previous to the feast, to administer
extreme unction to a dying man in the neighbourhood. He was a priest of
uncommon sanctity, beloved in the family, and respected in the
neighbourhood, where he had displayed uncommon taste and talents for
exorcism;--in fact, this was the good Father’s _forte_, and he piqued
himself on it accordingly. The devil never fell into worse hands than
Father Olavida’s, for when he was so contumacious as to resist Latin,
and even the first verses of the Gospel of St John in Greek, which the
good Father never had recourse to but in cases of extreme stubbornness
and difficulty,--(here Stanton recollected the English story of the _Boy
of Bilson_, and blushed even in Spain for his countrymen),--then he
always applied to the Inquisition; and if the devils were ever so
obstinate before, they were always seen to fly out of the possessed,
just as, in the midst of their cries, (no doubt of blasphemy), they were
tied to the stake. Some held out even till the flames surrounded them;
but even the most stubborn must have been dislodged when the operation
was over, for the devil himself could no longer tenant a crisp and
glutinous lump of cinders. Thus Father Olavida’s fame spread far and
wide, and the Cardoza family had made uncommon interest to procure him
for a Confessor, and happily succeeded. The ceremony he had just been
performing, had cast a shade over the good Father’s countenance, but it
dispersed as he mingled among the guests, and was introduced to them.
Room was soon made for him, and he happened accidentally to be seated
opposite the Englishman. As the wine was presented to him, Father
Olavida, (who, as I observed, was a man of singular sanctity), prepared
to utter a short internal prayer. He hesitated,--trembled,--desisted;
and, putting down the wine, wiped the drops from his forehead with the
sleeve of his habit. Donna Isabella gave a sign to a domestic, and other
wine of a higher quality was offered to him. His lips moved, as if in
the effort to pronounce a benediction on it and the company, but the
effort again failed; and the change in his countenance was so
extraordinary, that it was perceived by all the guests. He felt the
sensation that his extraordinary appearance excited, and attempted to
remove it by again endeavouring to lift the cup to his lips. So strong
was the anxiety with which the company watched him, that the only sound
heard in that spacious and crowded hall, was the rustling of his habit,
as he attempted to lift the cup to his lips once more--in vain. The
guests sat in astonished silence. Father Olavida alone remained
standing; but at that moment the Englishman rose, and appeared
determined to fix Olavida’s regards by a gaze like that of fascination.
Olavida rocked, reeled, grasped the arm of a page, and at last, closing
his eyes for a moment, as if to escape the horrible fascination of that
unearthly glare, (the Englishman’s eyes were observed by all the guests,
from the moment of his entrance, to effuse a most fearful and
preternatural lustre), exclaimed, “Who is among us?--Who?--I cannot
utter a blessing while he is here. I cannot feel one. Where he treads,
the earth is parched!--Where he breathes, the air is fire!--Where he
feeds, the food is poison!--Where he turns, his glance is
lightning!--_Who is among us?_--_Who?_” repeated the priest in the agony
of adjuration, while his cowl fallen back, his few thin hairs around the
scalp instinct and alive with terrible emotion, his outspread arms
protruded from the sleeves of his habit, and extended towards the awful
stranger, suggested the idea of an inspired being in the dreadful
rapture of prophetic denunciation. He stood--still stood, and the
Englishman stood calmly opposite to him. There was an agitated
irregularity in the attitudes of those around them, which contrasted
strongly the fixed and stern postures of those two, who remained gazing
silently at each other. “Who knows him?” exclaimed Olavida, starting
apparently from a trance; “who knows him? who brought him here?”

The guests severally disclaimed all knowledge of the Englishman, and
each asked the other in whispers, “who _had_ brought him there?” Father
Olavida then pointed his arm to each of the company, and asked each
individually, “Do you know him?” “No! no! no!” was uttered with vehement
emphasis by every individual. “But I know him,” said Olavida, “by these
cold drops!” and he wiped them off;--“by these convulsed joints!” and he
attempted to sign the cross, but could not. He raised his voice, and
evidently speaking with increased difficulty,--“By this bread and wine,
which the faithful receive as the body and blood of Christ, but which
_his_ presence converts into matter as viperous as the suicide foam of
the dying Judas,--by all these--I know him, and command him to be
gone!--He is--he is----” and he bent forwards as he spoke, and gazed on
the Englishman with an expression which the mixture of rage, hatred, and
fear, rendered terrible. All the guests rose at these words,--the whole
company now presented two singular groupes, that of the amazed guests
all collected together, and repeating, “Who, what is he?” and that of
the Englishman, who stood unmoved, and Olavida, who dropped dead in the
attitude of pointing to him. * * * * * * * * * * * *

The body was removed into another room, and the departure of the
Englishman was not noticed till the company returned to the hall. They
sat late together, conversing on this extraordinary circumstance, and
finally agreed to remain in the house, lest the evil spirit (for they
believed the Englishman no better) should take certain liberties with
the corse by no means agreeable to a Catholic, particularly as he had
manifestly died without the benefit of the last sacraments. Just as this
laudable resolution was formed, they were roused by cries of horror and
agony from the bridal-chamber, where the young pair had retired.

They hurried to the door, but the father was first. They burst it open,
and found the bride a corse in the arms of her husband. * * * * * * * He
never recovered his reason; the family deserted the mansion rendered
terrible by so many misfortunes. One apartment is still tenanted by the
unhappy maniac; his were the cries you heard as you traversed the
deserted rooms. He is for the most part silent during the day, but at
midnight he always exclaims, in a voice frightfully piercing, and hardly
human, “They are coming! they are coming!” and relapses into profound

The funeral of Father Olavida was attended by an extraordinary
circumstance. He was interred in a neighbouring convent; and the
reputation of his sanctity, joined to the interest caused by his
extraordinary death, collected vast numbers at the ceremony. His funeral
sermon was preached by a monk of distinguished eloquence, appointed for
the purpose. To render the effect of his discourse more powerful, the
corse, extended on a bier, with its face uncovered, was placed in the
aisle. The monk took his text from one of the prophets,--“Death is gone
up into our palaces.” He expatiated on mortality, whose approach,
whether abrupt or lingering, is alike awful to man.--He spoke of the
vicissitudes of empires with much eloquence and learning, but his
audience were not observed to be much affected.--He cited various
passages from the lives of the saints, descriptive of the glories of
martyrdom, and the heroism of those who had bled and blazed for Christ
and his blessed mother, but they appeared still waiting for something to
touch them more deeply. When he inveighed against the tyrants under
whose bloody persecutions those holy men suffered, his hearers were
roused for a moment, for it is always easier to excite a passion than a
moral feeling. But when he spoke of the dead, and pointed with emphatic
gesture to the corse, as it lay before them cold and motionless, every
eye was fixed, and every ear became attentive. Even the lovers, who,
under pretence of dipping their fingers into the holy water, were
contriving to exchange amorous billets, forbore for one moment this
interesting intercourse, to listen to the preacher. He dwelt with much
energy on the virtues of the deceased, whom he declared to be a
particular favourite of the Virgin; and enumerating the various losses
that would be caused by his departure to the community to which he
belonged, to society, and to religion at large; he at last worked up
himself to a vehement expostulation with the Deity on the occasion. “Why
hast thou,” he exclaimed, “why hast thou, Oh God! thus dealt with us?
Why hast thou snatched from our sight this glorious saint, whose merits,
if properly applied, doubtless would have been sufficient to atone for
the apostacy of St Peter, the opposition of St Paul, (previous to his
conversion), and even the treachery of Judas himself? Why hast thou, Oh
God! snatched him from us?”--and a deep and hollow voice from among the
congregation answered,--“Because he deserved his fate.” The murmurs of
approbation with which the congregation honoured this apostrophe,
half-drowned this extraordinary interruption; and though there was some
little commotion in the immediate vicinity of the speaker, the rest of
the audience continued to listen intently. “What,” proceeded the
preacher, pointing to the corse, “what hath laid thee there, servant of
God?”--“Pride, ignorance, and fear,” answered the same voice, in accents
still more thrilling. The disturbance now became universal. The preacher
paused, and a circle opening, disclosed the figure of a monk belonging
to the convent, who stood among them. * * * * * * *

After all the usual modes of admonition, exhortation, and discipline
had been employed, and the bishop of the diocese, who, under the report
of these extraordinary circumstances, had visited the convent in person
to obtain some explanation from the contumacious monk in vain, it was
agreed, in a chapter extraordinary, to surrender him to the power of
the Inquisition. He testified great horror when this determination
was made known to him,--and offered to tell over and over again all
that he _could_ relate of the cause of Father Olavida’s death. His
humiliation, and repeated offers of confession, came too late. He was
conveyed to the Inquisition. The proceedings of that tribunal are
rarely disclosed, but there is a secret report (I cannot answer for its
truth) of what he said and suffered there. On his first examination, he
said he would relate all he _could_. He was told that was not enough,
he must relate all he knew. * * * * * * * * * “Why did you testify such
horror at the funeral of Father Olavida?”--“Every one testified horror
and grief at the death of that venerable ecclesiastic, who died in the
odour of sanctity. Had I done otherwise, it might have been reckoned
a proof of my guilt.” “Why did you interrupt the preacher with such
extraordinary exclamations?”--To this no answer. “Why do you refuse
to explain the meaning of those exclamations?”--No answer. “Why do
you persist in this obstinate and dangerous silence? Look, I beseech
you, brother, at the cross that is suspended against this wall,” and
the Inquisitor pointed to the large black crucifix at the back of the
chair where he sat; “one drop of the blood shed there can purify you
from all the sin you have ever committed; but all that blood, combined
with the intercession of the Queen of Heaven, and the merits of all
its martyrs, nay, even the absolution of the Pope, cannot deliver you
from the curse of dying in unrepented sin.”--“What sin, then, have I
committed?” “The greatest of all possible sins; you refuse answering
the questions put to you at the tribunal of the most holy and merciful
Inquisition;--you will not tell us what you know concerning the death
of Father Olavida.”--“I have told you that I believe he perished in
consequence of his ignorance and presumption.” “What proof can you
produce of that?”--“He sought the knowledge of a secret withheld from
man.” “What was that?”--“The secret of discovering the presence or
agency of the evil power.” “Do you possess that secret?”--After much
agitation on the part of the prisoner, he said distinctly, but very
faintly, “My master forbids me to disclose it.” “If your master were
Jesus Christ, he would not forbid you to obey the commands, or answer
the questions of the Inquisition.”--“I am not sure of that.” There was
a general outcry of horror at these words. The examination then went
on. “If you believed Olavida to be guilty of any pursuits or studies
condemned by our mother the church, why did you not denounce him to
the Inquisition?”--“Because I believed him not likely to be injured
by such pursuits; his mind was too weak,--he died in the struggle,”
said the prisoner with great emphasis. “You believe, then, it requires
strength of mind to keep those abominable secrets, when examined as to
their nature and tendency?”--“No, I rather imagine strength of body.”
“We shall try that presently,” said an Inquisitor, giving a signal for
the torture. * * * * * * * * * * * The prisoner underwent the first and
second applications with unshrinking courage, but on the infliction of
the water-torture, which is indeed insupportable to humanity, either
to suffer or relate, he exclaimed in the gasping interval, he would
disclose every thing. He was released, refreshed, restored, and the
following day uttered the following remarkable confession * * * * * * *
* * * *

The old Spanish woman further confessed to Stanton, that * * * * * * * *
* and that the Englishman certainly had been seen in the neighbourhood
since;--seen, as she had heard, that very night. “Great G--d!” exclaimed
Stanton, as he recollected the stranger whose demoniac laugh had so
appalled him, while gazing on the lifeless bodies of the lovers, whom
the lightning had struck and blasted.

                   *       *       *       *       *

As the manuscript, after a few blotted and illegible pages, became more
distinct, Melmoth read on, perplexed and unsatisfied, not knowing what
connexion this Spanish story could have with his ancestor, whom,
however, he recognised under the title of _the Englishman_; and
wondering how Stanton could have thought it worth his while to follow
him to Ireland, write a long manuscript about an event that occurred in
Spain, and leave it in the hands of his family, to “verify untrue
things,” in the language of Dogberry,--his wonder was diminished, though
his curiosity was still more inflamed, by the perusal of the next lines,
which he made out with some difficulty. It seems Stanton was now in
England. * * * * * * * * * * *

About the year 1677, Stanton was in London, his mind still full of his
mysterious countryman. This constant subject of his contemplations had
produced a visible change in his exterior,--his walk was what Sallust
tells us of Catiline’s,--his were, too, the “_fœdi oculi_.” He said to
himself every moment, “If I could but trace that being, I will not call
him man,”--and the next moment he said, “and what if I could?” In this
state of mind, it is singular enough that he mixed constantly in public
amusements, but it is true. When one fierce passion is devouring the
soul, we feel more than ever the necessity of external excitement; and
our dependence on the world for temporary relief increases in direct
proportion to our contempt of the world and all its works. He went
frequently to the theatres, _then_ fashionable, when

    “The fair sat panting at a courtier’s play,
     And not a mask went unimproved away.”

The London theatres then presented a spectacle which ought for ever to
put to silence the foolish outcry against progressive deterioration of
morals,--foolish even from the pen of Juvenal, and still more so from
the lips of a modern Puritan. Vice is always nearly on an average: The
only difference in life worth tracing, is that of manners, and there we
have manifestly the advantage of our ancestors. Hypocrisy is said to be
the homage that vice pays to virtue,--decorum is the outward expression
of that homage; and if this be so, we must acknowledge that vice has
latterly grown very humble indeed. There was, however, something
splendid, ostentatious, and obtrusive, in the vices of Charles the
Second’s reign.--A view of the theatres alone proved it, when Stanton
was in the habit of visiting them. At the doors stood on one side the
footmen of a fashionable nobleman, (with arms concealed under their
liveries), surrounding the sedan of a popular actress(1), whom they were
to carry off _vi et armis_, as she entered it at the end of the play. At
the other side waited the _glass coach_ of a woman of fashion, who
waited to take Kynaston (the Adonis of the day), in his female dress, to
the park after the play was over, and exhibit him in all the luxurious
splendour of effeminate beauty, (heightened by theatrical dress), for
which he was so distinguished.

  (1) Mrs Marshall, the original Roxana in Lee’s Alexander, and the only
  virtuous woman then on the stage. She was carried off in the manner
  described, by Lord Orrery, who, finding all his solicitations
  repelled, had recourse to a sham marriage performed by a servant in
  the habit of a clergyman.

Plays being then performed at four o’clock, allowed ample time for the
evening drive, and the midnight assignation, when the parties met by
torch-light, masked, in St James’s park, and verified the title of
Wycherly’s play, “Love in a Wood.” The boxes, as Stanton looked round
him, were filled with females, whose naked shoulders and bosoms, well
testified in the paintings of Lely, and the pages of Grammont, might
save modern puritanism many a vituperative groan and affected
reminiscence. They had all taken the precaution to send some male
relative, on the first night of a new play, to report whether it was fit
for persons of “honour and reputation” to appear at; but in spite of
this precaution, at certain passages (which occurred about every second
sentence) they were compelled to spread out their fans, or play with the
still cherished love-lock, which Prynne himself had not been able to
write down.

The men in the boxes were composed of two distinct classes, the “men of
wit and pleasure about town,” distinguished by their Flanders lace
cravats, soiled with snuff, their diamond rings, the pretended gift of a
royal mistress, (_n’importe_ whether the Duchess of Portsmouth or Nell
Gwynne); their uncombed wigs, whose curls descended to their waists, and
the loud and careless tone in which they abused Dryden, Lee, and Otway,
and quoted Sedley and Rochester;--the other class were the lovers, the
gentle “squires of dames,” equally conspicuous for their white fringed
gloves, their obsequious bows, and their commencing every sentence
addressed to a lady, with the profane exclamation of (2) “Oh Jesu!” or
the softer, but equally unmeaning one of “I beseech you, Madam,” or,
“Madam, I burn(3).” One circumstance sufficiently extraordinary marked
the manners of the day; females had not then found their proper level in
life; they were alternately adored as goddesses, and assailed as
prostitutes; and the man who, this moment, addressed his mistress in
language borrowed from Orondates worshipping Cassandra, in the next
accosted her with ribaldry that might put to the blush the piazzas of
Covent Garden(4).

  (2) Vide Pope, (copying from Donne).

      “Peace, fools, or Gonson will for Papists seize you,
       If once he catch you at your Jesu, Jesu.”

  (3) Vide the Old Bachelor, whose Araminta, wearied by the repetition
  of these phrases, forbids her lover to address her in any sentence
  commencing with them.

  (4) Vide any old play you may have the patience to peruse; or, _instar
  omnium_, read the courtly loves of Rodolphil and Melantha, Palamede
  and Doratice, in Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode.

The pit presented a more various spectacle. There were the critics armed
cap-a-pee from Aristotle and Bossu; these men dined at twelve, dictated
at a coffee-house till four, then called to the boy to brush their
shoes, and strode to the theatre, where, till the curtain rose, they sat
hushed in grim repose, and expecting their evening prey. There were the
templars, spruce, pert, and loquacious; and here and there a sober
citizen, doffing his steeple-crowned hat, and hiding his little band
under the folds of his huge puritanic cloke, while his eyes, declined
with an expression half leering, half ejaculatory, towards a masked
female, muffled in a hood and scarf, testified what had seduced him into
these “tents of Kedar.” There were females, too, but all in vizard
masks, which, though worn as well as aunt Dinah’s in Tristram Shandy,
served to conceal them from the “young bubbles” they were in quest of,
and from all but the orange-women, who hailed them loudly as they passed
the doors(5). In the galleries were the happy souls who waited for the
fulfilment of Dryden’s promise in one of his prologues(6); no matter to
them whether it were the ghost of Almanzor’s mother in her dripping
shroud, or that of Laius, who, according to the stage directions, rises
in his chariot, armed with the ghosts of his three murdered attendants
behind him;--a joke that did not escape l’Abbe le Blanc(7), in his
recipe for writing an English tragedy. Some, indeed, from time to time
called out for the “burning of the Pope;” but though

    “Space was obedient to the boundless piece,
     Which oped in Mexico and closed in Greece,”

it was not always possible to indulge them in this laudable amusement,
as the scene of the popular plays was generally laid in Africa or Spain;
Sir Robert Howard, Elkanah Settle, and John Dryden, all agreeing in
their choice of Spanish and Moorish subjects for their principal plays.
Among this joyous groupe were seated several women of fashion masked,
enjoying in secrecy the licentiousness which they dared not openly
patronise, and verifying Gay’s characteristic description, though it was
written many years later,

    “Mobbed in the gallery Laura sits secure,
     And laughs at jests that turn the box demure.”

Stanton gazed on all this with the look of one who “could not be moved
to smile at any thing.” He turned to the stage, the play was Alexander,
then acted as written by Lee, and the principal character was performed
by Hart, whose god-like ardour in making love, is said almost to have
compelled the audience to believe that they beheld the “son of Ammon.”

  (5) Vide Southern’s Oroonoko,--I mean the comic part.

  (6) “A charm, a song, a murder, and a ghost.”

      _Prologue to Œdipus._

  (7) Vide Le Blanc’s Letters.

There were absurdities enough to offend a classical, or even a rational
spectator. There were Grecian heroes with roses in their shoes, feathers
in their hats, and wigs down to their waists; and Persian princesses in
stiff stays and powdered hair. But the illusion of the scene was well
sustained, for the heroines were rivals in real as well as theatrical
life. It was that memorable night, when, according to the history of the
veteran Betterton(8), Mrs Barry, who personated Roxana, had a green-room
squabble with Mrs Bowtell, the representative of Statira, about a veil,
which the partiality of the property-man adjudged to the latter. Roxana
suppressed her rage till the fifth act, when, stabbing Statira, she
aimed the blow with such force as to pierce through her stays, and
inflict a severe though not dangerous wound. Mrs Bowtell fainted, the
performance was suspended, and, in the commotion which this incident
caused in the house, many of the audience rose, and Stanton among them.
It was at this moment that, in a seat opposite to him, he discovered the
object of his search for four years,--the Englishman whom he had met in
the plains of Valentia, and whom he believed the same with the subject
of the extraordinary narrative he had heard there.

  (8) Vide Betterton’s History of the Stage.

He was standing up. There was nothing particular or remarkable in his
appearance, but the expression of his eyes could never be mistaken or
forgotten. The heart of Stanton palpitated with violence,--a mist
overspread his eyes,--a nameless and deadly sickness, accompanied with a
creeping sensation in every pore, from which cold drops were gushing,
announced the * * * * * * * * * * Before he had well recovered, a strain
of music, soft, solemn, and delicious, breathed round him, audibly
ascending from the ground, and increasing in sweetness and power till it
seemed to fill the whole building. Under the sudden impulse of amazement
and pleasure, he inquired of some around him from whence those exquisite
sounds arose. But, by the manner in which he was answered, it was plain
that those he addressed considered him insane; and, indeed, the
remarkable change in his expression might well justify the suspicion. He
then remembered that night in Spain, when the same sweet and mysterious
sounds were heard only by the young bridegroom and bride, of whom the
latter perished on that very night. “And am I then to be the next
victim?” thought Stanton; “and are those celestial sounds, that seem to
prepare us for heaven, only intended to announce the presence of an
incarnate fiend, who mocks the devoted with ‘airs from heaven,’ while he
prepares to surround them with ‘blasts from hell’?” It is very singular
that at this moment, when his imagination had reached its highest pitch
of elevation,--when the object he had pursued so long and fruitlessly,
had in one moment become as it were tangible to the grasp both of mind
and body,--when this spirit, with whom he had wrestled in darkness, was
at last about to declare its name, that Stanton began to feel a kind of
disappointment at the futility of his pursuits, like Bruce at
discovering the source of the Nile, or Gibbon on concluding his History.
The feeling which he had dwelt on so long, that he had actually
converted it into a duty, was after all mere curiosity; but what passion
is more insatiable, or more capable of giving a kind of romantic
grandeur to all its wanderings and eccentricities? Curiosity is in one
respect like love, it always compromises between the object and the
feeling; and provided the latter possesses sufficient energy, no matter
how contemptible the former may be. A child might have smiled at the
agitation of Stanton, caused as it was by the accidental appearance of a
stranger; but no man, in the full energy of his passions, was there, but
must have trembled at the horrible agony of emotion with which he felt
approaching, with sudden and irresistible velocity, the crisis of his

When the play was over, he stood for some moments in the deserted
streets. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and he saw near him a
figure, whose shadow, projected half across the street, (there were no
flagged ways then, chains and posts were the only defence of the
foot-passenger), appeared to him of gigantic magnitude. He had been so
long accustomed to contend with these phantoms of the imagination, that
he took a kind of stubborn delight in subduing them. He walked up to the
object, and observing the shadow only was magnified, and the figure was
the ordinary height of man, he approached it, and discovered the very
object of his search,--the man whom he had seen for a moment in
Valentia, and, after a search of four years, recognised at the theatre.
* * * * * * * * * * *

“You were in quest of me?”--“I was.” “Have you any thing to inquire of
me?”--“Much.” “Speak, then.”--“This is no place.” “No place! poor
wretch, I am independent of time and place. Speak, if you have any thing
to ask or to learn?”--“I have many things to ask, but nothing to learn,
I hope, from you.” “You deceive yourself, but you will be undeceived
when next we meet.”--“And when shall that be?” said Stanton, grasping
his arm; “name your hour and your place.” “The hour shall be mid-day,”
answered the stranger, with a horrid and unintelligible smile; “and the
place shall be the bare walls of a mad-house, where you shall rise
rattling in your chains, and rustling from your straw, to greet me,--yet
still you shall have _the curse of sanity_, and of memory. My voice
shall ring in your ears till then, and the glance of these eyes shall be
reflected from every object, animate or inanimate, till you behold them
again.”--“Is it under circumstances so horrible we are to meet again?”
said Stanton, shrinking under the full-lighted blaze of those demon
eyes. “I never,” said the stranger, in an emphatic tone,--“I _never
desert my friends in misfortune_. When they are plunged in the lowest
abyss of human calamity, _they are sure to be visited by me_.” * * * * *

The narrative, when Melmoth was again able to trace its continuation,
described Stanton, some years after, plunged in a state the most

He had been always reckoned of a singular turn of mind, and the belief
of this, aggravated by his constant talk of Melmoth, his wild pursuit of
him, his strange behaviour at the theatre, and his dwelling on the
various particulars of their extraordinary meetings, with all the
intensity of the deepest conviction, (while he never could impress them
on any one’s conviction but his own), suggested to some prudent people
the idea that he was deranged. Their malignity probably took part with
their prudence. The selfish Frenchman(9) says, we feel a pleasure even
in the misfortunes of our friends,--_a plus forte_ in those of our
enemies; and as every one is an enemy to a man of genius of course, the
report of Stanton’s malady was propagated with infernal and successful
industry. Stanton’s next relative, a needy unprincipled man, watched the
report in its circulation, and saw the snares closing round his victim.
He waited on him one morning, accompanied by a person of a grave, though
somewhat repulsive appearance. Stanton was as usual abstracted and
restless, and, after a few moments conversation, he proposed a drive a
few miles out of London, which he said would revive and refresh him.
Stanton objected, on account of the difficulty of getting a hackney
coach, (for it is singular that at this period the number of private
equipages, though infinitely fewer than they are now, exceeded the
number of hired ones), and proposed going by water. This, however, did
not suit the kinsman’s views; and, after pretending to send for a
carriage, (which was in waiting at the end of the street), Stanton and
his companions entered it, and drove about two miles out of London.

  (9) Rochefoucault.

The carriage then stopped. “Come, Cousin,” said the younger
Stanton,--“come and view a purchase I have made.” Stanton absently
alighted, and followed him across a small paved court; the other person
followed. “In troth, Cousin,” said Stanton, “your choice appears not to
have been discreetly made; your house has something of a gloomy
aspect.”--“Hold you content, Cousin,” replied the other; “I shall take
order that you like it better, when you have been some time a dweller
therein.” Some attendants of a mean appearance, and with most suspicious
visages, awaited them on their entrance, and they ascended a narrow
staircase, which led to a room meanly furnished. “Wait here,” said the
kinsman, to the man who accompanied them, “till I go for company to
divertise my cousin in his loneliness.” They were left alone. Stanton
took no notice of his companion, but as usual seized the first book near
him, and began to read. It was a volume in manuscript,--they were then
much more common than now.

The first lines struck him as indicating insanity in the writer. It was
a wild proposal (written apparently after the great fire of London) to
rebuild it with stone, and attempting to prove, on a calculation wild,
false, and yet sometimes plausible, that this could be done out of the
colossal fragments of Stonehenge, which the writer proposed to remove
for that purpose. Subjoined were several grotesque drawings of engines
designed to remove those massive blocks, and in a corner of the page was
a note,--“I would have drawn these more accurately, but was not allowed
_a knife_ to mend my pen.”

The next was entitled, “A modest proposal for the spreading of
Christianity in foreign parts, whereby it is hoped its entertainment
will become general all over the world.”--This modest proposal was, to
convert the Turkish ambassadors, (who had been in London a few years
before), by offering them their choice of being strangled on the spot,
or becoming Christians. Of course the writer reckoned on their embracing
the easier alternative, but even this was to be clogged with a heavy
condition,--namely, that they must be bound before a magistrate to
convert twenty mussulmans a day, on their return to Turkey. The rest of
the pamphlet was reasoned very much in the conclusive style of Captain
Bobadil,--these twenty will convert twenty more a piece, and these two
hundred converts, converting their due number in the same time, all
Turkey would be converted before the Grand Signior knew where he was.
Then comes the _coup d’eclat_,--one fine morning, every minaret in
Constantinople was to ring out with bells, instead of the cry of the
Muezzins; and the Imaum, coming out to see what was the matter, was to
be encountered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, _in pontificalibus_,
performing Cathedral service in the church of St Sophia, which was to
finish the business. Here an objection appeared to arise, which the
ingenuity of the writer had anticipated.--“It may be redargued,” saith
he, “by those who have more spleen than brain, that forasmuch as the
Archbishop preacheth in English, he will not thereby much edify the
Turkish folk, who do altogether hold in a vain gabble of their own.” But
this (to use his own language) he “evites,” by judiciously observing,
that where service was performed in an unknown tongue, the devotion of
the people was always observed to be much increased thereby; as, for
instance, in the church of Rome,--that St Augustine, with his monks,
advanced to meet King Ethelbert singing litanies, (in a language his
majesty could not possibly have understood), and converted him and his
whole court on the spot;--that the sybilline books * * * * * * * * _Cum
multis aliis._

Between the pages were cut most exquisitely in paper the likenesses of
some of these Turkish ambassadors; the hair of the beards, in
particular, was feathered with a delicacy of touch that seemed the work
of fairy fingers,--but the pages ended with a complaint of the operator,
that his _scissars had been taken from him_. However, he consoled
himself and the reader with the assurance, that he would that night
catch a moon-beam as it entered through the grating, and, when he had
whetted it on the iron knobs of his door, would do wonders with it. In
the next page was found a melancholy proof of powerful but prostrated
intellect. It contained some insane lines, ascribed to Lee the dramatic
poet, commencing,

    “O that my lungs could bleat like buttered pease,” &c.

There is no proof whatever that these miserable lines were really
written by Lee, except that the measure is the fashionable quatrain of
the period. It is singular that Stanton read on without suspicion of his
own danger, quite absorbed in _the album of a mad-house_, without ever
reflecting on the place where he was, and which such compositions too
manifestly designated.

It was after a long interval that he looked round, and perceived that
his companion was gone. Bells were unusual then. He proceeded to the
door,--it was fastened. He called aloud,--his voice was echoed in a
moment by many others, but in tones so wild and discordant, that he
desisted in involuntary terror. As the day advanced, and no one
approached, he tried the window, and then perceived for the first time
it was grated. It looked out on the narrow flagged yard, in which no
human being was; and if there had, from such a being no human feeling
could have been extracted.

Sickening with unspeakable horror, he sunk rather than sat down beside
the miserable window, and “wished for day.”

* * * *

At midnight he started from a doze, half a swoon, half a sleep, which
probably the hardness of his seat, and of the deal table on which he
leaned, had not contributed to prolong.

He was in complete darkness; the horror of his situation struck him at
once, and for a moment he was indeed almost qualified for an inmate of
that dreadful mansion. He felt his way to the door, shook it with
desperate strength, and uttered the most frightful cries, mixed with
expostulations and commands. His cries were in a moment echoed by a
hundred voices. In maniacs there is a peculiar malignity, accompanied by
an extraordinary acuteness of some of the senses, particularly in
distinguishing the voice of a stranger. The cries that he heard on every
side seemed like a wild and infernal yell of joy, that their mansion of
misery had obtained another tenant.

He paused, exhausted,--a quick and thundering step was heard in the
passage. The door was opened, and a man of savage appearance stood at
the entrance,--two more were seen indistinctly in the passage.--“Release
me, villain!” “Stop, my fine fellow, what’s all this noise for?” “Where
am I?” “Where you ought to be.” “Will you dare to detain me?” “Yes, and
a little more than that,” answered the ruffian, applying a loaded
horse-whip to his back and shoulders, till the patient soon fell to the
ground convulsed with rage and pain. “Now you see you are where you
ought to be,” repeated the ruffian, brandishing the horse-whip over him,
“and now take the advice of a friend, and make no more noise. The lads
are ready for you with the darbies, and they’ll clink them on in the
crack of this whip, unless you prefer another touch of it first.” They
then were advancing into the room as he spoke, with fetters in their
hands, (strait waistcoats being then little known or used), and shewed,
by their frightful countenances and gestures, no unwillingness to apply
them. Their harsh rattle on the stone pavement made Stanton’s blood run
cold; the effect, however, was useful. He had the presence of mind to
acknowledge his (supposed) miserable condition, to supplicate the
forbearance of the ruthless keeper, and promise complete submission to
his orders. This pacified the ruffian, and he retired.

Stanton collected all his resolution to encounter the horrible night; he
saw all that was before him, and summoned himself to meet it. After much
agitated deliberation, he conceived it best to continue the same
appearance of submission and tranquillity, hoping that thus he might in
time either propitiate the wretches in whose hands he was, or, by his
apparent inoffensiveness, procure such opportunities of indulgence, as
might perhaps ultimately facilitate his escape. He therefore determined
to conduct himself with the utmost tranquillity, and never to let his
voice be heard in the house; and he laid down several other resolutions
with a degree of prudence which he already shuddered to think might be
the cunning of incipient madness, or the beginning result of the horrid
habits of the place.

These resolutions were put to desperate trial that very night. Just next
to Stanton’s apartment were lodged two most uncongenial neighbours. One
of them was a puritanical weaver, who had been driven mad by a single
sermon from the celebrated Hugh Peters, and was sent to the mad-house as
full of election and reprobation as he could hold,--and fuller. He
regularly repeated over the _five points_ while day-light lasted, and
imagined himself preaching in a conventicle with distinguished success;
towards twilight his visions were more gloomy, and at midnight his
blasphemies became horrible. In the opposite cell was lodged a loyalist
tailor, who had been ruined by giving credit to the cavaliers and their
ladies,--(for at this time, and much later, down to the reign of Anne,
tailors were employed by females even _to make_ and _fit on their
stays_),--who had run mad with drink and loyalty on the burning of the
Rump, and ever since had made the cells of the mad-house echo with
fragments of the ill-fated Colonel Lovelace’s songs, scraps from
Cowley’s “Cutter of Coleman street,” and some curious specimens from Mrs
Aphra Behn’s plays, where the cavaliers are denominated the _heroicks_,
and Lady Lambert and Lady Desborough represented as going to meeting,
their large Bibles carried before them by their pages, and falling in
love with two banished cavaliers by the way.--“Tabitha, Tabitha,” cried
a voice half in exultation and half in derision; “thou shalt go with thy
hair curled, and thy breasts naked;”--and then added in an affected
voice,--“I could dance the Canaries once, spouse.” This never failed to
rouse the feelings, or rather operate on the instincts of the puritanic
weaver, who immediately answered, “Colonel Harrison shall come out of
the west, riding on a sky-coloured mule, which signifies
instruction(10).” “Ye lie, ye round-head son of a b----h,” roared the
cavalier tailor, “Colonel Harrison will be damned before he ever mounts
a sky-coloured mule;” and he concluded this pithy sentence with
fragments of anti-Oliverian songs.

    “And may I live to see
     Old Noll upon a tree,
     And many such as he;
     Confound him, confound him,
     Diseases all around him.”

  (10) Vide Cutter of Coleman street.

“Ye are honest gentlemen, I can play many tunes,” squeaked a poor mad
loyalist fiddler, who had been accustomed to play in the taverns to the
cavalier party, and just remembered the words of a similar minstrel
playing for Colonel Blunt in the committee. “Then play me the air to
“Rebellion is breaking up house,” exclaimed the tailor, dancing wildly
about his cell (as far as his chains allowed him) to an imaginary
measure. The weaver could contain no longer. “How long, Lord, how long,”
he exclaimed, “shall thine enemies insult thy sanctuary, in which I have
been placed an anointed teacher? even here, where I am placed to preach
to the souls in prison?--Open the flood-gates of thy power, and though
thy waves and storms go over me, let me testify in the midst of them,
even as he who spreadeth forth his hands to swim may raise one of them
to warn his companion that he is about to sink.--Sister Ruth, why dost
thou uncover thy bosom to discover my frailty?--Lord, let thine arm of
power be with us as it was when thou brakest the shield, the sword, and
the battle,--when thy foot was dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and
the tongue of thy dogs was red through the same.--Dip all thy garments
in blood, and let me weave thee fresh when thou art stained.--When shall
thy saints tread the wine-press of thy wrath? Blood! blood! the saints
call for it, earth gapes to swallow it, hell thirsts for it!--Sister
Ruth, I pray thee, conceal thy bosom, and be not as the vain women of
this generation.--Oh for a day like that, a day of the Lord of hosts,
when the towers fell!--Spare me in the battle, for I am not a mighty man
of war; leave me in the rear of the host, to curse, with the curse of
Meroz, those who come not to the help of the Lord against the
mighty,--even to curse this malignant tailor,--yea, curse him
bitterly.--Lord, I am in the tents of Kedar, my feet stumble on the dark
mountains,--I fall,--I fall!”--And the poor wretch, exhausted by his
delirious agonies, fell, and grovelled for some time in his straw. “Oh!
I have had a grievous fall,--Sister Ruth,--Oh Sister Ruth!--Rejoice not
against me, Oh mine enemy! though I fall, I shall rise again.” Whatever
satisfaction Sister Ruth might have derived from this assurance, if she
could have heard it, was enjoyed tenfold by the weaver, whose amorous
reminiscences were in a moment exchanged for war-like ones, borrowed
from a wretched and disarranged mass of intellectual rubbish. “The Lord
is a man of war,” he shouted.--“Look to Marston Moor!--Look to the city,
the proud city, full of pride and sin!--Look to the waves of the Severn,
as red with blood as the waves of the Red Sea!--There were the hoofs
broken by means of the prancings, the prancings of the mighty
ones.--Then, Lord, was thy triumph, and the triumph of thy saints, to
bind their kings in chains, and their nobles in links of iron.” The
malignant tailor burst out in his turn: “Thank the false Scots, and
their solemn league and covenant, and Carisbrook Castle, for that, ye
crop-eared Puritan,” he yelled. “If it had not been for them, I would
have taken measure of the king for a velvet cloak as high as the Tower
of London, and one flirt of its folds would have knocked the “copper
nose” into the Thames, and sent it a-drift to Hell.” “Ye lie, in your
teeth,” echoed the weaver; “and I will prove it unarmed, with my shuttle
against your needle, and smite you to the earth thereafter, as David
smote Goliath. It was _the man’s_ (such was the indecent language in
which Charles the First was spoken of by the Puritans)--it was the man’s
carnal, self-seeking, world-loving, prelatical hierarchy, that drove the
godly to seek the sweet word in season from their own pastors, who
righteously abominated the Popish garniture of lawn-sleeves, lewd
organs, and steeple houses. Sister Ruth, tempt me not with that calf’s
head, it is all streaming with blood;--drop it, I beseech thee, sister,
it is unmeet in a woman’s hand, though the brethren drink of it.--Woe be
unto thee, gainsayer, dost thou not see how flames envelope the accursed
city under his Arminian and Popish son?--London is on fire!--on fire!”
he yelled; “and the brands are lit by the half-papist, whole-arminian,
all-damned people thereof.--Fire!--fire!” The voice in which he shrieked
out the last words was powerfully horrible, but it was like the moan of
an infant, compared to the voice which took up and re-echoed the cry, in
a tone that made the building shake. It was the voice of a maniac, who
had lost her husband, children, subsistence, and finally her reason, in
the dreadful fire of London. The cry of fire never failed to operate
with terrible punctuality on her associations. She had been in a
disturbed sleep, and now started from it as suddenly as on that dreadful
night. It was Saturday night, too, and she was always observed to be
particularly violent on that night,--it was the terrible weekly festival
of insanity with her. She was awake, and busy in a moment escaping from
the flames; and she dramatized the whole scene with such hideous
fidelity, that Stanton’s resolution was far more in danger from her than
from the battle between his neighbours _Testimony_ and _Hothead_. She
began exclaiming she was suffocated by the smoke; then she sprung from
her bed, calling for a light, and appeared to be struck by the sudden
glare that burst through her casement.--“The last day,” she shrieked,
“The last day! The very heavens are on fire!”--“That will not come till
the Man of Sin be first destroyed,” cried the weaver; “thou ravest of
light and fire, and yet thou art in utter darkness.--I pity thee, poor
mad soul, I pity thee!” The maniac never heeded him; she appeared to be
scrambling up a stair-case to her children’s room. She exclaimed she was
scorched, singed, suffocated; her courage appeared to fail, and she
retreated. “But my children are there!” she cried in a voice of
unspeakable agony, as she seemed to make another effort; “here I
am--here I am come to save you.--Oh God! They are all blazing!--Take
this arm--no, not that, it is scorched and disabled--well, any arm--take
hold of my clothes--no, they are blazing too!--Well, take me all on fire
as I am!--And their hair, how it hisses!--Water, one drop of water for
my youngest--he is but an infant--for my youngest, and let me burn!” She
paused in horrid silence, to watch the fall of a blazing rafter that was
about to shatter the stair-case on which she stood.--“The roof has
fallen on my head!” she exclaimed. “The earth is weak, and all the
inhabitants thereof,” chaunted the weaver; “I bear up the pillars of

The maniac marked the destruction of the spot where she thought
she stood by one desperate bound, accompanied by a wild shriek, and
then calmly gazed on her infants as they rolled over the scorching
fragments, and sunk into the abyss of fire below. “There they
go,--one--two--three--all!” and her voice sunk into low mutterings, and
her convulsions into faint, cold shudderings, like the sobbings of a
spent storm, as she imagined herself to “stand in safety and despair,”
amid the thousand houseless wretches assembled in the suburbs of London
on the dreadful nights after the fire, without food, roof, or raiment,
all gazing on the burning ruins of their dwellings and their property.
She seemed to listen to their complaints, and even repeated some of them
very affectingly, but invariably answered them with the same words, “But
I have lost all my children--_all_!” It was remarkable, that when this
sufferer began to rave, all the others became silent. The cry of nature
hushed every other cry,--she was the only patient in the house who was
not mad from politics, religion, ebriety, or some perverted passion; and
terrifying as the out-break of her frenzy always was, Stanton used to
await it as a kind of relief from the dissonant, melancholy, and
ludicrous ravings of the others.

But the utmost efforts of his resolution began to sink under the
continued horrors of the place. The impression on his senses began to
defy the power of reason to resist them. He could not shut out these
frightful cries nightly repeated, nor the frightful sound of the whip
employed to still them. Hope began to fail him, as he observed, that the
submissive tranquillity (which he had imagined, by obtaining increased
indulgence, might contribute to his escape, or perhaps convince the
keeper of his sanity) was interpreted by the callous ruffian, who was
acquainted only with the varieties of _madness_, as a more refined
species of that cunning which he was well accustomed to watch and

On his first discovery of his situation, he had determined to take the
utmost care of his health and intellect that the place allowed, as the
sole basis of his hope of deliverance. But as that hope declined, he
neglected the means of realizing it. He had at first risen early, walked
incessantly about his cell, and availed himself of every opportunity of
being in the open air. He took the strictest care of his person in point
of cleanliness, and with or without appetite, regularly forced down his
miserable meals; and all these efforts were even pleasant, as long as
hope prompted them. But now he began to relax them all. He passed half
the day in his wretched bed, in which he frequently took his meals,
declined shaving or changing his linen, and, when the sun shone into his
cell, turned from it on his straw with a sigh of heart-broken
despondency. Formerly, when the air breathed through his grating, he
used to say, “Blessed air of heaven, I shall breathe you once more in
freedom!--Reserve all your freshness for that delicious evening when I
shall inhale you, and be as free as you myself.” Now when he felt it, he
sighed and said nothing. The twitter of the sparrows, the pattering of
rain, or the moan of the wind, sounds that he used to sit up in his bed
to catch with delight, as reminding him of nature, were now unheeded.

He began at times to listen with sullen and horrible pleasure to the
cries of his miserable companions. He became squalid, listless, torpid,
and disgusting in his appearance. * * * * * * *

It was one of those dismal nights, that, as he tossed on his loathsome
bed,--more loathsome from the impossibility to quit it without feeling
more “unrest,”--he perceived the miserable light that burned in the
hearth was obscured by the intervention of some dark object. He turned
feebly towards the light, without curiosity, without excitement, but
with a wish to diversify the monotony of his misery, by observing the
slightest change made even accidentally in the dusky atmosphere of his
cell. Between him and the light stood the figure of Melmoth, just as he
had seen him from the first; the figure was the same; the expression of
the face was the same,--cold, stony, and rigid; the eyes, with their
infernal and dazzling lustre, were still the same.

Stanton’s ruling passion rushed on his soul; he felt this apparition
like a summons to a high and fearful encounter. He heard his heart beat
audibly, and could have exclaimed with Lee’s unfortunate heroine,--“It
pants as cowards do before a battle; Oh the great march has sounded!”

Melmoth approached him with that frightful calmness that mocks the
terror it excites. “My prophecy has been fulfilled;--you rise to meet me
rattling from your chains, and rustling from your straw--am I not a true
prophet?” Stanton was silent. “Is not your situation very
miserable?”--Still Stanton was silent; for he was beginning to believe
this an illusion of madness. He thought to himself, “How could he have
gained entrance here?”--“Would you not wish to be delivered from it?”
Stanton tossed on his straw, and its rustling seemed to answer the
question. “I have the power to deliver you from it.” Melmoth spoke very
slowly and very softly, and the melodious smoothness of his voice made a
frightful contrast to the stony rigour of his features, and the
fiend-like brilliancy of his eyes. “Who are you, and whence come you?”
said Stanton, in a tone that was meant to be interrogatory and
imperative, but which, from his habits of squalid debility, was at once
feeble and querulous. His intellects had become affected by the gloom of
his miserable habitation, as the wretched inmate of a similar mansion,
when produced before a medical examiner, was reported to be a complete
Albinos.--“His skin was bleached, his eyes turned white; he could not
bear the light; and, when exposed to it, he turned away with a mixture
of weakness and restlessness, more like the writhings of a sick infant
than the struggles of a man.”

Such was Stanton’s situation; he was enfeebled now, and the power of the
enemy seemed without a possibility of opposition from either his
intellectual or corporeal powers. * * * * * * * *

Of all their horrible dialogue, only these words were legible in the
manuscript, “You know me now.”--“I always knew you.”--“That is false;
you imagined you did, and that has been the cause of all the wild * * *
* * * * * * of the * * * * * of your finally being lodged in this
mansion of misery, where only I would seek, where only I can succour
you.” “You, demon!”--“Demon!--Harsh words!--Was it a demon or a human
being placed you here?--Listen to me, Stanton; nay, wrap not yourself in
that miserable blanket,--that cannot shut out my words. Believe me, were
you folded in thunder-clouds, you must hear _me_! Stanton, think of your
misery. These bare walls--what do they present to the intellect or to
the senses?--White-wash, diversified with the scrawls of charcoal or red
chalk, that your happy predecessors have left for you to trace over. You
have a taste for drawing,--I trust it will improve. And here’s a
grating, through which the sun squints on you like a step-dame, and the
breeze blows, as if it meant to tantalize you with a sigh from that
sweet mouth, whose kiss you must never enjoy. And where’s your
library,--intellectual man,--travelled man?” he repeated in a tone of
bitter derision; “where be your companions, your peaked men of
countries, as your favourite Shakespeare has it? You must be content
with the spider and the rat, to crawl and scratch round your flock-bed!
I have known prisoners in the Bastile to feed them for companions,--why
don’t you begin your task? I have known a spider to descend at the tap
of a finger, and a rat to come forth when the daily meal was brought, to
share it with his fellow-prisoner!--How delightful to have vermin for
your guests! Aye, and when the feast fails them, they make a meal of
their entertainer!--You shudder--Are you, then, the first prisoner who
has been devoured alive by the vermin that infested his
cell?--Delightful banquet, not “where you eat, but where you are eaten!”
Your guests, however, will give you one token of repentance while they
feed; there will be _gnashing of teeth_, and you shall hear it, and feel
it too perchance!--And then for meals--Oh you are daintily off!--The
soup that the cat has lapped; and (as her progeny has probably
contributed to the hell-broth) why not?---- Then your hours of solitude,
deliciously diversified by the yell of famine, the howl of madness, the
crash of whips, and the broken-hearted sob of those who, like you, are
supposed, or _driven_ mad by the crimes of others!--Stanton, do you
imagine your reason can possibly hold out amid such scenes?--Supposing
your reason was unimpaired, your health not destroyed,--suppose all
this, which is, after all, more than fair supposition can grant, guess
the effect of the continuance of these scenes on your senses alone. A
time will come, and soon, when, from mere habit, you will echo the
scream of every delirious wretch that harbours near you; then you will
pause, clasp your hands on your throbbing head, and listen with horrible
anxiety whether the scream proceeded from _you_ or _them_. The time will
come, when, from the want of occupation, the listless and horrible
vacancy of your hours, you will feel as anxious to hear those shrieks,
as you were at first terrified to hear them,--when you will watch for
the ravings of your next neighbour, as you would for a scene on the
stage. All humanity will be extinguished in you. The ravings of these
wretches will become at once your sport and your torture. You will watch
for the sounds, to mock them with the grimaces and bellowings of a
fiend. The mind has a power of accommodating itself to its situation,
that you will experience in its most frightful and deplorable efficacy.
Then comes the dreadful doubt of one’s own sanity, the terrible
announcer that _that_ doubt will soon become fear, and _that_ fear
certainty. Perhaps (still more dreadful) the _fear_ will at last become
a _hope_,--shut out from society, watched by a brutal keeper, writhing
with all the impotent agony of an incarcerated mind, without
communication and without sympathy, unable to exchange ideas but with
those whose ideas are only the hideous spectres of departed intellect,
or even to hear the welcome sound of the human voice, except to mistake
it for the howl of a fiend, and stop the ear desecrated by its
intrusion,--then at last your fear will become a more fearful hope; you
will wish to become one of them, to escape the agony of consciousness.
As those who have long leaned over a precipice, have at last felt a
desire to plunge below, to relieve the intolerable temptation of their
giddiness(11), you will hear them laugh amid their wildest paroxysms;
you will say, ‘Doubtless those wretches have some consolation, but I
have none; my sanity is my greatest curse in this abode of horrors. They
greedily devour their miserable meals, while I loathe mine. They sleep
sometimes soundly, while my sleep is--worse than their waking. They are
revived every morning by some delicious illusion of cunning madness,
soothing them with the hope of escaping, baffling or tormenting their
keeper; my sanity precludes all such hope. _I know I never can escape_,
and the preservation of my faculties is only an aggravation of my
sufferings. I have all their miseries,--I have none of their
consolations. They laugh,--I hear them; would I could laugh like them.’
You will try, and the very effort will be an invocation to the demon of
insanity to come and take full possession of you from that moment for

  (11) A fact, related to me by a person who was near committing suicide
  in a similar situation, to escape what he called “the excruciating
  torture of giddiness.”

(There were other details, both of the menaces and temptations employed
by Melmoth, which are too horrible for insertion. One of them may serve
for an instance).

“You think that the intellectual power is something distinct from the
vitality of the soul, or, in other words, that if even your reason
should be destroyed, (which it nearly is), your soul might yet enjoy
beatitude in the full exercise of its enlarged and exalted faculties,
and all the clouds which obscured them be dispelled by the Sun of
Righteousness, in whose beams you hope to bask for ever and ever. Now,
without going into any metaphysical subtleties about the distinction
between mind and soul, experience must teach you, that there can be no
crime into which madmen would not, and do not precipitate themselves;
mischief is their occupation, malice their habit, murder their sport,
and blasphemy their delight. Whether a soul in this state can be in a
hopeful one, it is for you to judge; but it seems to me, that with the
loss of reason, (and reason cannot long be retained in this place), you
lose also the hope of immortality.--Listen,” said the tempter, pausing,
“listen to the wretch who is raving near you, and whose blasphemies
might make a demon start.--He was once an eminent puritanical preacher.
Half the day he imagines himself in a pulpit, denouncing damnation
against Papists, Arminians, and even Sub-lapsarians, (he being a
Supra-lapsarian himself). He foams, he writhes, he gnashes his teeth;
you would imagine him in the hell he was painting, and that the fire and
brimstone he is so lavish of, were actually exhaling from his jaws. At
night his _creed retaliates on him_; he believes himself one of the
reprobates he has been all day denouncing, and curses God for the very
decree he has all day been glorifying Him for.

“He, whom he has for twelve hours been vociferating “is the loveliest
among ten thousand,” becomes the object of demoniac hostility and
execration. He grapples with the iron posts of his bed, and says he is
rooting out the cross from the very foundations of Calvary; and it is
remarkable, that in proportion as his morning exercises are intense,
vivid, and eloquent, his nightly blasphemies are outrageous and
horrible.--Hark! Now he believes himself a demon; listen to his
diabolical eloquence of horror!”

Stanton listened, and shuddered * * * * * * “Escape--escape for your
life,” cried the tempter; “break forth into life, liberty, and sanity.
Your social happiness, your intellectual powers, your immortal
interests, perhaps, depend on the choice of this moment.--There is the
door, and the key is my hand. Choose--choose!”--“And how comes the key
in your hand? and what is the condition of my liberation?” said Stanton.
* * * * * * *

The explanation occupied several pages, which, to the torture of young
Melmoth, were wholly illegible. It seemed, however, to have been
rejected by Stanton with the utmost rage and horror, for Melmoth at last
made out,--“Begone, monster, demon!--begone to your native place. Even
this mansion of horror trembles to contain you; its walls sweat, and its
floors quiver, while you tread them.” * * * * * * * *

The conclusion of this extraordinary manuscript was in such a state,
that, in fifteen mouldy and crumbling pages, Melmoth could hardly make
out that number of lines. No antiquarian, unfolding with trembling hand
the calcined leaves of an Herculaneum manuscript, and hoping to discover
some lost lines of the Æneis in Virgil’s own autograph, or at least some
unutterable abomination of Petronius or Martial, happily elucidatory of
the mysteries of the Spintriæ, or the orgies of the Phallic worshippers,
ever pored with more luckless diligence, or shook a head of more
hopeless despondency over his task. He could but just make out what
tended rather to excite than assuage that feverish thirst of curiosity
which was consuming his inmost soul. The manuscript told no more of
Melmoth, but mentioned that Stanton was finally liberated from his
confinement,--that his pursuit of Melmoth was incessant and
indefatigable,--that he himself allowed it to be a species of
insanity,--that while he acknowledged it to be the master-passion, he
also felt it the master-torment of his life. He again visited the
Continent, returned to England,--pursued, inquired, traced, bribed, but
in vain. The being whom he had met thrice, under circumstances so
extraordinary, he was fated never to encounter again _in his life-time_.
At length, discovering that he had been born in Ireland, he resolved to
go there,--went, and found his pursuit again fruitless, and his
inquiries unanswered. The family knew nothing of him, or at least what
they knew or imagined, they prudently refused to disclose to a stranger,
and Stanton departed unsatisfied. It is remarkable, that he too, as
appeared from many half-obliterated pages of the manuscript, never
disclosed to mortal the particulars of their conversation in the
mad-house; and the slightest allusion to it threw him into fits of rage
and gloom equally singular and alarming. He left the manuscript,
however, in the hands of the family, possibly deeming, from their
incuriosity, their apparent indifference to their relative, or their
obvious inacquaintance with reading of any kind, manuscript or books,
his deposit would be safe. He seems, in fact, to have acted like men,
who, in distress at sea, intrust their letters and dispatches to a
bottle sealed, and commit it to the waves. The last lines of the
manuscript that were legible, were sufficiently extraordinary. * * * * *

“I have sought him every where.--The desire of meeting him once more, is
become as a burning fire within me,--it is the necessary condition of my
existence. I have vainly sought him at last in Ireland, of which I find
he is a native.--Perhaps our final meeting will be in * * * * * *

Such was the conclusion of the manuscript which Melmoth found in his
uncle’s closet. When he had finished it, he sunk down on the table near
which he had been reading it, his face hid in his folded arms, his
senses reeling, his mind in a mingled state of stupor and excitement.
After a few moments, he raised himself with an involuntary start, and
saw the picture gazing at him from its canvas. He was within ten inches
of it as he sat, and the proximity appeared increased by the strong
light that was accidentally thrown on it, and its being the only
representation of a human figure in the room. Melmoth felt for a moment
as if he were about to receive an explanation from its lips.

He gazed on it in return,--all was silent in the house,--they were alone
together. The illusion subsided at length; and as the mind rapidly
passes to opposite extremes, he remembered the injunction of his uncle
to destroy the portrait. He seized it;--his hand shook at first, but the
mouldering canvas appeared to assist him in the effort. He tore it from
the frame with a cry half terrific, half triumphant;--it fell at his
feet, and he shuddered as it fell. He expected to hear some fearful
sounds, some unimaginable breathings of prophetic horror, follow this
act of sacrilege, for such he felt it, to tear the portrait of his
ancestor from his native walls. He paused and listened:--“There was no
voice, nor any that answered;”--but as the wrinkled and torn canvas fell
to the floor, its undulations gave the portrait the appearance of
smiling. Melmoth felt horror indescribable at this transient and
imaginary resuscitation of the figure. He caught it up, rushed into the
next room, tore, cut, and hacked it in every direction, and eagerly
watched the fragments that burned like tinder in the turf-fire which had
been lit in his room. As Melmoth saw the last blaze, he threw himself
into bed, in hope of a deep and intense sleep. He had done what was
required of him, and felt exhausted both in mind and body; but his
slumber was not so sound as he had hoped for. The sullen light of the
turf-fire, burning but never blazing, disturbed him every moment. He
turned and turned, but still there was the same red light glaring on,
but not illuminating, the dusky furniture of the apartment. The wind was
high that night, and as the creaking door swung on its hinges, every
noise seemed like the sound of a hand struggling with the lock, or of a
foot pausing on the threshold. But (for Melmoth never could decide) was
it in a dream or not, that he saw the figure of his ancestor appear at
the door?--hesitatingly as he saw him at first on the night of his
uncle’s death,--saw him enter the room, approach his bed, and heard him
whisper, “You have burned me, then; but those are flames I can
survive.--I am alive,--I am beside you.” Melmoth started, sprung from
his bed,--it was broad day-light. He looked round,--there was no human
being in the room but himself. He felt a slight pain in the wrist of his
right arm. He looked at it, it was black and blue, as from the recent
gripe of a strong hand.


    Haste with your weapons, cut the shrouds and stay,
    And hew at once the mizen-mast away.


The following evening Melmoth retired early. The restlessness of the
preceding night inclined him to repose, and the gloom of the day left
him nothing to wish for but its speedy conclusion. It was now the latter
end of Autumn; heavy clouds had all day been passing laggingly and
gloomily along the atmosphere, as the hours of such a day pass over the
human mind and life. Not a drop of rain fell; the clouds went
portentously off, like ships of war after reconnoitering a strong fort,
to return with added strength and fury. The threat was soon fulfilled;
the evening came on, prematurely darkened by clouds that seemed
surcharged with a deluge. Loud and sudden squalls of wind shook the
house from time to time, and then as suddenly ceased. Towards night the
storm came on in all its strength; Melmoth’s bed was shaken so as to
render it impossible to sleep. He “liked the rocking of the
battlements,” but by no means liked the expected fall of the chimneys,
the crashing in of the roof, and the splinters of the broken windows
that were already scattered about his room. He rose and went down to the
kitchen, where he knew a fire was burning, and there the terrified
servants were all assembled, all agreeing, as the blast came roaring
down the chimney, they never had witnessed such a storm, and between the
gusts, breathing shuddering prayers for those who were “out at sea that
night.” The vicinity of Melmoth’s house to what sea-men call an
iron-bound coast, gave a dreadful sincerity to their prayers and their

In a short time, however, Melmoth perceived that their minds were
occupied with terrors beside those of the storm. The recent death of his
uncle, and the supposed visit of that extraordinary being in whose
existence they all firmly believed, were connected in their minds
inseparably with the causes or consequences of this tempest, and they
whispered their fearful suggestions to each other, till the sound
reached Melmoth’s ears at every step that he measured across the broken
floor of the kitchen. Terror is very fond of associations; we love to
connect the agitation of the elements with the agitated life of man; and
never did a blast roar, or a gleam of lightning flash, that was not
connected in the imagination of some one, with a calamity that was to be
dreaded, deprecated, or endured,--with the fate of the living, or the
destination of the dead. The tremendous storm that shook all England on
the night of Cromwell’s death, gave the hint to his puritanic chaplains
to declare, that the Lord had caught him up in the whirlwind and chariot
of fire, even thereafter, as he caught the prophet Elijah; while all the
cavalier party, putting their own construction on the matter, proclaimed
their confidence, that the Prince of the power of the air was
vindicating his right, and carrying off the body of his victim (whose
soul had long been his purchase) in a tempest, whose wild howl and
triumphant ravage might have been variously, and with equal justice,
interpreted by each party as giving testimony to their mutual
denunciations. Just such a party (_mutatis mutandis_) were collected
round the bickering fire and rocking chimney in Melmoth’s kitchen. “He
is going in that blast,” said one of the hags, taking the pipe from her
mouth, and trying vainly to rekindle it among the embers that the storm
scattered about like dust; “he is going in that blast.”--“He’ll come
again,” cried another Sybil, “he’ll come again,--he’s not at rest!--He
roams and wails about till something is told that he never could tell in
his life-time.--G-d save us!” she added, howling up the chimney, as if
addressing the troubled spirit; “tell us what you want, and _stop the
blast_, will ye?”--The wind came like thunder down the chimney; the hag
shuddered and retreated. “If it’s this you want--and this--and this,”
cried a young female whom Melmoth had not noticed before, “take them;”
and she eagerly tore the papers out of her hair, and flung them into the
fire. Then Melmoth recollected a ridiculous story told him the day
before of this girl, who had had the “bad luck,” as she called it, to
curl her hair with some of the old and useless law-papers of the family,
and who now imagined that they “who kept this dreadful pudder o’er her
head,” were particularly provoked by her still retaining about her
whatever belonged to the deceased; and as she flung the fragments of
paper into the fire, she cried aloud, “There stop for the holy J----s’
sake, and let us have no more about it!--You have what you wanted, and
will you have done?” The laugh that Melmoth could hardly resist, was
checked by a sound which he heard distinctly amid the storm.
“Hush--silence! that was a signal gun!--there is a vessel in distress.”
They all paused and listened. We have already mentioned the closeness of
Melmoth’s abode to the sea-shore. This had well accustomed its inmates
to all the terrors of shipwrecked vessels and drowning passengers. To
their honour be it spoken, they never heard those sounds but as a claim,
a piteous, irresistible claim on their humanity. They knew nothing of
the barbarous practice on the English coast, of fastening a lanthorn to
the limbs of a spanselled horse, whose plungings were to misdirect the
wrecked and sinking wretches, in the vain hope that the light they saw
was a beacon, and thus to double the horrors of death by the baffled
expectation of relief.

The party in the kitchen all watched Melmoth’s countenance intently, as
if its expression could have told them “the secrets of the hoary deep.”
The storm ceased for a moment, and there was a deep and dreary silence
of fearful expectation. The sound was heard again,--it could not be
mistaken. “It is a gun,” cried Melmoth; “there is a vessel in distress!”
and he hurried out of the kitchen, calling on the men to follow him.

The men partook eagerly of the excitement of enterprise and danger. A
storm without doors is, after all, better than a storm within; without
we have something to struggle with, within we have only to suffer; and
the severest storm, by exciting the energy of its victim, gives at once
a stimulus to action, and a solace to pride, which those must want who
sit shuddering between rocking walls, and almost driven to wish they had
only to suffer, not to fear.

While the men were in search of a hundred coats, boots, and hats of
their old master, to be sought for in every part of the house,--while
one was dragging a great coat from the window, before which it had long
hung as a blind, in total default of glass or shutters,--another was
snatching a wig from the jack, where it had been suspended for a
duster,--and a third was battling with a cat and her brood of kittens
for a pair of old boots which she had been pleased to make the seat of
her accouchement,--Melmoth had gone up to the highest room in the house.
The window was driven in;--had there been light, this window commanded a
view of the sea and the coast. He leaned far out of it, and listened
with fearful and breathless anxiety. The night was dark, but far off,
his sight, sharpened by intense solicitude, descried a light at sea. The
gust drove him from the window for a moment; at returning the next, he
saw a faint flash, and then the report of a gun followed.

There needed no more; and in a few moments after, Melmoth was on the
shore. Their way was short, and they walked with their utmost speed; but
the violence of the storm made their progress very slow, and their
anxiety made it seem still slower. From time to time they said to each
other, in choaked and breathless accents, “Call up the people in those
cabbins--there is a light in that house--they are all up--no wonder--who
could sleep in such a night--hold the lanthorn low--it is impossible to
keep footing on the strand.” “Another gun!” they exclaimed, as the flash
faintly broke through the darkness, and the heavy sound rolled round the
shore, as if fired over the grave of the sufferers. “Here’s the rock,
hold fast, and cling together.” They scaled it. “Great God!” cried
Melmoth, who was among the first, “what a night! and what a
spectacle!--Hold up your lanthorns--do you hear cries?--shout to
them--tell them there is help and hope near them.--Stay,” he added, “let
me scramble up that crag--they will hear my voice from that.” He dashed
desperately through the water, while the foam of the breakers from a
distant rock almost choaked him, gained the point, and, elated by his
success, shouted aloud with his utmost strength. But his voice, baffled
and drowned by the tempest, was lost even to his own hearing. Its sound
was faint and querulous, more like the wail of grief, than the
encouraging cry of hope. At this moment, the racking clouds flying
rapidly across the sky, like the scattered fugitives of a routed army,
the moon burst forth with the sudden and appalling effulgence of
lightning. Melmoth caught a full view of the vessel, and of her danger.
She lay beating against a rock, over which the breakers dashed their
foam to the height of thirty feet. She was half in the water, a mere
hulk, her rigging torn to shreds, her main mast cut away, and every sea
she shipped, Melmoth could hear distinctly the dying cries of those who
were swept away, or perhaps of those whose mind and body, alike
exhausted, relaxed their benumbed hold of hope and life together,--knew
that the next shriek that was uttered must be their own and their last.
There is something so very horrible in the sight of human beings
perishing so near us, that we feel one firm step rightly planted, one
arm steadily held out, might save at least one,--yet feel we know not
where to fix that step, and cannot stretch that arm, that Melmoth’s
senses reeled under the shock, and for a moment he echoed the storm with
yells of actual insanity. By this time the country, having been alarmed
by the news of a vessel going to pieces on the shore, had poured down in
multitudes; and those who, from experience or confidence, or even
ignorance, repeated incessantly, “it is impossible to save her,--every
soul on board must perish,” involuntarily quickened their steps as they
uttered the words, as if they were anxious to behold the fulfilment of
their own prediction, while they appeared hurrying to avert it.

Of one man, in particular, it was observed, that during their hurried
rush to the shore, he was, with what breath his haste allowed him,
assuring the rest every moment, “she would be down before they could get
there,” and heard the ejaculations of “Christ save us! don’t say that,”
“No, please God, we’ll do some good,” with a laugh almost of triumph.
When they arrived, this man scaled a rock at the risk of his life,
caught a view of the vessel, pointed out her desperate situation to
those below, and shouted, “Didn’t I tell you so? wasn’t I right?” And as
the storm increased, his voice was still heard, “wasn’t I right?” And
when the cries of the perishing crew were distinctly wafted to their
ears, he was still heard in the interval repeating, “But wasn’t I
right?” Singular sentiment of pride, that can erect its trophies amid
the grave. ’Tis in this spirit we give advice to those who suffer from
life, as well as from the elements; and when the heart of the victim
breaks, console ourselves by exclaiming, “_Didn’t I foretell it all?_
did I not tell you how it would be?” It is remarkable that this man lost
his life that very night in the most desperate and fruitless attempt to
save the life of one of the crew who was swimming within six yards of
him. The whole shore was now crowded with helpless gazers, every crag
and cliff was manned; it seemed like a battle fought at once by sea and
land, between hope and despair. No effectual assistance could be
rendered,--not a boat could live in that gale,--yet still, and to the
last, cheers were heard from rock to rock,--terrible cheers, that
announced safety was near and--impossible;--lanthorns held aloft in all
directions, that displayed to the sufferers the shore all peopled with
life, and the roaring and impassable waves between;--ropes flung out,
with loud cries of help and encouragement, and caught at by some
chilled, nerveless, and despairing hand, that only grasped the
wave,--relaxed its hold,--was tossed once over the sinking head,--and
then seen no more. It was at this moment that Melmoth, starting from his
trance of terror, and looking round him, saw all, to the number of
hundreds, anxious, restless, and occupied; and, though obviously in
vain, the sight cheered his heart. “How much good there is in man,” he
cried, “when it is called forth by the sufferings of his fellows!” He
had no leisure or inclination, then, to analyse the compound he called
good, and resolve it into its component parts of curiosity, strong
excitement, the pride of physical strength, or the comparative
consciousness of safety. He had, indeed, no leisure, for just then he
descried, standing a few yards above him on the rock, a figure that
shewed neither sympathy or terror,--uttered no sound,--offered no help.
Melmoth could hardly keep his footing on the slippery and rocking crag
on which he stood; the figure, who stood still higher, appeared alike
unmoved by the storm, as by the spectacle. Melmoth’s surtout, in spite
of his efforts to wrap it round him, was fluttering in rags,--not a
thread of the stranger’s garments seemed ruffled by the blast. But this
did not strike him so much as his obvious insensibility to the distress
and terror around him, and he exclaimed aloud, “Good God! is it possible
that any thing bearing the human form should stand there without making
an effort, without expressing a feeling, for those perishing wretches!”
A pause ensued, or the blast carried away the sound; but a few moments
after, Melmoth distinctly heard the words, “Let them perish.” He looked
up, the figure still stood unmoved, the arms folded across the breast,
the foot advanced, and fixed as in defiance of the white and climbing
spray of the wave, and the stern profile caught in the glimpses of the
stormy and doubtful moon-light, seeming to watch the scene with an
expression formidable, revolting, and unnatural. At this moment, a
tremendous wave breaking over the deck of the hulk, extorted a cry of
horror from the spectators; they felt as if they were echoing that of
the victims whose corses were in a few moments to be dashed against
their feet, mangled and lifeless.

When the cry had ceased, Melmoth heard a laugh that chilled his blood.
It was from the figure that stood above him. Like lightning then glanced
on his memory the recollection of that night in Spain, when Stanton
first encountered that extraordinary being, whose charmed life, “defying
space and time,” held such fatal influence over his, and when he first
recognised his supposed demoniac character by the laugh with which he
hailed the spectacle of the blasted lovers. The echo of that laugh rung
in Melmoth’s ears; he believed it was indeed that mysterious being who
was standing so near him. His mind, by its late intense and bewildering
pursuits, at once heated and darkened, like the atmosphere under an
incumbent thunder-cloud, had now no power of inquiry, of conjecture, or
of calculation. He instantly began to climb the rock,--the figure was
but a few feet above him,--the object of his daily and nightly dreams
was at last within the reach of his mind and his arm,--was almost
tangible. _Fang_ and _Snare_(12) themselves, in all the enthusiasm of
professional zeal, never uttered, “If I but once get him within my
vice,” with more eagerness than did Melmoth, as he scrambled up his
steep and perilous path, to the ledge of the rock where the figure stood
so calm and dark. Panting from the fury of the storm, the vehemence of
his own exertions, and the difficulty of the task, he was now almost
foot to foot, and face to face, with the object of his pursuit, when,
grasping at the loosened fragment of a stone whose fall could not have
hurt a child, though on its tottering insecurity hung the life-grasp of
a man, his hold failed--he fell backwards,--the roaring deep was
beneath, seeming to toss its ten thousand arms to receive and devour
him. He did not feel the instantaneous giddiness of his fall, but as he
sunk he felt the splash, he heard the roar. He was engulphed, then for a
moment thrown to the surface. He struggled with nothing to grasp at. He
sunk with a vague thought, that if he could reach the bottom, if he
could arrive at any thing solid, he was safe. Ten thousand trumpets then
seemed to ring in his ears; lights flashed from his eyes. “He seemed to
go through fire and water,” and remembered no more till several days
afterwards, when he found himself in bed, the old gouvernante beside
him, and uttered faintly, “What a horrid dream!” then sinking back as he
felt his exhaustion, “and how weak it has left me!”

  (12) See Henry IV. Second Part.


    “I have heard,” said the Squire, “that from hell there is no


For some hours after this exclamation, Melmoth lay silent, his memory
returning,--his senses gradually defecated,--the intellectual lord
slowly returning to his abdicated throne.--

“I remember all now,” he cried, starting up in his bed with a sudden
vehemence, that terrified his old nurse with the apprehension of
returning insanity; but when she approached the bed, candle in hand,
cautiously veiling her eyes with the other, while she threw the full
glare of the light on the face of the patient, she saw in a moment the
light of sanity in his eyes, and the strength of health in his
movements. To his eager inquiries of how he had been saved, how the
storm had terminated, and whether any but himself had survived the
wreck, she could not deny herself the gratification of answering, though
conscious of his weakness, and solemnly charged neither to let him speak
or hear, as she valued the recovery of his reason. She had faithfully
observed the charge for several days,--a dreadful trial!--and now she
felt like Fatima in Cymon, who, when threatened by the magician with the
loss of speech, exclaims, “Barbarian, will not my death then satisfy

She began her narrative, the effect of which was, to lull Melmoth into a
profound repose before half of it was concluded; he felt the full
benefit of the invalids mentioned in Spenser, who used to hire Irish
story-tellers, and found those indefatigable persons still pursuing the
tale when they awoke. At first Melmoth listened with eager attention;
soon he was in the situation of him described by Miss Baillie,

    “Who, half asleep, but faintly hears,
     The gossip’s tale hum in his ears.”

Soon after his lengthened respiration gave token that she was only
“vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;” while, as she closed the curtain,
and shaded the light, the images of her story were faintly painted on
his dream, that still seemed half a waking one.

In the morning Melmoth sat up, gazed round, remembered every thing in a
moment, though nothing distinctly, but felt the most intense anxiety to
see the stranger saved from the shipwreck, who, he remembered the
gouvernante had told him, (while her words seemed to falter on the
threshold of his closing senses), was still alive, and an inmate in his
house, but weak and ill from the bruises he had received, and the
exhaustion and terror he had undergone. The opinions of the household on
the subject of this stranger were various. The knowledge of his being a
Catholic had conciliated their hearts, for the first act of his
recovered reason was to request that a Catholic priest might be sent
for, and the first use of his speech was to express his satisfaction
that he was in a country where he might enjoy the benefits of the rites
of his own church. So far all was well; but there was a mysterious
haughtiness and reserve about him, that somewhat repelled the officious
curiosity of his attendants. He spoke often to himself in a language
they did not understand; they hoped relief from the priest on this
point, but the priest, after listening long at the invalid’s door,
pronounced the language in which he was soliloquizing _not to be Latin_,
and, after a conversation of some hours with him, refused to tell what
language the stranger spoke to himself in, and forbid all inquiry on the
subject. This was bad enough; but, still worse, the stranger spoke
English with ease and fluency, and therefore could have no right, as all
the household argued, to torment them with those unknown sounds, that,
sonorous and powerful as they were, seemed to their ears like an
evocation of some invisible being.

“He asks for what he wants in English,” said the harassed housekeeper,
“and he can call for candle in English, and he can say he’ll go to bed
in English; and why the devil can’t he do every thing in English?--He
can say his prayers too in English to that picture he’s always pulling
out of his breast and talking to, though it’s no saint, I am sure, he
prays to, (from the glimpse I got of it), but more like the
devil,--Christ save us!” All these strange rumours, and ten thousand
more, were poured into Melmoth’s ears, fast and faster than he could
receive them. “Is Father Fay in the house,” said he at last,
understanding that the priest visited the stranger every day; “if he be,
let me see him.” Father Fay attended him as soon as he quitted the
stranger’s apartment.

He was a grave and decent priest, well “spoken of by those that were
without” the pale of his own communion; and as he entered the room,
Melmoth smiled at the idle tattle of his domestics. “I thank you for
your attention to this unfortunate gentleman, who, I understand, is in
my house.”--“It was my duty.”--“I am told he sometimes speaks in a
foreign tongue.” The priest assented. “Do you know what countryman he
is?” “He is a Spaniard,” said the priest. This plain, direct answer, had
the proper effect on Melmoth, of convincing him of its veracity, and of
there being no mystery in the business, but what the folly of his
servants had made.

The priest proceeded to tell him the particulars of the loss of the
vessel. She was an English trader bound for Wexford or Waterford, with
many passengers on board; she had been driven up the Wicklow coast by
stress of weather, had struck on the night of the 19th October, during
the intense darkness that accompanied the storm, on a hidden reef of
rocks, and gone to pieces. Crew, passengers, all had perished, except
this Spaniard. It was singular, too, that this man had saved the life of
Melmoth. While swimming for his own, he had seen him fall from the rock
he was climbing, and, though his strength was almost exhausted, had
collected its last remains to preserve the life of a being who, as he
conceived, had been betrayed into danger by his humanity. His efforts
were successful, though Melmoth was unconscious of them; and in the
morning they were found on the strand, locked in each other’s hold, but
stiff and senseless. They shewed some signs of life when an attempt was
made to remove them, and the stranger was conveyed to Melmoth’s house.
“You owe your life to him,” said the priest, when he had ended. “I shall
go and thank him for it this moment,” said Melmoth; but as he was
assisted to rise, the old woman whispered to him with visible terror,
“Jasus’ sake, dear, don’t tell him ye’re a Melmoth, for the dear life!
He has been as mad as any thing out of Bedlam, since some jist mintioned
the name before him the ither night.” A sickening recollection of some
parts of the manuscript came over Melmoth at these words, but he
struggled with himself, and proceeded to the apartment of the stranger.

The Spaniard was a man about thirty, of a noble form and prepossessing
manners. To the gravity of his nation was superadded a deeper tint of
peculiar melancholy. He spoke English fluently; and when questioned on
it by Melmoth, he remarked with a sigh, that he had learnt it in a
painful school. Melmoth then changed the subject, to thank him with
earnest gratitude for the preservation of his life. “Senhor,” said the
Spaniard, “spare me; if your life was no dearer to you than mine, it
would not be worth thanks.” “Yet you made the most strenuous exertions
to save it,” said Melmoth. “That was instinct,” said the Spaniard. “But
you also struggled to save mine,” said Melmoth. “That was instinct too
at the moment,” said the Spaniard; then resuming his stately politeness,
“or I should say, the influence of my better genius. I am wholly a
stranger in this country, and must have fared miserably but for the
shelter of your roof.”

Melmoth observed that he spoke with evident pain, and he confessed a few
moments afterwards, that though he had escaped without any serious
injury, he had been so bruised and lacerated, that he still breathed
with difficulty, and hardly possessed the use of his limbs. As he
concluded the account of his sufferings during the storm, the wreck, and
the subsequent struggle for life, he exclaimed in Spanish, “God! why did
the Jonah survive, and the mariners perish?” Melmoth, imagining he was
engaged in some devotional ejaculation, was going to retire, when the
Spaniard detained him. “Senhor, I understand your name is----” He
paused, shuddered, and with an effort that seemed like convulsion,
disgorged the name of Melmoth. “My name is Melmoth.” “Had you an
ancestor, a very remote one, who was--at a period perhaps beyond
family-tradition----It is useless to inquire,” said the Spaniard,
covering his face with both his hands, and groaning aloud. Melmoth
listened in mingled excitement and terror. “Perhaps, if you would
proceed, I could answer you--go on, Senhor.” “Had you,” said the
Spaniard, forcing himself to speak, abruptly and rapidly, “had you,
then, a relative who was, about one hundred and forty years ago, said to
be in Spain.” “I believe--yes, I fear--I had.” “It is enough,
Senhor--leave me--to-morrow perhaps--leave me now.” “It is impossible to
leave you now,” said Melmoth, catching him in his arms before he sunk on
the floor. He was not senseless, for his eyes were rolling with terrible
expression, and he attempted to articulate. They were alone. Melmoth,
unable to quit him, called aloud for water; and while attempting to open
his vest, and give him air, his hand encountered a miniature portrait
close to the heart of the stranger. As he touched it, his touch operated
on the patient with all the force of the most powerful restorative. He
grasped it with his own cold hand with a force like that of death, and
muttered in a hollow but thrilling voice, “What have you done?” He felt
eagerly the ribbon by which it was suspended, and, satisfied that his
terrible treasure was safe, turned his eyes with a fearful calmness of
expression on Melmoth, “You know all, then?”--“I know nothing,” said
Melmoth faultering. The Spaniard rose from the ground, to which he had
almost fallen, disengaged himself from the arms that supported him, and
eagerly, but staggeringly, hurrying towards the candles, (it was night),
held up the portrait full before Melmoth’s eye. It was a miniature
likeness of that extraordinary being. It was painted in a coarse and
unartist-like style, but so faithfully, that the pencil appeared rather
held by the mind than by the fingers.

“Was he--was the original of this--your ancestor?--Are you his
descendant?--Are you the depository of that terrible secret which----”
He again fell to the ground convulsed, and Melmoth, for whose
debilitated state this scene was too much, was removed to his own

It was several days before he again saw his visitor; his manner was then
calm and collected, till he appeared to recollect the necessity of
making an apology for his agitation at their last meeting. He
began--hesitated--stopped; tried in vain to arrange his ideas, or rather
his language; but the effort so obviously renewed his agitation, that
Melmoth felt an exertion on his part necessary to avert its
consequences, and began most inauspiciously to inquire into the motive
of his voyage to Ireland. After a long pause, the Spaniard said, “That
motive, Senhor, a few days past I believed it was not in mortal power to
compel me to disclose. I deemed it incommunicable as it was incredible.
I conceived myself to be alone on the earth, without sympathy and beyond
relief. It is singular that accident should have placed me within the
reach of the only being from whom I could expect either, and perhaps a
developement of those circumstances which have placed me in a situation
so extraordinary.” This exordium, delivered with a composed but
thrilling gravity, had an effect on Melmoth. He sat down and prepared to
listen, and the Spaniard began to speak; but after some hesitation, he
snatched the picture from his neck, and trampling on it with true
continental action, exclaimed, “Devil! devil! thou choakest me!” and
crushing the portrait, glass and all, under his feet, exclaimed, “Now I
am easier.”

The room in which they sat was a low, mean, wretchedly furnished
apartment; the evening was tempestuous, and as the windows and doors
rattled in the blast, Melmoth felt as if he listened to some herald of
“fate and fear.” A deep and sickening agitation shook his frame; and in
the long pause that preceded the narrative of the Spaniard, the beating
of his heart was audible to him. He rose, and attempted to arrest the
narration by a motion of his hand; but the Spaniard mistook this for the
anxiety of his impatience, and commenced his narrative, which, in mercy
to the reader, we shall give without the endless interruptions, and
queries, and anticipations of curiosity, and starts of terror, with
which it was broken by Melmoth.

Tale of the Spaniard.

“I am, Senhor, as you know, a native of Spain, but you are yet to learn
I am a descendant of one of its noblest houses,--a house of which she
might have been proud in her proudest day,--the house of Monçada. Of
this I was not myself conscious during the first years of my life; but
during those years, I remember experiencing the singular contrast of
being treated with the utmost tenderness, and kept in the most sordid
privacy. I lived in a wretched house in the suburbs of Madrid with an
old woman, whose affection for me appeared prompted as much by interest
as inclination. I was visited every week by a young cavalier and a
beautiful female; they caressed me, called me their beloved child, and
I, attached by the grace with which my young father’s _capa_ was folded,
and my mother’s veil adjusted, and by a certain air of indescribable
superiority over those by whom I was surrounded, eagerly returned their
caresses, and petitioned them to take me _home_ with them; at these
words they always wept, gave a valuable present to the woman I lived
with, whose attention was always redoubled by this expected stimulant,
and departed.

“I observed their visits were always short, and paid late in the
evening; thus a shadow of mystery enveloped my infant days, and perhaps
gave its lasting and ineffaceable tinge to the pursuits, the character,
and the feelings of my present existence. A sudden change took
place;--one day I was visited, splendidly dressed, and carried in a
superb vehicle, whose motion made me giddy with novelty and surprise, to
a palace whose front appeared to me to reach the heavens. I was hurried
through several apartments, whose splendour made my eyes ache, amid an
army of bowing domestics, to a cabinet where sat an old nobleman, whom,
from the tranquil majesty of his posture, and the silent magnificence
that surrounded him, I felt disposed to fall down and worship as we do
those saints, whom, after traversing the aisles of an immense church, we
find niched in some remote and solitary shrine. My father and mother
were there, and both seemed awed by the presence of that aged vision,
pale and august; their awe increased mine, and as they led me to his
feet, I felt as if about to be sacrificed. He embraced me, however, with
some reluctance and more austerity; and when this ceremony was
performed, during which I trembled, I was removed by a domestic, and
conducted to an apartment where I was treated like the son of a grandee;
in the evening I was visited by my father and mother; they shed tears
over me as they embraced me, but I thought I could perceive they mingled
the tears of grief with those of fondness. Every thing around appeared
so strange, that perhaps I felt something appropriate in this change. I
was so much altered myself, that I expected an alteration in others, and
the reverse would have struck me as a phenomenon.

“Change followed change with such rapidity, that it produced on me an
effect like that of intoxication. I was now twelve years old, and the
contracted habits of my early life had had their usual effect, of
exalting my imagination, while they impaired every other faculty. I
expected an adventure whenever the door opened, and that was but seldom,
to announce the hours of devotion, food, and exercise. On the third day
after I was received into the palace of Monçada, the door was opened at
an unusual hour, (a circumstance that made me tremble with
anticipation), and my father and mother, attended by a number of
domestics, entered, accompanied by a youth whose superior height and
already distinguished figure, made him appear my senior, though he was
in fact a year younger.

“Alonzo,” said my father to me, “embrace your brother.” I advanced with
all the eagerness of youthful affection, that feels delight from new
claims on its store, and half wishes those new claims were endless; but
the slow step of my brother, the measured air with which he extended his
arms, and declined his head on my left shoulder for a moment, and then
raising it, viewed me with eyes in whose piercing and haughty lustre
there was not one beam of fraternity, repelled and disconcerted me. We
had obeyed our father, however, and embraced. “Let me see you hand in
hand together,” said my father, as if he would have enjoyed the sight. I
held out my hand to my brother, and we stood thus linked for a few
moments, my father and mother remaining at some distance to gaze on us;
during these _few_ moments, I had leisure to glance from my parents to
my brother, and judge of the comparative effect our appearance thus
contrasted might produce on them. The contrast was by no means
favourable to me. I was tall, but my brother was much taller; he had an
air of confidence, of conquest I might say; the brilliancy of his
complexion could be equalled only by that of his dark eyes, which turned
from me to our parents, and seemed to say, “Chuse between us, and reject
me if you dare.”

“My father and mother advanced and embraced us both. I clung round their
necks; my brother submitted to their caresses with a kind of proud
impatience, that seemed to demand a more marked recognition.

“I saw no more of them,--that evening the whole household, which perhaps
contain two hundred domestics, were in despair. The Duke de Monçada,
that awful vision of anticipated mortality whom I had seen but once, was
dead. The tapestry was torn from the walls; every room was filled with
ecclesiastics; I was neglected by my attendants, and wandered through
the spacious rooms, till I by chance lifted up a curtain of black
velvet, and saw a sight which, young as I was, paralyzed me. My father
and mother, dressed in black, sat beside a figure which I believed to be
my grandfather asleep, but his sleep was very profound; my brother was
there too, in a mourning dress, but its strange and grotesque
disfigurement could not conceal the impatience with which he wore it,
and the flashing eagerness of his expression, and the haughty brilliancy
of his eye, shewed a kind of impatience of the part he was compelled to
act.--I rushed forward;--I was withheld by the domestics;--I asked, “Why
am I not permitted to be here, where my younger brother is?” An
ecclesiastic drew me from the apartment. I struggled with him, and
demanded, with an arrogance which suited my pretensions better than my
prospects, “Who I was?” “The grandson of the late Duke of Monçada,” was
the answer. “And why am I thus treated?” To this no answer. I was
conveyed to my apartment, and closely watched during the interment of
the Duke of Monçada. I was not permitted to attend his funeral. I saw
the splendid and melancholy cavalcade depart from the palace. I ran from
window to window to witness the funeral pomp, but was not allowed to
accompany it. Two days after I was told a carriage waited for me at the
gate. I entered it, and was conveyed to a convent of Ex-Jesuits, (as
they were well known to be, though no one in Madrid dared to say so),
where an agreement had been made for my board and education, and where I
became an inmate that very day. I applied myself to my studies, my
teachers were pleased, my parents visited me frequently, and gave the
usual marks of affection, and all was well; till one day as they were
retiring, I heard an old domestic in their suite remark, how singular it
was, that the eldest son of the (now) Duke de Monçada should be educated
in a convent, and brought up to a monastic life, while the younger,
living in a superb palace, was surrounded by teachers suited to his
rank. The word “monastic life” thrilled in my ears; it furnished me with
an interpretation not only of the indulgence I had experienced in the
convent, (an indulgence quite inconsistent with the usual severity of
their discipline), but of the peculiar language in which I had been
always addressed by the Superior, the brethren, and the boarders. The
former, whom I saw once a week, bestowed the most flattering praises on
the progress I had made in my studies, (praises that covered me with
blushes, for I well knew it was very moderate compared with that of the
other boarders), and then gave me his benediction, but never without
adding, “My God! thou wilt not suffer this lamb to wander from thy

“The brethren always assumed before me an air of tranquillity, that
eulogized their situation more powerfully than the most exaggerated
eloquence. The petty squabbles and intrigues of the convent, the bitter
and incessant conflict of habits, tempers, and interests, the efforts of
incarcerated minds for objects of excitement, the struggles to diversify
endless monotony, and elevate hopeless mediocrity;--all that makes
monastic life like the wrong side of tapestry, where we see only uncouth
threads, and the harsh outlines, without the glow of the colours, the
richness of the tissue, or the splendour of the embroidery, that renders
the external surface so rich and dazzling; all this was carefully
concealed. I heard something of it, however, and, young as I was, could
not help wondering how men who carried the worst passions of life into
their retreat, could imagine _that_ retreat was a refuge from the
erosions of their evil tempers, the monitions of conscience, and the
accusations of God. The same dissimulation was practised by the
boarders; the whole house was in masquerade from the moment I entered
it. If I joined the latter at the time of recreation, they went through
the few amusements allowed them with a kind of languid impatience, as if
it was an interruption of better pursuits to which they were devoted.
One of them, coming up to me, would say, “What a pity that these
exercises are necessary for the support of our frail nature! what a pity
we cannot devote its whole powers to the service of God!” Another would
say, “I never am so happy as in the choir! What a delightful eulogy was
that pronounced by the Superior on the departed Fre Jose! How thrilling
was that requiem! I imagined the heavens opened, and angels descending
to receive his soul, as I listened to it!”

“All this, and much more, I had been accustomed to hear every day. I now
began to understand it. I suppose they thought they had a very weak
person to deal with; but the bare-faced coarseness of their manœuvres
only quickened my penetration, which began to be fearfully awake. I said
to them, “Are you, then, intended for the monastic life?” “We hope so.”
“Yet I have heard you, Oliva, _once_ (it was when you did not think I
overheard you) I heard you complain of the length and tediousness of the
homilies delivered on the eves of the saints.”--“I was then under the
influence of the evil spirit doubtless,” said Oliva, who was a boy not
older than myself; “Satan is sometimes permitted to buffet those whose
vocation is but commencing, and whom he is therefore more afraid to
lose.” “And I have heard you, Balcastro, say you had not taste for
music; and to me, I confess, that of the choir appears least likely to
inspire a taste for it.” “God has touched my heart since,” replied the
young hypocrite, crossing himself; “and you know, friend of my soul,
there is a promise, that the ears of the deaf shall be opened.” “Where
are those words?” “In the Bible.” “The Bible?--But we are not permitted
to read it.” “True, dear Monçada, but we have the word of our Superior
and the brethren for it, and that is enough.” “Certainly; our spiritual
guides must take on themselves the whole responsibility of that state,
whose enjoyments and punishments they reserve in their own hands; but,
Balcastro, are you willing to take this life on their word, as well as
the next, and resign it before you have tried it?” “My dear friend, you
only speak to tempt me.” “_I do not speak to tempt_,” said I, and was
turning indignantly away, when the bell ringing, produced its usual
effect on us all. My companions assumed a more sanctified air, and I
struggled for a more composed one.

“As we went to the church, they conversed in whispers, but those
whispers were intended to reach my ear. I could hear them say, “It is in
vain that he struggles with grace; there never was a more decided
vocation; God never obtained a more glorious victory. Already he has the
look of a child of heaven;--the monastic gait,--the downcast look;--the
motion of his arms naturally imitates the sign of the cross, and the
very folds of his mantle arrange themselves, by a divine instinct, into
those of a Monk’s habit.” And all this while my gait was disturbed, my
countenance flushed, and often lifted to heaven, and my arms employed in
hastily adjusting my cloak, that had fallen off my shoulder from my
agitation, and whose disordered folds resembled any thing but those of a
Monk’s habit. From that evening I began to perceive my danger, and to
meditate how to avert it. I had no inclination for the monastic life;
but after vespers, and the evening exercise in my own cell, I began to
doubt if this very repugnance was not itself a sin. Silence and night
deepened the impression, and I lay awake for many hours, supplicating
God to enlighten me, to enable me not to oppose his will, but clearly to
reveal that will to me; and if he was not pleased to call me to a
monastic life, to support my resolution in undergoing every thing that
might be inflicted on me, sooner than profane that state by extorted
vows and an alienated mind. That my prayers might be more effectual, I
offered them up first in the name of the Virgin, then in that of the
Patron-saint of the family, and then of the Saint on whose eve I was
born. I lay in great agitation till morning, and went to matins without
having closed my eyes, I had, however, I felt, acquired
_resolution_,--at least I thought so. Alas! I knew not what I had to
encounter. I was like a man going to sea with a day’s provision, and
imagining he is victualled for a voyage to the poles. I went through my
exercises (as they were called) with uncommon assiduity that day;
already I felt the necessity of imposition,--fatal lesson of monastic
institutions. We dined at noon; and soon after my father’s carriage
arrived, and I was permitted to go for an hour on the banks of the
Manzanares. To my surprise my father was in the carriage, and though he
welcomed me with a kind of embarrassment, I was delighted to meet him.
He was a layman at least,--_he might have a heart_.

“I was disappointed at the measured phrase he addressed me in, and this
froze me at once into a rigid determination, to be as much _on my guard
with him_, as I must be within the walls of the convent. The
conversation began, “You like your convent, my son?” “Very much,” (there
was not a word of truth in my answer, but the fear of circumvention
always teaches falsehood, and we have only to thank our instructors).
“The Superior is very fond of you.” “He seems so.” “The brethren are
attentive to your studies, and capable of directing them, and
appreciating your progress.” “They seem so.” “And the boarders--they are
sons of the first families in Spain, they appear all satisfied with
their situation, and eager to embrace its advantages.” “They seem so.”
“My dear son, why have you thrice answered me in the same monotonous,
unmeaning phrase?” “Because I thought it all _seeming_.” “How, then,
would you say that the devotion of those holy men, and the profound
attention of their pupils, whose studies are alike beneficial to man,
and redounding to the glory of the church to which they are dedicated--”
“My dearest father,--I say nothing of them,--but _I dare_ to speak of
myself,--I can never be a monk,--if that is your object--spurn
me,--order your lacqueys to drag me from this carriage,--leave me a
beggar in the streets to cry (13)“_fire and water_,”--but do not make me
a monk.” My father appeared stunned by this apostrophe. He did not utter
a word. He had not expected such a premature developement of the secret
which he imagined _he_ had to disclose, not to hear disclosed. At this
moment the carriage turned into the _Prado_; a thousand magnificent
equipages, with plumed horses, superb caparisons, and beautiful women
bowing to the cavaliers, who stood for a moment on the foot-board, and
then bowed their adieus to the “ladies of their love,” passed before our
eyes. I saw my father, at this moment, arrange his superb mantle, and
the silk net in which his long black hair was bound, and give the signal
to his lacqueys to stop, that he might mingle among the crowd. I caught
this moment,--I grasped his mantle.--“Father, you find this world
delightful then,--would you ask me to resign it,--me,--who am your
child.”--“But you are too young for it, my son.” “Oh, then, my father, I
am surely much _too young for another world_, to which you would force
me.” “Force you, my child, my first-born!” And these words he uttered
with such tenderness, that I involuntarily kissed his hands, while his
lips eagerly pressed my forehead. It was at this moment that I studied,
with all the eagerness of hope, my father’s physiognomy, or what artists
would call his _physique_.

  (13) “Fire for the cigars, and iced-water for drink.”--A cry often
  heard in Madrid.

“He had been my parent before he was sixteen; his features were
beautiful, his figure the most graceful and lover-like I ever beheld,
and his early marriage had preserved him from all the evils of youthful
excess, and spared the glow of feature, and elasticity of muscle, and
grace of juvenility, so often withered by vice, almost before they have
bloomed. He was now but twenty-eight, and looked ten years younger. He
was evidently conscious of this, and as much alive to the enjoyments of
youth, as if he were still in its spring. He was at the same moment
rushing into all the luxuries of youthful enjoyment and voluptuous
splendour, and dooming one, who was at least young enough to be his son,
to the frozen and hopeless monotony of a cloister. I laid hold of this
with the grasp of a drowning man. But a drowning man never grasped a
straw so weak as he who depends on the worldly feeling of another for
the support of his own.

“Pleasure is very selfish; and when selfishness pleads to selfishness
for relief, it is like a bankrupt asking his fellow-prisoner to go bail
for him. This was my conviction at the moment, yet still I reflected,
(for suffering supplies the place of experience in youth, and they are
most expert casuists who have graduated only in the school of
misfortune), I reflected, that a taste for pleasure, while it renders a
man selfish in one sense, renders him generous in another. The real
voluptuary, though he would not part with his slightest indulgence to
save the world from destruction, would yet wish all the world to be
enjoying itself, (provided it was not at his expence), because his own
would be increased by it. To this I clung, and intreated my father to
indulge me with another view of the brilliant scene before us. He
complied, and his feelings, softened by this compliance, and exhilarated
by the spectacle, (which interested _him_ more than me, who observed it
only for its effect on him), became more favourable than ever. I availed
myself of this, and, while returning to the convent, threw the whole
power of my nature and intellect into one (almost) shrieking appeal to
his heart. I compared myself to the unhappy Esau, deprived of his
birthright by a younger brother, and I exclaimed in his language, “Hast
thou no blessing for me! Bless me, even me also, Oh my father!” My
father was affected; he promised my intreaty every consideration; but he
hinted some difficulty to be encountered on my mother’s part, much on
that of her Director, who (I afterwards found) governed the whole
family, and still more remotely hinted at something insurmountable and
inexplicable. He suffered me, however, to kiss his hand at parting, and
vainly struggled with his emotions when he felt it damp with my tears.

“It was not till two days after, that I was summoned to attend my
mother’s Director, who was waiting for me in the parlour. I deemed this
delay the result of a long family debate, or (as it seemed to me)
conspiracy; and I tried to prepare myself for the multifarious warfare
in which I had now to engage with parents, directors, superiors, and
monks, and boarders, all sworn to win the day, and not caring whether
they carried their point by storm, sap, mine, or blockade. I began to
measure the power of the assailants, and to try to furnish myself with
weapons suited to their various modes of attack. My father was gentle,
flexible, and vacillating. I had _softened_ him in my favour, and I felt
that was all that could be done with him. But the Director was to be
encountered with different arms. As I went down to the parlour, I
composed my looks, my gait, I modulated my voice, I adjusted my dress. I
was on my guard, body, mind, mien, clothes, every thing. He was a grave,
but mild-looking ecclesiastic; one must have had the treachery of Judas
to suspect him of treachery. I felt disarmed, I even experienced some
compunction. “Perhaps,” said I, “I have all this while armed myself
against a message of reconciliation.” The Director began with some
trifling inquiries about my health, and my progress in study, but he
asked them in a tone of interest. I said to myself, it would not be
decorous for him to enter on the subject of his visit too soon;--I
answered him calmly, but my heart palpitated with violence. A silence
ensued, and then suddenly turning towards me, he said, “My dear child, I
understand your objections to a monastic life are insurmountable. I do
not wonder at it; its habits must appear very unconciliating to youth,
and, in fact, I know not to what period of life abstinence, privation,
and solitude, are particularly agreeable; it was the wish of your
parents doubtless; but”--This address, so full of candour, almost
overpowered me; caution and every thing else forsook me as I exclaimed,
“But what then, my father?” “But, I was going to observe, how rarely our
own views coincide with those which others entertain for us, and how
difficult it is to decide which are the least erroneous.” “Was that
all?” said I, shrinking with disappointment. “That was all; for
instance, some people, (of whom I once happened to be one), might be
fanciful enough to imagine, that the superior experience and proved
affection of parents should qualify them to decide on this point better
than their children; nay, I have heard some carry their absurdity so
far, as to talk of the rights of nature, the obligations of duty, and
the useful coercion of restraint; but since I had the pleasure of
becoming acquainted with your resolution, I am beginning to be of
opinion, that a youth, not thirteen years of age, may be an incomparable
judge in the last resort, particularly when the question bears a
trifling relation to his eternal as well as temporal interest; in such a
case, he has doubtless the double advantage of dictating both to his
spiritual and natural parents.” “My father, I beg you to speak without
irony or ridicule; you may be very clever, but I merely wish you to be
intelligible and serious.” “Do you wish me, then, to speak seriously?”
and he appeared to _collect_ himself as he asked this question.
“Certainly.” “Seriously, then, my dear child, do you not believe that
your parents love you? Have you not received from your infancy every
mark of affection from them? Have you not been pressed to their bosoms
from your very cradle?” At these words I struggled vainly with my
feelings, and wept, while I answered, “Yes.” “I am sorry, my dear child,
to see you thus overpowered; my object was to appeal to your reason,
(for you have no common share of reasoning power),--and to your reason I
appeal;--can you suppose that parents, who have treated you with such
tenderness, who love you as they do their own souls, could act (as your
conduct charges them) with causeless and capricious cruelty towards you?
Must you not be aware there is a reason, and that it must be a profound
one? Would it not be more worthy of your duty, as well as your superior
sense, to inquire into, than contend with it?” “Is it founded upon any
thing in my conduct, then?--I am willing to do every thing,--to
sacrifice every thing.”--“I understand,--you are willing to do every
thing but what is required of you,--and to sacrifice every thing but
your own inclination.” “But you have hinted at a reason.” The Director
was silent. “You urged me to inquire into it.” The Director was silent
still. “My father, I adjure you, by the habit you wear, unmuffle this
terrible phantom to me; there is nothing I cannot encounter”--“Except
the commands of your parents. But am I at liberty to discover this
secret to you?” said the Director, in a tone of internal debate. “Can I
imagine that you, who have in the very outset outraged parental
authority, will revere parental feelings?” “My father, I do not
understand you.” “My dear child, I am compelled to act with a caution
and reserve unsuited to my character, which is naturally as open as
yours. I dread the disclosure of a secret; it is repugnant to my habits
of profound confidence; and I dread disclosing any thing to a character
impetuous like yours. I feel myself reduced to a most painful
situation.” “My father, act and speak with candour, my situation
requires it, and your own profession demands it from you. My father,
remember the inscription over the confessional which thrilled my very
blood to read, “God hears thee.” Remember God hears you always, and will
you not deal sincerely with one whom God has placed at your mercy?” I
spoke with much agitation, and the Director appeared affected for a
moment; that is, he passed his hand over his eyes, which were as dry
as--his heart. He paused for several minutes, and then said, “My dear
child, dare I trust you? I confess I came prepared to treat you like a
boy, but I feel I am disposed to consider you as a man. You have the
intelligence, the penetration, the decision of a man. Have you the
feelings of one?” “Try me, my father.” I did not perceive that his
irony, his _secret_, and his parade of feeling, were all alike
theatrical, and substitutionary for real interest and sincerity. “If I
should be inclined to trust you, my dear child,”--“I shall be grateful.”
“And secret.” “And secret, my father.” “Then imagine yourself”--“Oh! my
father, let me not have to _imagine_ any thing--tell me the truth.”
“Foolish boy,--am I then so bad a painter, that I must write the name
under the figure.” “I understand you, my father, and shall not interrupt
you again.” “Then imagine to yourself the honour of one of the first
houses in Spain; the peace of a whole family,--the feelings of a
father,--the honour of a mother,--the interests of religion,--the
eternal salvation of an individual, all suspended in one scale. What do
you think could outweigh them?” “Nothing,” I replied ardently. “Yet, in
the opposite scale you throw _nothing_,--the caprice of a boy not
thirteen years old;--this is all you have to oppose to the claims of
nature, of society, and of God.” “My father, I am penetrated with horror
at what you have said,--does all this depend on me?” “It does,--it does
all depend on you.” “But how, then,--I am bewildered,--I am willing to
make a sacrifice,--tell me what I am to do.” “Embrace, my dear child,
the monastic life; this will accomplish the views of all who love you,
ensure your own salvation, and fulfil the will of God, who is calling
you at this moment by the voices of your affectionate parents, and the
supplications of the minister of heaven, who is now kneeling before
you.” And he sunk on his knees before me.

“This prostration, so unexpected, so revolting, and so like the monastic
habit of artificial humiliation, completely annihilated the effect of
his language. I retreated from his arms, which were extended towards me.
“My father, _I cannot_,--I will never become a monk.” “Wretch! and you
refuse, then, to listen to the call of your conscience, the adjuration
of your parents, and the voice of God?” The fury with which he uttered
these words,--the change from a ministering angel to an infuriated and
menacing demon, had an effect just contrary to what he expected. I said
calmly, “My conscience does not reproach me,--I have never disobeyed its
calls. My parents have adjured me only through your mouth; and I hope,
for their sakes, the organ has not been inspired by them. And the voice
of God, echoed from my own heart, bids me not to obey you, by
adulterating his service with prostituted vows.” As I spoke thus, the
Director changed the whole character of his figure, his attitude, and
his language;--from the extreme of supplication or of terror, he passed
in a moment, with the facility of an actor, to a rigid and breathless
sternness. His figure rose from the ground before me like that of the
Prophet Samuel before the astonished eyes of Saul. He dropt the
dramatist, and was the monk in a moment. “And you will not take the
vows?” “I will not, my father.” “And you will brave the resentment of
your parents, and the denunciations of the church.” “I have done nothing
to deserve either.” “But you will encounter both, to cherish your horrid
resolution of being the enemy of God.” “I am not the enemy of God for
speaking the truth.” “Liar and hypocrite, you blaspheme!” “Stop, my
father, these are words unbecoming your profession, and unsuited to this
place.” “I acknowledge the justice of the rebuke, and submit to it,
though uttered by the mouth of a child.”--And he dropped his
hypocritical eyes, folded his hands on his breast, and murmured, “Fiat
voluntas tua. My dear child, my zeal for the service of God, and the
honour of your family, to which I am attached equally by principle and
affection, have carried me too far,--I confess it; but have I to ask
pardon of you also, my child, for a redundance of that affection and
zeal for your house, which its descendant has proved himself destitute
of?” The mingled humiliation and irony of this address had no effect on
me. He saw it had not; for after slowly raising his eyes to watch that
effect, he saw me standing in silence, not trusting my voice with a
word, lest I should utter something rash and disrespectful,--not daring
to lift up my eyes, lest their expression should speak without making
language necessary.

“I believe the Director felt his situation rather critical; his interest
in the family depended on it, and he attempted to cover his retreat with
all the expertness and fertility of manœuvre which belong to an
ecclesiastical tactician. “My dear child, we have been both wrong, I
from zeal, and you from--no matter what; our business is to exchange
forgiveness with each other, and to implore it of God, whom we have both
offended. My dear child, let us prostrate ourselves before him, and even
while our hearts are glowing with human passion, God may seize that
moment to impress the seal of his grace on both, and fix it there for
ever. Often the earthquake and the whirlwind are succeeded by the still,
small voice, and God is there.--Let us pray.” I fell on my knees,
resolved to pray in my heart; but in a short time, the fervour of his
language, the eloquence and energy of his prayers, dragged me along with
him, and I felt myself compelled to pray against every dictate of my own
heart. He had reserved this display for the last, and he had judged
well. I never heard any thing so like inspiration; as I listened, and
involuntarily, to effusions that seemed to issue from no mortal lips, I
began to doubt my own motives, and search my heart. I had disdained his
taunts, I had defied and conquered his passion, but as he prayed, I
wept. This going over the same ground with the heart, is one of the most
painful and humiliating of all exercises; the virtue of yesterday
becomes the vice of to-day; we ask with the desponding and restless
scepticism of Pilate, “What is truth?” but the oracle that was so
eloquent one moment, is dumb the next, or if it answers, it is with that
ambiguity that makes us dread we have to consult again--again--and for
ever--in vain.

“I was now in a state quite fit for the Director’s purpose; but he was
fatigued with the part he had played with so little success, and took
his leave, imploring me to continue my importunities to Heaven to direct
and enlighten me, while he himself would supplicate all the saints in
heaven to touch the hearts of my parents, and reveal to them some means
of saving me from the crime and perjury of a forced vocation, without
_involving themselves in a crime, if possible, of blacker dye and
greater magnitude_. Saying so he left me, to urge my parents, with all
his influence, to pursue the most rigorous measures to enforce my
adoption of the conventual life. His motives for doing so were
sufficiently strong when he visited me, but their strength was increased
tenfold before his departure. He had reckoned confidently on the power
of his remonstrances; he had been repulsed; the disgrace of such a
defeat rankled in the core of his heart. He had been only a _partizan_
in the cause, but he was now a _party_. What was a matter of conscience
before, was now a matter of honour with him; and I rather believe that
the Director laid a greater stress on the latter, or made a great havock
of confusion between both in his mind. Be that as it may, I passed a few
days after his visit in a state of indescribable excitement. I had
something to hope, and that is often better than something to enjoy. The
cup of hope always excites thirst, that of fruition disappoints or
quenches it. I took long walks in the garden alone. I framed imaginary
conversations to myself. The boarders observed me, and said to each
other, according to their instructions, “He is meditating on his
vocation, he is supplicating for illuminating grace, let us not disturb
him.” I did not undeceive them; but I reflected with increasing horror
on a system that _forced_ hypocrisy to a precocity unparalleled, and
made the last vice of life the earliest of conventual youth. But I soon
forgot reflection, to plunge into reverie. I imagined myself at the
palace of my father; I saw him, my mother, and the Director, engaged in
debate. I spoke for each, and felt for all. I supplied the passionate
eloquence of the Director, his strong representations of my aversion to
the habit, his declaration that further importunity on their part would
be as impious as it was fruitless. I saw all the impression I once
flattered myself I had made on my father revived. I saw my mother yield.
I heard the murmur of doubtful acquiescence,--the decision, the
congratulations. I saw the carriage approaching,--I heard the convent
doors fly open. Liberty,--liberty,--I was in their arms; no, I was at
their feet. Let those who smile at me, ask themselves whether they have
been indebted most to imagination or reality for all they have enjoyed
in life, if indeed they have ever enjoyed any thing. In these internal
dramas, however, I always felt that the persons did not speak with the
interest I wished; and the speeches I put into their mouths would have
been spoken with ten thousand times more animation by myself. Still I
felt the most exquisite enjoyment in these reveries, and perhaps it was
not diminished by the thought how I was deceiving my companions the
whole time. But dissimulation always teaches dissimulation; and the only
question is, whether we shall be the masters of the art or its victims?
a question soon decided by our self-love.

“It was on the sixth day that I heard, with a beating heart, a carriage
stop. I could have sworn to the sound of its wheels. I was in the hall
before I was summoned. I felt I could not be in the wrong, nor was I. I
drove to my father’s palace in a delirium,--a vision of repulse and of
reconciliation, of gratitude and of despair. I was ushered into a room,
where were assembled my father, my mother, and the Director, all seated,
and silent as statues. I approached, I kissed their hands, and then
stood at a small distance breathless. My father was the first to break
silence, but he spoke very much with the air of a man who was repeating
a part dictated to him; and the tone of his voice contradicted every
word he _prepared_ to utter. “My son, I have sent for you, no longer to
contend with your weak and wicked obstinacy, but to announce to you my
own resolution. The will of Heaven and of your parents has devoted you
to its service, and your resistance can only make us miserable, without
in the least frustrating that resolution.” At these words, gasping for
breath, my lips involuntarily unclosed; my father imagined this was an
attempt to reply, though in fact I was not capable of uttering a
syllable, and hastened to prevent it. “My son, all opposition is
unavailing, all discussion fruitless. Your destiny is decided, and
though your struggles may render it wretched, they cannot reverse it. Be
reconciled, my child, to the will of Heaven and your parents, which you
may insult, but cannot violate. This reverend person can better explain
to you the necessity of your obedience than I can.” And my father,
evidently weary of a task which he had reluctantly undertaken, was
rising to go away, when the Director detained him. “Stay, Senhor, and
assure your son before you depart, that, since I last saw him, I have
fulfilled my promise, and urged every topic on your mind, and that of
the duchess, that I thought might operate for his _best interests_.” I
was aware of the hypocritical ambiguity of this expression; and,
collecting my breath, I said, “Reverend father, as a son I seek not to
employ an intercessor with my own parents. I stand before them, and if I
have not an intercessor in their hearts, your mediation must be
ineffectual altogether. I implored you merely to state to them my
invincible reluctance.” They all interrupted me with exclamations, as
they repeated my last words,--“Reluctance! invincible! Is it for this
you have been admitted to our presence? Is it for this we have borne so
long with your contumacy, only to hear it repeated with aggravations?”
“Yes, my father,--yes, for this or nothing. If I am not permitted to
speak, why am I suffered in your presence?” “Because we hoped to witness
your submission.” “Allow me to give the proofs of it on my knees;”--and
I fell on my knees, hoping that my posture might soften the effect of
the words I could not help uttering. I kissed my father’s hand,--he did
not withdraw it, and I felt it tremble. I kissed the skirt of my
mother’s robe,--she attempted to withdraw it with one hand, but with the
other she hid her face, and I thought I saw tears bursting through her
fingers. I knelt to the Director too, and besought his benediction, and
struggled, though with revolting lips, to kiss his hand; but he snatched
his habit from my hand, elevated his eyes, spread out his fingers, and
assumed the attitude of a man who recoils in horror from a being who
merits the extreme of malediction and reprobation. Then I felt my only
chance was with my parents. I turned to them, but they shrunk from me,
and appeared willing to devolve the remainder of the task on the
Director. He approached me. “My child, you have pronounced your
reluctance to _the life of God_ invincible, but may there not be things
more invincible even to your resolution? The curses of that God,
confirmed by those of your parents, and deepened by all the fulminations
of the church, whose embraces you have rejected, and whose holiness you
have desecrated by that rejection.” “Father, these are terrible words,
but I have no time now but for meanings.” “Besotted wretch, I do not
understand you,--you do not understand yourself.” “Oh! I do,--I do!” I
exclaimed. And turning to my father, still on my knees, I cried, “My
dear father, is life,--human life, all shut up from me?” “It is,” said
the Director, answering for my father. “Have I no resource?” “None.” “No
profession?” “_Profession!_ degenerate wretch!” “Let me embrace the
meanest, but do not make me a monk.” “Profligate as weak.” “Oh! my
father,” still calling on my father, “let not this man answer for you.
Give me a sword,--send me into the armies of Spain to seek death,--death
is all I ask, in preference to that life you doom me to.” “It is
impossible,” said my father, gloomily returning from the window against
which he had been leaning; “the honour of an illustrious family,--the
dignity of a Spanish grandee--” “Oh! my father, of how little value will
that be, when I am consuming in my early grave, and you die
broken-hearted on it, over the flower your own voice has doomed to
wither there.” My father trembled. “Senhor, I entreat,--I command you to
retire; this scene will unfit you for the devotional duties you must
perform this evening.” “And you leave me then?” I cried as they
departed. “Yes,--yes,”--repeated the Director; “leave you burdened with
the curse of your father.” “Oh no!” exclaimed my father; but the
Director had hold of his hand, and pressed it strongly. “Of your
mother,” he repeated. I heard my mother weep aloud, and felt it like a
repeal of that curse; but she dared not speak, and I could not. The
Director had now two victims in his hands, and the third at his feet. He
could not avoid showing his triumph. He paused, collected the full power
of his sonorous voice, and thundered forth, “And of God!” And as he
rushed from the room, accompanied by my father and mother, whose hands
he grasped, I felt as if struck by a thunderbolt. The rushing of their
robes, as he dragged them out, seemed like the whirlwind that attends
the presence of the destroying angel. I cried out, in my hopeless agony
of destitution, “Oh! that my brother were here to intercede for
me,”--and, as I uttered these words, I fell. My head struck against a
marble table, and I sunk on the floor covered with blood.

“The domestics (of whom, according to the custom of the Spanish
nobility, there were about two hundred in the palace) found me in this
situation. They uttered outcries,--assistance was procured,--it was
believed that I had attempted to kill myself; but the surgeon who
attended me happened to be a man both of science and humanity, and
having cut away the long hair clotted with blood, and surveyed the
wound, he pronounced it trifling. My mother was of his opinion, for
within three days I was summoned to her apartment. I obeyed the summons.
A black bandage, severe head-ache, and an unnatural paleness, were the
only testimonies of my accident, as it was called; and the Director had
suggested to her that this was the time to FIX THE IMPRESSION. How well
religious persons understand the secret of making every event of the
present world operate on the future, while they pretend to make the
future predominate over the present. Were I to outlive the age of man, I
should never forget my interview with my mother. She was alone when I
entered, and seated with her back to me. I knelt and kissed her hand. My
paleness and my submission seemed to affect her,--but she struggled with
her emotions, overcame them, and said in a cold _dictated_ tone, “To
what purpose are those marks of exterior reverence, when your heart
disowns them?” “Madam, I am not conscious of that.” “Not conscious! How
then are you here? How is it that you have not, long before this, spared
your father the shame of supplicating his own child,--the shame, still
more humiliating, of supplicating him in vain; spared the Father
Director the scandal of seeing the authority of the church violated in
the person of its minister, and the remonstrances of duty as ineffectual
as the calls of nature? And me,--oh! why have you not spared me this
hour of agony and shame?” and she burst into a flood of tears, that
drowned my soul as she shed them. “Madam, what have I done that deserves
the reproach of your tears? My disinclination to a monastic life is no
crime?” “In you it is a crime.” “But how then, dear mother, were a
similar choice offered to my brother, would his rejection of it be
deemed a crime?” I said this almost involuntarily, and merely by way of
comparison. I had no ulterior meaning, nor the least idea that one could
be developed by my mother, except a reference to an unjustifiable
partiality. I was undeceived, when she added, in a voice that chilled my
blood, “There is a great difference between you.” “Yes, Madam, he is
your favourite.” “No, I take Heaven to witness,--no;” and she, who had
appeared so severe, so decisive, and so impenetrable before, uttered
these words with a sincerity that penetrated to the bottom of my
heart;--she appeared to be appealing to Heaven against the prejudices of
her child. I was affected--I said, “But, Madam, this difference of
circumstances is inexplicable.” “And would you have it explained _by
me_?” “By any one, Madam.” “_By me!_” she repeated, not hearing me; then
kissing a crucifix than hung on her bosom, “My God! the chastisement is
just, and I submit to it, though inflicted by my own child. You are
illegitimate,” she added, turning suddenly towards me; “you are
illegitimate,--your brother is not; and your intrusion into your
father’s house is not only its disgrace, but a perpetual monitor of that
crime which it aggravates without absolving.” I stood speechless. “Oh!
my child,” she continued, “have mercy on your mother. Has not this
confession, extorted from her by her own son, been sufficient to expiate
her offence?” “Go on, Madam, I can bear any thing now.” “You must bear
it, for you have forced me to this disclosure. I am of rank far inferior
to your father,--you were our first child. He loved me, and forgiving my
weakness as a proof of my devotion to him, we were married, and your
brother is our lawful child. Your father, anxious for my reputation,
since I was united to him, agreed with me, as our marriage was private,
and its date uncertain, that you should be announced as our legitimate
offspring. For years your grandfather, incensed at our marriage, refused
to see us, and we lived in retirement,--would that I had died there. A
few days before his death he relented, and sent for us; it was no time
to acknowledge the imposition practised on him, and you were introduced
as the child of his son, and the heir of his honours. But from that hour
I have never known a moment’s peace. The lie I had dared to utter before
God and the world, and to a dying parent,--the injustice done to your
brother,--the violation of natural duties and of legal claims,--the
convulsions of my conscience, that heavily upbraided me, not only with
vice and perjury, but with sacrilege.” “Sacrilege!” “Yes; every hour you
delay the assumption of the habit is a robbery of God. Before you were
born, I devoted you to him, as the only expiation of my crime. While I
yet bore you in my bosom without life, I dared to implore his
forgiveness only on the condition of your future intercession for me as
a minister of religion. _I relied on your prayers before you could
speak._ I proposed to intrust my penitence to one, who, in becoming the
child of God, had atoned for _my_ offence in making him the child of
sin. In imagination I knelt already at your confessional,--heard you, by
the authority of the church, and the commission of Heaven, pronounce me
forgiven. I saw you stand beside my dying bed,--I felt you press the
cross to my cold lips, and point to that heaven where I hoped my vow had
already secured a seat for you. Before your birth I had laboured to lift
you to heaven, and my recompence is, that your obstinacy threatens to
drag us both into the gulph of perdition. Oh! my child, if our prayers
and intercessions are available to the delivery of the souls of our
departed relatives from punishment, hear the adjuration of a living
parent, who implores you not to seal her everlasting condemnation!” I
was unable to answer, my mother saw it, and redoubled her efforts. “My
son, if I thought that my kneeling at your feet would soften your
obduracy, I would prostrate myself before them this moment.” “Oh! madam,
the sight of such unnatural humiliation ought to kill me.” “And yet you
will not yield--the agony of this confession, the interests of my
salvation and your own, nay, the preservation of my life, are of no
weight with you.” She perceived that these words made me tremble, and
repeated, “Yes, my life; beyond the day that your inflexibility exposes
me to infamy, I will not live. If you have resolution, I have resolution
too; nor do I dread the result, for God will charge on your soul, not on
mine, the crime an unnatural child has forced me to--and yet you will
not yield.--Well, then, the prostration of my body is nothing to that
prostration of soul you have already driven me to. I kneel to my own
child for life and for salvation,” and she knelt to me. I attempted to
raise her; she repelled me, and exclaimed, in a voice hoarse with
despair, “And you will not yield?” “I do not say so.” “And what, then,
do you say?--raise me not, approach me not, till you answer me.” “That I
will think.” “Think! you must decide.” “I do, then, I do.” “But how?”
“To be whatever you would have me.” As I uttered these words, my mother
fell in a swoon at my feet. As I attempted to lift her up, scarce
knowing if it was not a corse I held in my arms, I felt I never could
have forgiven myself if she had been reduced to that situation by my
refusing to comply with her last request. * * * * *

“I was overpowered with congratulations, blessings, and embraces. I
received them with trembling hands, cold lips, a rocking brain, and a
heart that felt turned to stone. Every thing passed before me as in a
dream. I saw the pageant move on, without a thought of who was to be the
victim. I returned to the convent--I felt my destiny was fixed--I had no
wish to avert or arrest it--I was like one who sees an enormous engine
(whose operation is to crush him to atoms) put in motion, and, stupified
with horror, gazes on it with a calmness that might be mistaken for that
of one who was coolly analysing the complication of its machinery, and
calculating the resistless crush of its blow. I have read of a wretched
Jew(14), who, by the command of a Moorish emperor, was exposed in an
area to the rage of a lion who had been purposely kept fasting for eight
and forty hours. The horrible roar of the famished and infuriated animal
made even the executioners tremble as they fastened the rope round the
body of the screaming victim. Amid hopeless struggles, supplications for
mercy, and shrieks of despair, he was bound, raised, and lowered into
the area. At the moment he touched the ground, he fell prostrate,
stupefied, annihilated. He uttered no cry--he did not draw a breath--he
did not make an effort--he fell contracting his whole body into a ball,
and lay as senseless as a lump of earth.--So it fared with me; my cries
and struggles were over,--I had been flung into the area, and I lay
there. I repeated to myself, “I am to be a monk,” and there the debate
ended. If they commended me for the performance of my exercises, or
reproved me for my deficiency, I showed neither joy nor sorrow,--I said
only, “I am to be a monk.” If they urged me to take exercise in the
garden of the convent, or reproved me for my excess in walking beyond
the allotted hours, I still answered, “I am to be a monk.” I was showed
much indulgence in these wanderings. A son--the eldest son of the Duke
de Monçada, taking the vows, was a glorious triumph for the ex-Jesuits,
and they did not fail to make the most of it. They asked what books I
would like to read,--I answered, “What they pleased.” They saw I was
fond of flowers, and vases of porcelain, filled with the most exquisite
produce of their garden, (renewed every day), embellished my apartment.
I was fond of music,--that they perceived from my involuntary joining in
the choir. My voice was good, and my profound melancholy gave an
expression to my tones, which these men, always on the watch to grasp at
any thing that may aggrandize them, or delude their victims, assured me
were like the tones of inspiration.

  (14) Vide Buffa--_Anachronism prepense_.

“Amid these displays of indulgence, I exhibited an ingratitude totally
foreign from my character. I never read the books they furnished me
with,--I neglected the flowers with which they filled my room,--and the
superb organ they introduced into my apartment, I never touched, except
to elicit some deep and melancholy chords from its keys. To those who
urged me to employ my talents for painting and music, I still answered
with the same apathetic monotony, “I am to be a monk.” “But, my brother,
the love of flowers, of music, of all that can be consecrated to God, is
also worthy of the attention of man--you abuse the indulgence of the
Superior.” “Perhaps so.” “You must, in gratitude to God, thank him for
these lovely works of his creation;”--the room was at this time filled
with carnations and roses;--“you must also be grateful to him for the
powers with which he has distinguished you in hymning his praises--your
voice is the richest and most powerful in the church.” “I don’t doubt
it.” “My brother, you answer at random.” “Just as I feel--but don’t heed
that.” “Will you take a turn in the garden?” “If you please.” “Or will
you seek a moment’s consolation from the Superior?” “If you please.”
“But why do you speak with such apathy? are the odour of the flowers,
and the consolations of your Superior, to be appreciated in the same
breath?” “I believe so.” “Why?” “Because I am to be a monk.” “Nay,
brother, will you never utter any thing but that phrase, which carries
no meaning with it but that of stupefaction or delirium?” “Imagine me,
then, stupefied, delirious--what you please--you know I must be a monk.”
At these words, which I suppose I uttered in a tone unlike that of the
usual _chaunt_ of monastic conversation, another interposed, and asked
what I was uttering in so loud a key? “I am only saying,” I replied,
“that I must be a monk.” “Thank God it is no worse,” replied the
querist, “your contumacy must long ago have wearied the Superior and the
brethren--thank God it’s no worse.” At these words I felt my passions
resuscitated,--I exclaimed, “_Worse!_ what have I to dread?--am I not to
be a monk?” From that evening, (I forget when it occurred), my liberty
was abridged; I was no longer suffered to walk, to converse with the
boarders or novices,--a separate table was spread for me in the
refectory,--the seats near mine were left vacant at service,--yet still
my cell was embellished with flowers and engravings, and
exquisitely-wrought toys were left on my table. I did not perceive they
were treating me as a lunatic, yet certainly my foolishly reiterated
expressions might have justified them in doing so,--they had their own
plans in concert with the Director,--my silence went for proof. The
Director came often to visit me, and the hypocritical wretches _would_
accompany him to my cell. I was generally (for want of other occupation)
attending to my flowers, or gazing at the engravings,--and they would
say, “You see he is as happy as he wishes to be--he wants for
nothing--he is quite occupied in watching those roses.” “No, I am not
occupied,” I returned, “it is occupation I want.” Then they shrugged
their shoulders, exchanged mysterious looks with the Director, and I was
glad when they were gone, without reflecting on the mischief their
absence threatened me with. At this moment, consultation after
consultation was held at the palace de Monçada, whether I could be
induced to shew sufficient intellect to enable me to pronounce the vows.
It seems the reverend fathers were as anxious as their old enemies the
Moors, to convert an idiot into a saint. There was now a party combined
against me, that it would have required more than the might of man to
resist. All was uproar from the palace de Monçada to the convent, and
back again. I was mad, _contumacious_, heretical, idiotical,--any
thing--every thing--that could appease the jealous agony of my parents,
the cupidity of the monks, or the ambition of the ex-Jesuits, who
laughed at the terror of all the rest, and watched intently over their
own interests. Whether I was mad or not, they cared very little; to
enroll a son of the first house of Spain among their converts, or to
imprison him as a madman, or to exorcise him as a demoniac, was all the
same to them. There was a _coup de theatre_ to be exhibited, and
provided they played first parts, they cared little about the
catastrophe. Luckily, during all this uproar of imposture, fear,
falsehood, and misrepresentation, the Superior remained steady. He let
the tumult go on, to aggrandize his importance; but he was resolved all
the time that I should have sanity enough to enable me to take the vows.
I knew nothing of all this, but was astonished at being summoned to the
parlour on the last eve of my noviciate. I had performed my religious
exercises with regularity, had received no rebukes from the master of
the novices, and was totally unprepared for the scene that awaited me.
In the parlour were assembled my father, mother, the Director, and some
other persons whom I did not recognize. I advanced with a calm look, and
equal step. I believe I was as much in possession of my reason as any
one present. The Superior, taking my arm, led me round the room, saying,
“You see----” I interrupted him--“Sir, what is this intended for?” He
answered only by putting his finger on his lips, and then desired me to
exhibit my drawings. I brought them, and offered them on one knee, first
to my mother, and then to my father. They were sketches of monasteries
and prisons. My mother averted her eyes--and my father said, pushing
them away, “I have no taste in those things.” “But you are fond of music
doubtless,” said the Superior; “you must hear his performance.” There
was a small organ in the room adjacent to the parlour; my mother was not
admitted there, but my father followed to listen. Involuntarily I
selected an air from the “Sacrifice of Jephtha.” My father was affected,
and bid me cease. The Superior imagined this was not only a tribute to
my talent, but an acknowledgement of the power of his party, and he
applauded without measure or judgement. Till that moment, I had never
conceived I could be the object of a party in the convent. The Superior
was determined to make me a Jesuit, and therefore was pledged for my
_sanity_. The monks wished for an exorcism, an _auto de fe_, or some
such bagatelle, to diversify the dreariness of monasticism, and
therefore were anxious I should be, or appear, deranged or possessed.
Their pious wishes, however, failed. I had appeared when summoned,
_behaved_ with scrupulous correctness, and the next day was appointed
for my taking the vows.

“That next day--Oh! that I could describe it!--but it is impossible--the
profound stupefaction in which I was plunged prevented my noticing
things which would have inspired the most uninterested spectator. I was
so absorbed, that though I remember facts, I cannot paint the slightest
trace of the feelings which they excited. During the night I slept
profoundly, till I was awoke by a knock at my door.--“My dear child, how
are you employed?” I knew the voice of the Superior, and I replied, “My
father, I was sleeping.” “And I was macerating myself at the foot of the
altar for you, my child,--the scourge is red with my blood.” I returned
no answer, for I felt the maceration was better merited by the betrayer
than the betrayed. Yet I was mistaken; for in fact, the Superior felt
some compunction, and had undergone this penance on account of my
repugnance and alienation of mind, more than for his own offences. But
Oh! _how false is a treaty made with God, which we ratify with our own
blood_, when he has declared there is but one sacrifice he will accept,
even that of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! Twice in
the night, I was thus disturbed, and twice answered in the same
language. The Superior, I make no doubt, was sincere. He thought he was
doing all for God, and his bleeding shoulders testified his zeal. But I
was in such a state of mental ossification, that I neither felt, heard,
or understood; and when he knocked a second and third time at the door
of my cell to announce the severity of his macerations, and the efficacy
of his intercessions with God, I answered, “Are not criminals allowed to
sleep the night before their execution?” At hearing these words, which
must have made him shudder, the Superior fell prostrate before the door
of my cell, and I turned to sleep again. But I could hear the voices of
the monks as they raised the Superior, and bore him to his cell. They
said, “He is incorrigible--you humiliate yourself in vain--when he is
_ours_, you shall see him a different being--he shall then prostrate
himself before you.” I heard this, and slept on. The morning came--I
knew what it would bring--I dramatized the whole scene in my own mind. I
imagined I witnessed the tears of my parents, the sympathy of the
congregation. I thought I saw the hands of the priests tremble as they
tossed the incense, and even the acolytes shiver as they held their
robes. Suddenly my mind changed: I felt--what was it I felt?--a union of
malignity, despair, and power, the most formidable. Lightning seemed
flashing from my eyes as I reflected,--I might make the sacrificers and
the sacrificed change places in one moment,--I might blast my mother as
she stood, by a word,--I might break my father’s heart, by a single
sentence,--I might scatter more desolation around me, than it was
apparently possible for human vice, human power, or human malignity,
more potent than both, to cause to its most abject victim.--Yes!--on
that morning I felt within myself the struggles of nature, feeling,
compunction, pride, malevolence, and despair.--The former I had brought
with me, the latter had been all acquired in the convent. I said to
those who attended me that morning, “You are arraying me for a victim,
but I can turn the executioners into the victims if I please”--and I
laughed. The laugh terrified those who were about me--they
retreated--they represented my state to the Superior. He came to my
apartment. The whole convent was by this time alarmed--their credit was
at stake--the preparations had all been made--the whole world was
determined I was to be a monk, mad or not.

“The Superior was terrified, I saw, as he entered my apartment. “My son,
what means all this?” “Nothing, my father--nothing but a sudden thought
that has struck me.” “We will discuss it another time, my son; at
present--” “_At present_,” I repeated with a laugh that must have
lacerated the Superior’s ears--“At present I have but one alternative to
propose--let my father or my brother take my place--that is all. I will
never be a monk.” The Superior, at these words, ran in despair round the
cell. I followed him, exclaiming, in a voice that must have filled him
with horror, “I exclaim against the vows--let those who forced me to it,
take the guilt on themselves--let my father, in his own person, expiate
his guilt in bringing me into the world--let my brother sacrifice his
pride--why must I be the only victim of the crime of the one, and the
passions of the other?” “My son, all this was arranged before.” “Yes, I
know that--I know that by a decree of the Almighty I was doomed to be
cursed even in my mother’s womb, but I will never subscribe that decree
with my own hand.” “My son, what can I say to you--you have passed your
noviciate.” “Yes, in a state of stupefaction.” “All Madrid is assembled
to hear you take your vows.” “Then all Madrid shall hear me renounce
them, and disavow them.” “This is the very day fixed on. The ministers
of God are prepared to yield you to his arms. Heaven and earth,--all
that is valuable in time, or precious in eternity, are summoned, are
waiting for the irrevocable words that seal your salvation, and ensure
that of those you love. What demon has taken possession of you, my
child, and seized the moment you were coming to Christ, to cast you
down, and tear you? How shall I--how shall the fraternity, and all the
souls who are to escape from punishment by the merit of your prayers,
answer to God for your horrible apostacy?” “Let them answer for
themselves--let every one of us answer for ourselves--that is the
dictate of reason.” “Of reason, my deluded child,--when had reason any
thing to do with religion?” I had sat down, folded my arms on my breast,
and forbore to answer a word. The Superior stood with his arms crossed,
his head declined, his whole figure in an air of profound and mortified
contemplation. Any one else would have imagined him seeking God in the
abysses of meditation, but I felt he was only seeking him where he is
never to be found,--in the abyss of that heart which is “deceitful and
desperately wicked.” He approached--I exclaimed, “Come not near me!--you
will renew again the story of my submission--I tell you it was
artificial;--of my regularity in devotional exercises--it was all
mechanism or imposture;--of my conformity to discipline--it was all
practised with the hope of escaping from it ultimately. Now, I feel my
conscience discharged and my heart lightened. Do you hear, do you
understand me? These are the first words of truth I ever uttered since I
entered these walls--the only ones that will, perhaps, ever be uttered
within them--aye, treasure them up, knit your brows, and cross yourself,
and elevate your eyes as you will. Go on with your religious drama. What
is there you see before you so horrible, that you recoil, that you cross
yourself, that you lift your eyes and hands to heaven?--a creature whom
despair has driven to utter desperate truth! Truth may be horrible to
the inmates of a convent, whose whole life is artificial and
perverted,--whose very hearts are sophisticated beyond the hand even of
Heaven (which they alienate by their hypocrisy) to touch. But I feel I
am at this moment an object of less horror in the sight of the Deity,
than if I were standing at his altar, to (as you would urge me) insult
him with vows, which my heart was bursting from my bosom to contradict,
at the moment I uttered them.”

“At these words, which I must have uttered with the most indecent and
insulting violence, I almost expected the Superior would have struck me
to the earth,--would have summoned the lay-brothers to bear me to
confinement,--would have shut me up in the dungeon of the convent, for I
knew there was such a place. Perhaps I wished for all this. Driven to
extremity myself, I felt a kind of pride in driving others to it in
return. Any thing of violent excitement, of rapid and giddy vicissitude,
or even of intense suffering, I was prepared for, and equal to, at that
moment. But these paroxysms soon exhaust themselves and us by their

Astonished by the Superior’s silence, I raised my eyes to him. I said,
in a tone of moderation that seemed unnatural to my own ears, “Well, let
me hear my sentence.” He was silent still. He had _watched the crisis_,
and now skilfully seized the turn of the mental disease, to exhibit his
applications. He was standing before me meek and motionless, his arms
crossed, his eyes depressed, not the slightest indication of resentment
to be traced in his whole figure. The folds of his habit, refusing to
announce his internal agitation, seemed as they were cut out of stone.
His silence imperceptibly softened me,--I blamed myself for my violence.
Thus men of the world command us by their passions, and men of the other
world by the apparent suppression of them. At last he said, “My son, you
have revolted from God, resisted his Holy Spirit, profaned his
sanctuary, and insulted his minister,--in his name and my own I forgive
you all. Judge of the various characters of our systems, by their
different results on us two. You revile, defame, and accuse,--I bless
and forgive; which of us is then under the influence of the gospel of
Christ, and within the pale of the church’s benediction? But leaving
this question, which you are not at present in a frame to decide, I
shall urge but one topic more; if that fails, I shall no longer oppose
your wishes, or urge you to prostitute a sacrifice which man would
despise, and God must disdain. I add, I will even do my utmost to
facilitate your wishes, which are now in fact my own.” At these words,
so full of truth and benignity, I was rushing to prostrate myself at his
feet, but fear and experience checked me, and I only bowed. “Promise me
merely that you will wait with patience till this last topic is urged;
whether it succeeds or not I have now little interest, and less care.” I
promised,--he went out. A few moments after he returned. His air was a
little more disturbed, but still struggling for a calmness of
expression. There was agitation about him, but I knew not whether it was
felt on his own account or mine. He held the door half open, and his
first sentence astonished me.--“My son, you are well acquainted with the
classical histories.” “But what is that to the purpose, my father?” “You
remember a remarkable story of the Roman general, who spurned from the
steps of his tribune, people, senators, and _priests_,--trampled on all
law,--outraged all religion,--but was at last moved by nature, for, when
his mother prostrated herself before him, and exclaimed, ‘My son, before
you tread the streets of Rome, you must first tread on the body of her
who bore you!’ he relented.” “I remember all, but to what does this
tend?” “_To this_,” and he threw open the door; “now, prove yourself, if
you can, more obdurate than a heathen.” As the door opened, across the
threshold lay my mother, prostrate on her face. She said in a stifled
voice, “Advance,--break your vows,--but you must rush to perjury over
the body of your mother.” I attempted to raise her, but she clung to the
ground, repeating the same words; and her magnificent dress, that
overspread the floor of stone with gems and velvet, frightfully
contrasted her posture of humiliation, and the despair that burned in
her eyes, as she raised them to me for a moment. Convulsed with agony
and horror, I reeled into the arms of the Superior, who seized that
moment to bear me to the church. My mother followed,--the ceremony
proceeded. I vowed chastity, poverty, and obedience, and in a few
moments my destiny was decided. * * * * *

“Day followed day for many a month, of which I have no recollections,
nor wish to have any. I must have experienced many emotions, but they
all subsided like the waves of the sea under the darkness of a midnight
sky,--their fluctuation continues, but there is no light to mark their
motion, or trace when they rise and fall. A deep stupor pervaded my
senses and soul; and perhaps, in this state, I was best fitted for the
monotonous existence to which I was doomed. It is certain that I
performed all the conventual functions with a regularity that left
nothing to be blamed, and an apathy that left nothing for praise. My
life was a sea without a tide. The bell did not toll for service with
more mechanical punctuality than I obeyed the summons. No automaton,
constructed on the most exquisite principles of mechanism, and obeying
those principles with a punctuality almost miraculous, could leave the
artist less room for complaint or disappointment, than I did the
Superior and community. I was always first in my place in the choir. I
received no visits in the parlour,--when I was permitted to go, I
declined the permission. If penance was enjoined, I submitted; if
relaxation was permitted, I never partook of it. I never asked a
dispensation from morning prayers, or from vigils. I was silent in the
refectory,--in the garden I walked alone. I neither thought, nor felt,
nor lived,--if life depends on consciousness, and the motions of the
will. I slept through my existence like the Simorgh in the Eastern
fable, but this sleep was not to last long. My abstraction and calmness
would not do for the Jesuits. My stupor, my noiseless tread, my fixed
eyes, my ghastly silence, might indeed have impressed a superstitious
community with the idea that it was no human creature who stalked
through their cloisters, and haunted their choir. But they had quite
different ideas. They considered all this as a tacit reproach to the
struggles, the squabbles, the intrigues, and the circumventions, in
which they were immersed, body and soul, from morn till night. Perhaps
they thought I was lying in reserve, only to watch them. Perhaps there
might have been a dearth of some matter of curiosity or complaint in the
convent just then,--a very little serves for either. However it was,
they began to revive the old story of my being deranged, and resolved to
make the most of it. They whispered in the refectory, consulted in the
garden,--shook their heads, pointed at me in the cloister, and finally,
I faithfully believe, worked themselves into the conviction that what
they wished or imagined was actually true. Then they all felt their
consciences interested in the investigation; and a select party, headed
by an old monk of influence and reputation, waited on the Superior. They
stated to him my abstraction, my mechanical movements, my automaton
figure, my meanless words, my stupified devotion, my total alienation
from the spirit of the monastic life, while my scrupulous, _wooden_,
_jointless_ exactness in its forms was only a mockery. The Superior
heard them with great indifference. He had held secret intelligence with
my family, had communicated with the Director, and pledged himself that
I should be a monk. He had succeeded by dint of exertions, (the result
of which has been seen), and now cared very little whether I was mad or
not. With a grave air he forbid their further interference in the
matter, and reserved its future cognizance to himself. They retired
defeated, but not disappointed, and they all pledged themselves to each
other to _watch me_; that is, to harass, persecute, and torment me into
being the very character with which their malice, their curiosity, or
their mere industry of idleness and wantonness of unoccupied invention,
had invested me already. From that hour the whole convent was in a
tumult of conspiracy and combination. Doors were clapped to wherever I
was heard to approach; and three or four would stand whispering near
where I walked, and clear their throats, and exchange signs, and pass
_audibly_ to the most trifling topics in my hearing, as if to intimate,
while they affected to conceal it, that their last topic had been _me_.
I laughed at this internally. I said to myself, “Poor perverted beings,
with what affectation of dramatic bustle and contrivance you labour to
diversify the misery of your hopeless vacancy;--you struggle,--I
submit.” Soon the toils they were preparing began to tighten round me.
They would throw themselves in my way with an assiduity I could not
avoid, and an appearance of kindness I did not willingly repel. They
would say, in the blandest tones, “My dear brother, you are
melancholy,--you are devoured with chagrin,--would to God our fraternal
efforts could banish your regrets. But from what arises that melancholy
that appears to consume you?” At these words I could not help fixing on
them eyes full of reproaches, and I believe of tears,--but I did not
utter a word. The state in which they saw me, was a sufficient cause for
the melancholy with which I was reproached. * * * * * *

“This attack having failed, another method was tried. They attempted to
make me a party in the parties of the convent. They told me a thousand
things of unjust partialities,--of unjust punishments, daily to be
witnessed in the convent. They talked of a sickly brother being
compelled to attend matins, while the physician pronounced his
attendance on them must be his death,--_and he died_,--while a young
favourite, in the bloom of health, had a dispensation from matins
whenever he pleased to lie till nine in the morning;--of complaints that
the confessional was not attended to as it ought,--and this might have
made some impression on me, till another complainant added, and the
_turning-box is not attended to as it ought to be_. This union of
dissonant sounds,--this startling transition from a complaint of
neglecting the mysteries of the soul in its profoundest communion with
God, to the lowest details of the abuses of conventual discipline,
revolted me at once. I had with difficulty concealed my disgust till
then, and it was now so obvious, that the _party_ gave up their attempt
for the moment, and beckoned to an _experienced_ monk to join me in my
solitary walk, as I broke from them. He approached, “My brother, you are
alone.” “I wish to be so.” “But why?” “I am not obliged to announce my
reasons.” “True, but you may confide them to me.” “I have nothing to
confide.” “I know that,--I would not for the world intrude on your
confidence; reserve that for friends more honoured.” It struck me as
rather odd, that he should, in the same breath, ask for my
confidence,--declare that he was conscious I had nothing to intrust to
him,--and, lastly, request a reserve of my confidence for some more
favoured friend. I was silent, however, till he said, “But, my brother,
you are devoured with ennui.” I was silent still. “Would to God I could
find the means to dissipate it.” I said, looking on him calmly, “Are
those means to be found within the walls of a convent?” “Yes, my dear
brother,--yes, certainly,--the debate in which the convent is now
engaged about the proper hour for matins, which the Superior wants to
have restored to the original hour.” “What is the difference?” “_Full
five minutes._” “I confess the importance of the question.” “Oh! if you
once begin to feel it, there will be no end of your happiness in a
convent. There is something every moment to inquire, to be anxious
about, and to contend for. Interest yourself, my dear brother, in these
questions, and you will not have a moment’s ennui to complain of.” At
these words I fixed my eyes on him. I said calmly, but I believe
emphatically, “I have, then, only to excite in my own mind, spleen,
malignity, curiosity, every passion that your retreat should have
afforded me protection against, to render that retreat supportable.
Pardon me, if I cannot, like you, beg of God permission to take his
enemy into compact against the corruption which I promote, while I
presume to pray against it.” He was silent, lifted up his hands, and
crossed himself; and I said to myself, “God forgive your hypocrisy,” as
he went into another walk, and repeated to his companions, “He is mad,
irrecoverably mad.” “But how, then?” said several voices. There was a
stifled whisper. I saw several heads bent together. I did not know what
they were meditating, nor did I care. I was walking alone,--it was a
delicious moon-light evening. I saw the moon-beams through the trees,
but the trees all looked to me like walls. Their trunks were as adamant,
and the interlaced branches seemed to twine themselves into folds that
said, “Beyond us there is no passing.” I sat down by the side of a
fountain,--there was a tall poplar over it,--I remember their situation
well. An elderly priest (who, I did not see, was detached by the party)
sat down beside me. He began some common-place observations on the
transiency of human existence. I shook my head, and he understood, by a
kind of tact not uncommon among Jesuits, that _it would not do_. He
shifted the subject, remarked on the beauty of the foliage, and the
limpid purity of the fountain. I assented. He added, “Oh that life were
pure as that stream!” I sighed, “Oh that life were verdant and fertile
to me as that tree!” “But, my son, may not fountains be dried up, and
trees be withered?” “Yes, my father,--yes,--the fountain of my life has
been dried up, and the green branch of my life has been blasted for
ever.” As I uttered these words, I could not suppress some tears. The
father seized on what he called the moment when God was breathing on my
soul. Our conversation was very long, and I listened to him with a kind
of reluctant and stubborn attention, because I had involuntarily been
compelled to observe, that he was the only person in the whole community
who had never harassed me by the slightest importunity either before my
profession or after; and when the worst things were said of me, never
seemed to attend; and when the worst things were predicted of me, shook
his head and said nothing. His character was unimpeached, and his
religious performances as exemplary and punctual as my own. With all
this I felt no confidence in him, or in any human being; but I listened
to him with patience, and my patience must have had no trivial trial,
for, at the end of an hour, (I did not perceive that our conference was
permitted quite beyond the usual hour of retirement), he continued
repeating, “My dear son, you will become reconciled to the conventual
life.” “My father, never, never,--unless this fountain is dried up, and
this tree withered, by to-morrow.” “My son, God has often performed
greater miracles for the salvation of a soul.”

“We parted, and I retired to my cell. I know not how he and the others
were employed, but, before matins, there was such a tumult in the
convent, that one would have thought Madrid was on fire. Boarders,
novices, and monks, ran about from cell to cell, up and down the
stair-case, through all the corridors, unrestrained and
unquestioned,--all order was at an end. No bell was rung, no commands
for restoring tranquillity issued; the voice of authority seemed to have
made peace for ever with the shouts of uproar. From my window I saw them
running through the garden in every direction, embracing each other,
ejaculating, praying, and counting their beads with hands tremulous, and
eyes uplifted in extacy. The hilarity of a convent has something in it
uncouth, unnatural, and even alarming. I suspected some mischief
immediately, but I said to myself, “The worst is over, they cannot make
me more than a monk.”--I was not long left in doubt. Many steps
approached my cell, numerous voices were repeating, “Hasten, dear
brother, hasten to the garden.” I was left no choice; they surrounded
and almost bore me to the garden.

“The whole community were assembled there, the Superior among them not
attempting to suppress the confusion, but rather encouraging it. There
was a suffusion of joy in every countenance, and a kind of artificial
light in every eye, but the whole performance struck me as hollow and
hypocritical. I was led, or rather hurried to the spot where I had sat
and conversed so long the preceding evening. _The fountain was dried up,
and the tree was withered._ I stood speechless with astonishment, while
every voice around me repeated, “A miracle! a miracle!--God himself has
sealed your vocation with his own hand.” The Superior made a signal to
them to stop. He said to me in a calm voice, “My son, you are required
only to believe the evidence of your own eyes. Will you make infidels of
your very senses, sooner than believe God? Prostrate yourself, I adjure
you, before him this moment, and, by a public and solemn act of faith,
recognise that mercy that has not scrupled a miracle to invite you to
salvation.” I was amazed more than touched by what I saw and heard, but
I threw myself on my knees before them all, as I was directed. I clasped
my hands, and said aloud, “My God, if you have indeed vouchsafed this
miracle on my account, you will also doubtless enrich and illuminate me
with grace to apprehend and appreciate it. My mind is dark, but you can
illuminate it. My heart is hard, but it is not beyond the power of
omnipotence to touch and subdue it. An impression made on it this
moment, a whisper sent to its recesses, is not less worthy of your mercy
than an impression on inanimate matter, which only confounds my senses.”
The Superior interrupted me. He said, “Hold, those are not the words you
should use. Your very faith is incredulous, and your prayer an ironical
insult on the mercy it pretends to supplicate.” “My father, put what
words you please in my mouth, and I will repeat them,--if I am not
convinced, I am at least subdued.” “You must ask pardon of the community
for the offence your _tacit_ repugnance to the life of God has caused
them.” I did so. “You must express your gratitude to the community for
the joy they have testified at this miraculous evidence of the truth of
your vocation.” I did so. “You must also express your gratitude to God,
for a visible interposition of supernatural power, not more to the
vindication of his grace, than to the eternal honour of this house,
which he has been pleased to irradiate and dignify by _a miracle_.” I
hesitated a little. I said, “My father, may I be permitted to utter this
prayer internally?” The Superior hesitated too; he thought it might not
be well to push matters too far, and he said at length, “As you please.”
I was still kneeling on the ground, close to the tree and the fountain.
I now prostrated myself, with my face to the earth, and prayed
internally and intensely, while they all stood around me; but the
language of my prayer was very different from what they flattered
themselves I was uttering. On rising from my knees, I was embraced by
half the community. Some of them actually shed tears, the source of
whose fountain was surely not in their hearts. Hypocritical joy insults
only its dupe, but hypocritical grief degrades the professor. That whole
day was passed in a kind of revelry. Exercises were abridged,--the
refections embellished with confectionary,--every one had permission to
go from cell to cell, without an order from the Superior. Presents of
chocolate, snuff, iced water, liqueurs, and (what was more acceptable
and necessary than any of them) napkins and towels of the finest and
whitest damask, circulated among all the members. The Superior was shut
up half the day with two _discreet_ brethren, as they are called, (that
is, men who are elected to take part with the Superior, on supposition
of their utter, superannuated incapacity, as Pope Sixtus was elected for
his (supposed) imbecillity), preparing an authenticated account of the
miracle, to be dispatched to the principal convents in Spain. There was
no need to distribute the intelligence through Madrid,--they were in
possession of it an hour after it happened,--the malicious say _an hour

“I must confess the agitating exhilaration of this day, so unlike what I
had ever witnessed before in a convent, produced an effect on me I
cannot describe. I was caressed,--made the hero of the _fete_,--(a
conventual fete has always something odd and unnatural in it),--almost
deified. I gave myself up to the intoxication of the day,--I did verily
believe myself the favourite of the Deity for some hours. I said to
myself a thousand flattering things. If this deception was criminal, I
expiated my crime very soon. The next day every thing was restored to
its usual order, and I found that the community could pass from the
extreme of disorder in a moment to the rigidity of their usual habits.

“My conviction of this was certainly not diminished within the few
following days. The oscillations of a convent vibrate within a very
short interval. One day all is relaxation, another all is inexorable
discipline. Some following days I received a striking proof of that
foundation on which, in despite of a miracle, my repugnance to a
monastic life rested. Some one, it was said, had committed a slight
breach of monastic duty. The _slight breach_ was _fortunately_ committed
by a distant relation of the Archbishop of Toledo, and consisted _merely
in his entering the church intoxicated_, (a rare vice in Spaniards),
attempting to drag the matin preacher from the pulpit, and failing in
that, getting astride as well as he could on the altar, dashing down the
tapers, overturning the vases and the pix, and trying to scratch out, as
with the talons of a demon, the painting that hung over the table,
uttering all the while the most horrible blasphemies, and even
_soliciting the portrait of the Virgin_ in language not to be repeated.
A consultation was held. The community, as may be guessed, was in an
uproar while it lasted. Every one but myself was anxious and agitated.
There was much talk of the inquisition,--the scandal was so
atrocious,--the outrage so unpardonable,--and atonement so
impracticable. Three days afterwards the archbishop’s mandate came to
stop all proceedings; and the following day the youth who had committed
this sacrilegious outrage appeared in the hall of the Jesuits, where the
Superior and a few monks were assembled, read a short exercise which one
of them had written for him on the pithy word “Ebrietas,” and departed
to take possession of a large benefice in the diocese of the archbishop
his relative. The very next day after this scandalous scene of
compromise, imposture, and profanation, a monk was detected in the act
of going, after the permitted hour, to an adjacent cell to return a book
he had borrowed. As a punishment for this offence, he was compelled to
sit for three days at refection, while we were dining, barefooted and
his tunic reversed, on the stone floor of the hall. He was compelled to
accuse himself aloud of every crime, and of many not at all fit to be
mentioned to our ears, and exclaim at every interval, “My God, my
punishment is just.” On the second day, it was found that a mat had been
placed under him by some merciful hand. There was an immediate commotion
in the hall. The poor wretch was labouring under a complaint that made
it worse than death to him to be compelled to sit or rather lie on a
stone floor; some merciful being had surreptitiously conveyed to him
this mat. An investigation was immediately commenced. A youth whom I had
not noticed before, started from the table, and kneeling to the
Superior, confessed _his guilt_. The Superior assumed a stern look,
retired with some old monks to consult on this new crime of humanity,
and in a few moments the bell was rung, to give every one notice to
retire to their cells. We all retired trembling, and while we prostrated
ourselves respectively before the crucifix in our cells, wondered who
would be the next victim, or what might be his punishment. I saw that
youth but once again. He was the son of a wealthy and powerful family,
but even his wealth was no balance against his contumacy, in the opinion
of the convent, that is, of four monks of rigid principles, whom the
Superior consulted that very evening. The Jesuits are fond of courting
power, but they are still fonder of keeping it, if they can, to
themselves. The result of their debate was, that the offender should
undergo a severe humiliation and penance in their presence. His sentence
was announced to him, and he submitted to it. He repeated every word of
contrition they dictated to him. He then bared his shoulders, and
applied the scourge till the blood flowed, repeating between every
stroke, “My God, I ask pardon of thee for having given the slightest
comfort or relief to Fra Paolo, during his merited penance.” He
performed all this, cherishing in the bottom of his soul an intention
still to comfort and relieve Fra Paolo, whenever he could find
opportunity. He then thought all was over. He was desired to retire to
his cell. He did so, but the monks were not satisfied with this
examination. They had long suspected Fra Paolo of irregularity, and
imagined they might extort the confession of it from this youth, whose
humanity increased their suspicion. The virtues of nature are always
deemed vices in a convent. Accordingly, he had hardly been in bed when
they surrounded him. They told him they came by command of the Superior
to enjoin him a further penance, unless he disclosed the secret of the
interest he felt for Fra Paolo. It was in vain he exclaimed, “I have no
interest but that of humanity and compassion.” Those were words they did
not understand. It was in vain he urged, “I will inflict whatever
penance the Superior is pleased to order, but my shoulders are bleeding
still,”--and he shewed them. The executioners were pitiless. They
compelled him to quit his bed, and applied the scourge with such
outrageous severity, that at last, mad with shame, rage, and pain, he
burst from them, and ran through the corridor calling for assistance or
for mercy. The monks were in their cells, none dared to stir,--they
shuddered, and turned on their straw pallets. It was the vigil of Saint
John the Lesser, and I had been commanded what is called in convents an
hour of recollection, which was to be passed in the church. I had obeyed
the order, and remained with my face and body prostrate on the marble
steps of the altar, till I was almost unconscious, when I heard the
clock strike twelve. I reflected the hour had elapsed without a single
recollection on my part. “And thus it is to be always,” I exclaimed,
rising from my knees; “they deprive of the power of thinking, and then
they bid me recollect.” As I returned through the corridor, I heard
frightful cries--I shuddered. Suddenly a phantom approached me--I dropt
on my knees--I cried, “Satana vade retro--apage Satana.” A naked human
being, covered with blood, and uttering screams of rage and torture,
flashed by me; four monks pursued him--they had lights. I had shut the
door at the end of the gallery--I felt they must return and pass me--I
was still on my knees, and trembling from head to foot. The victim
reached the door, found it shut, and rallied. I turned, and saw a groupe
worthy of Murillo. A more perfect human form never existed than that of
this unfortunate youth. He stood in an attitude of despair--he was
streaming with blood. The monks, with their lights, their scourges, and
their dark habits, seemed like a groupe of demons who had made prey of a
wandering angel,--the groupe resembled the infernal furies pursuing a
mad Orestes. And, indeed, no ancient sculptor ever designed a figure
more exquisite and perfect than that they had so barbarously mangled.
Debilitated as my mind was by the long slumber of all its powers, this
spectacle of horror and cruelty woke them in a moment. I rushed forward
in his defence--I struggled with the monks--I uttered some expressions
which, though I hardly was conscious of, they remembered and exaggerated
with all the accuracy of malice.

“I have no recollection of what followed; but the issue of the business
was, that I was confined to my cell for the following week, for my
daring interference in the discipline of the convent. And the additional
penance of the unfortunate novice, for resisting that discipline, was
inflicted with such severity, that he became delirious with shame and
agony. He refused food, he got no rest, and died the eighth night after
the scene I had witnessed. He was of a temper unusually mild and
amiable--he had a taste for literature, and even the disguise of a
convent could not conceal the distinguished graces of his person and
manners. Had he lived in the world, how these qualities would have
embellished it! Perhaps the world would have abused and perverted
them--true; but would the abuses of the world ever have brought them to
so frightful and disastrous a conclusion?--would he have been first
lashed into madness, and then lashed out of existence? He was interred
in the church of the convent, and the Superior himself pronounced his
eulogium--the Superior! by whose order, or else permission, or at least
connivance, he had been driven mad, in order to obtain a trivial and
imaginary secret.

”During this exhibition, my disgust arose to a degree incalculable. I
had loathed the conventual life--I now despised it; and every judge of
human nature knows, that it is harder to eradicate the latter sentiment
than the former. I was not long without an occasion for the renewed
exercise of both feelings. The weather was intensely hot that year--an
epidemic complaint broke out in the convent--every day two or three were
ordered to the infirmary, and those who had merited slight penances were
allowed, by way of commutation, to attend the sick. I was most anxious
to be of the number--I was even resolved, by some slight deviation, to
tempt this punishment, which would have been to me the highest
gratification. Dare I confess my motive to you, Sir? I was anxious to
see those men, if possible, divested of the conventual disguise, and
forced to sincerity by the pangs of disease, and the approach of death.
I triumphed already in the idea of their dying confession, of hearing
them acknowledge the seductions employed to ensnare me, deplore the
miseries in which they had involved me, and implore, with convulsed
lips, my pardon in--_no--not in vain_.

“This wish, though vindictive, was not without its palliations; but I
was soon saved the trouble of realizing it at my own expence. That very
evening the Superior sent for me, and desired me to attend in the
infirmary, allowing me, at the same time, remission from vespers. The
first bed I approached, I found Fra Paolo extended on. He had never
recovered the effects of the complaint he laboured under at the time of
his penance; and the death of the young novice so (fruitlessly incurred)
had been mortal to him.

“I offered him medicines--I attempted to adjust him in his bed. He had
been greatly neglected. He repelled both offers, and, feebly waving his
hand, said, “Let me, at least, die in peace.” A few moments after, he
unclosed his eyes, and recognized me. A gleam of pleasure trembled over
his countenance, for he remembered the interest I had shewn for his
unfortunate friend. He said, in a voice hardly intelligible, “It is you,
then?” “Yes, my brother, it is I--can I do any thing for you?” After a
long pause, he added, “Yes, you can.” “Tell me then.” He lowered his
voice, which was before almost inaudible, and whispered, “Let none of
them come near me in my dying moments--it will not give you much
trouble--those moments are approaching.” I pressed his hand in token of
acquiescence. But I felt there was something at once terrifying and
improper in this request from a dying man. I said to him, “My dear
brother, you are then dying?--would you not wish an interest in the
prayers of the community?--would you not wish the benefit of the last
sacraments?” He shook his head, and I fear that I understood him too
well. I ceased any further importunity; and a few moments he uttered, in
tones I could hardly distinguish, “_Let them, let me die._--They have
left me no power to form another wish.” His eyes closed,--I sat beside
his bed, holding his hand in mine. At first, I could feel he attempted
to press it--the attempt failed, his hold relaxed. Fra Paolo was no

“I continued to sit holding the dead hand in mine, till a groan from an
adjacent bed roused me. It was occupied by the old monk with whom I had
held a long conversation the night before the miracle, in which I still
believed most firmly.

“I have observed, that this man was of a temper and manners remarkably
mild and attractive. Perhaps this is always connected with great
weakness of intellect, and coldness of character _in men_. (It may be
different in women--but my own experience has never failed in the
discovery, that where there was a kind of feminine softness and
pliability in the male character, there was also treachery,
dissimulation, and heartlessness.) At least, if there be such an union,
a conventual life is sure to give it every advantage in its range of
internal debility, and external seductiveness.--That pretence of a wish
to assist, without the power, or even the wish, that is so flattering
both to the weak minds that exercise it, and the weaker on whom it is
exercised. This man had been always judged very weak, and yet very
fascinating. He had been always employed to ensnare the young novices.
He was now dying--overcome by his situation, I forgot every thing but
its tremendous claims, and offered him every assistance in my power. “I
want nothing but to die,” was his answer. His countenance was perfectly
calm, but its calmness was rather that of apathy than of resignation.
“You are, then, perfectly sure of your approach to blessedness?” “I know
nothing about it.” “How, my brother, are those words for a dying man to
utter?” “Yes, if he speaks the truth.” “But a monk?--a catholic?” “Those
are but names--I feel _that truth_, at least, now.” “You amaze me!” “I
care not--I am on the verge of a precipice--I must plunge from it--and
whether the by-standers utter outcries or not, is a matter of little
consequence to me.” “And yet, you expressed a willingness to die?”
“Willingness! Oh impatience!--I am a clock that has struck the same
minutes and hours for sixty years. Is it not time for the machine to
long for its winding up? The monotony of my existence would make a
transition, even to pain, desirable. I am weary, and would change--that
is all.” “But to me, and to all the community, you seemed to be resigned
to the monastic life.” “I seemed a lie--I lived a lie--I was a lie--I
ask pardon of my last moments for speaking the truth--I presume they
neither can refuse me, or discredit my words--I hated the monastic life.
Inflict pain on man, and his energies are roused--condemn him to
insanity, and he slumbers like animals that have been found inclosed in
wood and stone, torpid and content; but condemn him at once to pain and
inanity, as they do in convents, and you unite the sufferings of hell
and of annihilation. For sixty years I have cursed my existence. I never
woke to hope, for I had nothing to do or to expect. I never lay down
with consolation, for I had, at the close of every day, only to number
so many deliberate mockeries of God, as exercises of devotion. The
moment life is put beyond the reach of your will, and placed under the
influence of mechanical operations, it becomes, to thinking beings, a
torment insupportable.

“I never ate with appetite, because I knew, that with or without it, I
must go to the refectory when the bell rung. I never lay down to rest in
peace, because I knew the bell was to summon me in defiance of nature,
whether it was disposed to prolong or shorten my repose. I never prayed,
for my prayers were dictated to me. I never hoped, for my hopes were
founded not on the truth of God, but on the promises and threatenings of
man. My salvation hovered on the breath of a being as weak as myself,
whose weakness I was nevertheless obliged to flatter, and struggle to
obtain a gleam of the grace of God, through the dark distorted medium of
the vices of man. _It never reached me_--I die without light, hope,
faith, or consolation.”--He uttered these words with a calmness that was
more terrific than the wildest convulsions of despair. I gasped for
breath--“But, my brother, you were always punctual in your religious
exercises.” “That was mechanism--will you not believe a dying man?” “But
you urged me, in a long conversation, to embrace the monastic life; and
your importunity must have been sincere, for it was after my
profession.” “It is natural for the miserable to wish for companions in
their misery. This is very selfish, very misanthropic, you will say, but
it is also very natural. You have yourself seen the cages suspended in
the cells--are not the tame birds always employed to allure the wild
ones? We were caged birds, can you blame us for the deception?” In these
words I could not help recognizing that _simplicity of profound
corruption_(15),--that frightful paralysis of the soul, which leaves it
incapable of receiving any impression or making one,--that says to the
accuser, Approach, remonstrate, upbraid--I defy you. My conscience is
dead, and can neither hear, utter, or echo a reproach. I was amazed--I
struggled against my own conviction. I said, “But your regularity in
religious exercises--” “_Did you never hear a bell toll?_” “But your
voice was always the loudest and most distinct in the choir.” “_Did you
never hear an organ played?_” * * * * * * *

  (15) Vide Madame Genlis’s “Julien Delmour.”

I shuddered, yet I still went on with my queries--I thought I could not
know too much. I said, “But, my brother, the religious exercises in
which you were constantly engaged, must have imperceptibly instilled
something of their spirit into you?--is it not so? You must have passed
from the forms of religion into its spirit ultimately?--is it not so, my
brother? Speak on the faith of a dying man. May I have such a hope! I
would undergo any thing--any thing, to obtain it.” “There is no such
hope,” said the dying man, “deceive not yourself with it. The repetition
of religious duties, without the feeling or spirit of religion, produces
an incurable callosity of heart. There are not more irreligious people
to be found on earth than those who are occupied always in its
_externals_. I verily believe half our lay-brothers to be Atheists. I
have heard and read something of those whom we call heretics. They have
people to open their pews, (shocking profanation you will call it, to
sell seats in the house of God, and you are right), they have people to
ring bells when their dead are to be interred; and these wretches have
no other indication of religion to give, but watching during the whole
time of service, (in which their duties forbid them to partake), for the
fees which they extort, and dropping upon their knees, ejaculating the
names of Christ and God, amid the rattling of the pew-doors, which
always operates on their associations, and makes them bound from their
knees to gape for a hundredth part of the silver for which Judas sold
his Saviour and himself. Then their bell-ringers--one would imagine
_death might humanize them_. Oh! no such thing--they _extort money in
proportion to the depth of the grave_. And the bell-ringer, the sexton,
and the survivors, fight sometimes a manual battle over the senseless
remains, whose torpidity is the most potent and silent reproach to this
unnatural conflict.” I knew nothing of this, but I grasped at his former
words, “You die, then, without hope or confidence?” He was silent. “Yet
you urged me by eloquence almost divine, by a miracle verified before my
own eyes.” He laughed. There is something very horrible in the laugh of
a dying man: Hovering on the verge of both worlds, he seems to give the
lie to both, and proclaim the enjoyments of one, and the hopes of
another, alike an imposture. “I performed that miracle myself,” he said
with all the calmness, and, alas! something of the triumph of a
deliberate impostor. “I knew the reservoir by which the fountain was
supplied--by consent of the Superior it was drawn off in the course of
the night. We worked hard at it, and laughed at your credulity every
pump we drew.” “But the tree--” “I was in possession of some chemical
secrets--I have not time to disclose them now--I scattered a certain
fluid over the leaves of the poplar that night, and they _appeared_
withered by the morning--go look at them a fortnight hence, and you will
see them as green as ever.” “And these are your dying words?” “They
are.” “And why did you deceive me thus?” He struggled a short time at
this question, and then rising almost upright in his bed, exclaimed,
“Because I was a monk, and wished for victims of my imposture to gratify
my pride! and companions of my misery, to soothe its malignity!” He was
convulsed as he spoke, the natural mildness and calmness of his
physiognomy were changed for something that I cannot describe--something
at once derisive, triumphant, and diabolical. I forgave him every thing
in that horrible moment. I snatched a crucifix that lay by his bed--I
offered it to his lips. He pushed it away. “If I wanted to have this
farce acted, I should choose another actor. You know I might have the
Superior and half the convent at my bed-side this moment if I pleased,
with their tapers, their holy water, and their preparations for extreme
unction, and all the masquerade of death, by which they try to dupe even
the dying, and insult God even on the threshold of his own eternal
mansion. I suffered you to sit beside me, because I thought, from your
repugnance to the monastic life, you might be a willing hearer of its
deceptions, and its despair.”

“Deplorable as had been the image of that life to me before, this
representation exceeded my imagination. I had viewed it as excluding all
the enjoyments of life, and thought the prospect blasting; but now the
other world was weighed in the balance, and found wanting. The genius of
monasticism seemed to wield a two-edged sword, and to lift it between
and against time and eternity. The blade bore a two-fold inscription--on
the side next the world was written the word “suffer,”--on that opposed
to eternity, “despair.” In the utter hopelessness of my soul, I still
continued to question _him_ for hope--him! while he was bereaving me of
its very shadow, by every word he uttered. “But, must all be plunged in
this abyss of darkness? Is there no light, no hope, no refuge, for the
sufferer? May not some of us become reconciled to our situation--first
patient of it, then attached to it? Finally, may we not (if our
repugnance be invincible) make a merit of it with God, and offer to him
the sacrifice of our earthly hopes and wishes, in the confidence of an
ample and glorious equivalent? Even if we are unable to offer this
sacrifice with the unction which would ensure its acceptance, still may
we not hope it will not be wholly neglected?--that we may become
tranquil, if not happy--resigned, if not content. Speak, tell me if this
may be?” “And you wish to extort deception from the lips of death--but
you will fail. Hear your doom--Those who are possessed of what may be
called the religious character, that is, those who are visionary, weak,
morose, and ascetic, may elevate themselves to a species of intoxication
in the moments of devotion. They may, while clasping the images, work
themselves into the delusion, that the dead stone thrills to their
touch; that the figures move, assent to their petitions, and turn their
lifeless eyes on them with an expression of benignity. They may, while
kissing the crucifix, believe that they hear celestial voices
pronouncing their pardon; that the Saviour of the world extends his arms
to them, to invite them to beatitude; that all heaven is expanded to
their view, and the harmonies of paradise are enriched to glorify their
apotheosis. But this is a mere inebriation that the most ignorant
physician could produce in his patients by certain medicines. The secret
of this ecstatic swoon might be traced to an apothecary’s shop, or
purchased at a cheaper rate. The inhabitants of the north of Europe
procure this state of exaltation by the use of liquid fire--the Turks by
opium--the Dervises by dancing--and Christian monks by spiritual pride
operating on the exhaustion of a macerated frame. It is all
intoxication, with this difference only, that the intoxication of men of
this world produces always _self_-complacency--that of men of the other
world, a complacency whose supposed source is derived from God. The
intoxication is, therefore, more profound, more delusive, and more
dangerous. But nature, violated by these excesses, exacts a most
usurious interest for this illicit indulgence. She makes them pay for
moments of rapture with hours of despair. Their precipitation from
extasy to horror is almost instantaneous. In the course of a few
moments, they pass from being the favourites of Heaven to becoming its
outcasts. They doubt the truth of their raptures,--the truth of their
vocation. They doubt every thing--the sincerity of their prayers, even
the efficacy of the Saviour’s atonement, and the intercession of the
blessed Virgin. They plunge from paradise to hell. They howl, they
scream, they blaspheme. From the bottom of the infernal gulph in which
they imagine themselves plunged, they bellow imprecations against their
Creator--they denounce themselves as damned from all eternity for their
sins, while their only sin is their inability to support preternatural
excitement. The paroxysm ceases, they become the elect of God again in
their own imaginations. And to those who interrogate them with regard to
their late despair, they answer, That Satan was permitted to buffet
them--that they were under the hidings of God’s face, &c. All saints,
from Mahomet down to Francis Xavier, were only a compound of insanity,
pride, and self-imposition;--the latter would have been of less
consequence, but that men always revenge their imposition on themselves,
by imposing to the utmost on others.”

“There is no more horrible state of mind than that in which we are
_forced by conviction to listen on, wishing every word to be false, and
knowing every word to be true_. Such was mine, but I tried to palliate
it by saying, “It was never my ambition to be a saint; but is the lot of
all, then, so deplorable?” The monk, who appeared to rejoice in this
opportunity to discharge the concentrated malignity of sixty years of
suffering and hypocrisy, collected his dying voice to answer. He seemed
as if he never could inflict enough, for what had been inflicted on
himself. “Those who possess strong sensibility, without the religious
character, are of all others the most unhappy, but their miseries are
soonest terminated. They are harassed by trivial constraints, stupified
by monotonous devotion, exasperated by dull insolence and bloated
superiority. They struggle, they resist. Penance and punishment are
applied. Their own violence justifies increased violence of treatment;
and, at all events, it would be applied without this justification, for
there is nothing that delights the pride of power, more than a
victorious strife with the pride of intellect. The remainder is easily
to be conceived by you, who have witnessed it. You saw the unfortunate
youth who interfered about Paolo. He was lashed to madness. Tortured
first to phrenzy, then to stupefaction,--he died! I was the secret,
unsuspected adviser of the whole proceeding.” “Monster!” I exclaimed,
for truth had made us equal _now_, and even precluded the language that
humanity would dictate when uttered to a dying man.--“But why?”--said
he, with that calmness which had once attracted, and now revolted me,
but which had at all times undisputed possession of his
physiognomy;--“his sufferings were shorter, do you blame me for
diminishing their duration?”--There was something cold, ironical, and
jeering, even in the suavity of this man, that gave a certain force to
his simplest observations. It seemed as if he had reserved the truth all
his life, to utter it at his dying hour. “Such is the fate of those who
possess strong sensibility; those who have less languish away in an
imperceptible decline. They spend their time in watching a few flowers,
in tending birds. They are punctual in their religious exercises, they
receive neither blame or praise,--they melt away in torpor and ennui.
They wish for death, as the preparation it might put the convent to
might produce a short excitement, but they are disappointed, for their
state forbids excitement, and they die as they have lived,--unexcited,
unawakened. The tapers are lit, they do not see them,--the unction is
applied, they do not feel it,--prayers are uttered, they cannot partake
in them;--in fact, the whole drama is acted, but the principal performer
is absent,--is gone. Others indulge themselves in perpetual reverie.
They walk alone in the cloister,--in the garden. They feed themselves
with the poison of delicious, innutritive illusion. They dream that an
earthquake will shake the walls to atoms, that a volcano will burst
forth in the centre of the garden. They imagine a revolution of
government,--an attack of banditti,--any thing, however improbable. Then
they take refuge in the possibility of a fire, (if a fire bursts out in
a convent, the doors are thrown open, and “Sauve qui peut,” is the
word). At this thought they conceive the most ardent hope,--they could
rush out,--they could precipitate themselves into the streets, into the
country,--in fact, they would fly any where to escape. Then these hopes
fail,--they begin to get nervous, morbid, restless. If they have
interest, they are indulged with remission from their duties, and they
remain in their cells, relaxed,--torpid,--idiotical; if they have not
interest, they are forced to the punctual performance of their duties,
and then idiotism comes on much sooner, as diseased horses, employed in
a mill, become blind sooner than those who are suffered to wear out
existence in ordinary labour. Some of them take refuge in religion, as
they call it. They call for relief on the Superior, but what can the
Superior do? He is but human too, and perhaps feels the despair that is
devouring the wretches who supplicate him to deliver them from it. Then
they prostrate themselves before the images of the saints,--they invoke,
they sometimes revile them. They call for their intercession, deplore
its inefficacy, and fly to some other, whose merits they imagine are
higher in the sight of God. They supplicate for an interest in the
intercession of Christ and the Virgin, as their last resort. That resort
fails them too,--the Virgin herself is inexorable, though they wear out
her pedestal with their knees, and her feet with their kisses. Then they
go about the galleries at night, they rouse the sleepers, they knock at
every door,--they cry, “Brother Saint Jerome, pray for me,--Brother
Saint Augustine, pray for me.” Then the placard is seen fastened to the
rails of the altar, “Dear brothers, pray for the wandering soul of a
monk.” The next day the placard bears this inscription, “The prayers of
the community are implored for a monk who is in despair.” Then they find
human intercession as unavailing as divine, to procure them a remission
of the sufferings which, while _their profession_ continues to inflict
on them, no power can reverse or mitigate. They crawl to their
cells,--in a few days the toll of the bell is heard, and the brethren
exclaim, “He died in the odour of sanctity,” and hasten to spread their
snares for another victim.” “And is this, then, monastic life?” “It
is,--there are but two exceptions, that of those who can every day
renew, by the aid of imagination, the hope of escape, and who cherish
that hope even on their dying bed; and those who, like me, diminish
their misery by dividing it, and, like the spider, feel relieved of the
poison that swells, and would burst them, by instilling a drop of it
into every insect that toils, agonizes, and perishes in their
net,--_like you_.” At these last words, a glare of malignity flashed on
the features of the dying wretch, that appalled me. I retreated from his
bed for a moment. I returned, I looked at him,--his eyes were
closed,--his hands extended. I touched him,--raised him,--he was
dead,--those were his last words. The expression of his features was the
physiognomy of his soul,--they were calm and pale, but still a cold
expression of derision lingered about the curve of his lips.

“I rushed from the infirmary. I was at that time indulged, like all the
other visitants of the sick, to go to the garden beyond the allotted
hours, perhaps to diminish the chance of infection. I was but too ready
to avail myself of this permission. The garden, with its calm moon-light
beauty, its innocence of heaven, its theology of the stars, was at once
a reproach and a consolation to me. I tried to reflect, to feel,--both
efforts failed; and perhaps it is in this silence of the soul, this
suspension of all the clamorous voices of the passions, that we are most
ready to hear the voice of God. My imagination suddenly represented to
me the august and ample vault above me as a church,--the images of the
saints grew dim in my eyes as I gazed on the stars, and even the altar,
over which the crucifixion of the Saviour of the world was represented,
turned pale to the eye of the soul, as I gazed on the moon “walking in
her brightness.” I fell on my knees. I knew not to whom I was about to
pray, but I never felt so disposed to pray. I felt my habit touched at
this moment. I at first trembled, from the idea of being detected in a
forbidden act. I started up. A dark figure stood beside me, who said in
indistinct and faultering tones, “Read this,” and he thrust a paper into
my hand; “I have worn it sewed into my habit for four days. I have
watched you night and day. I had no opportunity but this,--you were in
your cell, in the choir, or in the infirmary. Tear it in pieces, throw
the fragments into the fountain, or _swallow them_, the moment you have
read it.--Adieu. I have risked every thing for you,” and he glided away.
I recognized his figure as he departed; it was the porter of the
convent. I well understood the risk he must have run in delivering this
paper, for it was the regulation of the convent, that all letters,
whether addressed to or written by boarders, novices, or monks, were
first to be read by the Superior, and I never knew an instance of its
infringement. The moon gave me sufficient light. I began to read, while
a vague hope, that had neither object or basis, trembled at the bottom
of my heart. The paper contained these words:

“My dearest brother, (my God! how I started!) I see you revolt at the
first lines which I address to you,--I implore you, for both our sakes,
to read them with calmness and attention. We have been both the victims
of parental and priestly imposition; the former we must forgive, for our
parents are the victims of it too. The Director has their consciences in
his hand, and their destiny and ours at his feet. Oh, my brother, what a
tale have I to disclose to you! I was brought up, by the Director’s
orders, whose influence over the domestics is as unbounded as it is over
their unhappy master, in complete hostility against you, as one who was
depriving me of my natural rights, and degrading the family by your
illegitimate intrusion. May not this palliate, in some degree, my
unnatural repulsiveness when we first met? I was taught from my cradle
to hate and fear you,--to hate you as an enemy, and fear you as an
impostor. This was the Director’s plan. He thought the hold he had over
my father and mother too slight to gratify his ambition of domestic
power, or realize his hopes of professional distinction. The basis of
all ecclesiastical power rests upon fear. A crime must be discovered or
invented. The vague reports circulated in the family, my mother’s
constant dejection, my father’s occasional agitation, offered him a
clue, which he followed with incessant industry through all its windings
of doubt, mystery, and disappointment, till, in a moment of penitence,
my mother, terrified by his constant denunciations if she concealed any
secret of her heart or life from him, disclosed the truth.

“We were both infants then. He adopted immediately the plan he has since
realized at the expence of all but himself. I am convinced he had not,
from the first hour of his machinations, the least malignity against
you. The aggrandizement of his interest, which ecclesiastics always
individualize with that of the church, was his only object. To dictate,
to tyrannize, to manage a whole family, and that of rank, by his
knowledge of the frailty of one of its members, was all he looked to.
Those who by their vows are excluded from the interest which natural
affections give us in life, must seek for it in the artificial ones of
pride and domination, and the Director found it there. All thenceforth
was conducted and inspired by him. It was he who caused us to be kept
asunder from our infancy, fearful that nature might frustrate his
plans,--it was he who reared me in sentiments of implacable animosity
against you. When my mother fluctuated, he reminded her of her vow, with
which she had rashly intrusted him. When my father murmured, the shame
of my mother’s frailty, the bitter feuds of domestic discussion, the
tremendous sounds of imposture, perjury, sacrilege, and the resentment
of the church, were thundered in his ears. You may conceive there is
nothing this man would shrink at, when, almost in my childhood, he
disclosed to me my mother’s frailty, to insure my early and zealous
participation in his views. Heaven blast the wretch who could thus
contaminate the ears, and wither the heart of a child, with the tale of
a parent’s shame, to secure a partizan for the church! This was not all.
From the first hour I was able to hear and comprehend him, he poisoned
my heart by every channel he could approach. He exaggerated my mother’s
partiality for you, which he assured me often contended vainly with her
conscience. He represented my father as weak and dissipated, but
affectionate; and, with the natural pride of a boy-father, immoveably
attached to his eldest offspring. He said, “My son, prepare yourself to
struggle with a host of prejudices,--the interests of God, as well as of
society, demand it. _Assume a high tone with your parents_,--you are in
possession of the secret that corrodes their consciences, make your own
use of it.” Judge the effect of these words on a temper naturally
violent,--words, too, uttered by one whom I was taught to regard as the
agent of the Divinity.

“All this time, as I have since been informed, he was debating in his
own mind whether he would not adopt your part instead of mine, or at
least vacillate between both, so as to augment his influence over our
parents, by the additional feature of suspicion. Whatever influenced his
determination, the effect of his lessons on me may be easily calculated.
I became restless, jealous, and vindictive;--insolent to my parents, and
suspicious of all around me. Before I was eleven years of age I reviled
my father for his partiality to you,--I insulted my mother with her
crime,--I tyrannized over the domestics,--I was the dread and the
torment of the whole household; and the wretch who had made me thus a
premature demon, had outraged nature, and compelled me to trample on
every tie he should have taught me to hallow and cherish, consoled
himself with the thought that he was obeying the calls of his function,
and strengthening the hands of the church.

    “Scire volunt secreta domus et inde timeri.”

“On the day preceding our first meeting, (which had not been intended
before), the Director went to my father; he said, “Senhor, I think it
best the brothers should meet. Perhaps God may touch their hearts, and
by his merciful influence over them, enable you to reverse the decree
that threatens one of them with seclusion, and both with a cruel and
final separation.” My father assented with tears of delight. Those tears
did not melt the heart of the Director; he hastened to my apartment, and
said, “My child, summon all your resolution, your artful, cruel, partial
parents, are _preparing a scene_ for you,--they are determined on
introducing you to your spurious brother.” “I will spurn him before
their faces, if they dare to do so,” said I, with the pride of premature
tyranny. “No, my child, that will not do, you must appear to comply with
their wishes, but you must not be their victim,--promise me that, my
dear child,--promise me resolution and dissimulation.” “I promise you
resolution, keep the dissimulation for yourself.” “Well, I will do so,
since your interests require it.” He hurried back to my father. “Senhor,
I have employed all the eloquence of heaven and nature with your younger
son. He is softened,--he melts already,--he longs to precipitate himself
into the fraternal embrace, and hear your benediction poured over the
united hearts and bodies of your two children,--they are both your
children. You must banish all prejudices, and----” “I have no
prejudices!” said my poor father; “let me but see my children embrace,
and if Heaven summoned me at that moment, I should obey it by dying of
joy.”--The Director reproved him for the expressions which gushed from
his heart, and, wholly unmoved by them, hurried back to me, full of his
commission. “My child, I have warned you of the conspiracy formed
against you by your own family. You will receive a proof of it
to-morrow,--your brother is to be introduced,--you will be required to
embrace him,--your consent is reckoned on, but at the moment you do so,
your father is resolved to interpret this as the signal, on your part,
of the resignation of all your natural rights. Comply with your
hypocritical parents, embrace this brother, but give an air of
repugnance to the action that will justify your conscience, while it
deceives those who would deceive you. Watch the signal-word, my dear
child; embrace him as you would a serpent,--his art is not less, and his
poison as deadly. Remember that your resolution will decide the event of
this meeting. Assume the appearance of affection, but remember you hold
your deadliest enemy in your arms.” At these words, unnatural as I was,
I shuddered. I said, “My brother!” “Never mind,” said the Director, “he
is the enemy of God,--an illegitimate impostor. Now, my child, are you
prepared?” and I answered, “I am prepared.” That night, however, I was
very restless. I required the Director to be summoned. I said in my
pride, “But how is this poor wretch (meaning you) to be disposed of?”
“Let him embrace the monastic life,” said the Director. At these words I
felt an interest on your account I had never recognized before. I said
decidedly, for he had taught me to assume a tone of decision, “He shall
never be a monk.” The Director appeared staggered, yet he trembled
before the spirit he had himself raised. “Let him go into the army,” I
said; “let him inlist as a common soldier, I can supply him with the
means of promotion;--let him engage in the meanest profession, I shall
not blush to acknowledge him, but, father, he shall never be a monk.”
“But, my dear child, on what foundation does this extraordinary
objection rest? It is the only means to restore peace to the family, and
procure it for the unfortunate being for whom you are so much
interested.” “My father, have done with this language. Promise me, as
the condition of my obedience to your wishes to-morrow, that my brother
shall never be compelled to be a monk.” “Compelled, my dear child! there
can be no compulsion in a holy vocation.” “I am not certain of that; but
I demand from you the promise I have mentioned.” The Director hesitated,
at last he said, “I promise.” And he hastened to tell my father there
was no longer any opposition to our meeting, and that I was delighted
with the determination which had been announced to me of my brother
eagerly embracing the monastic life. Thus was our first meeting
arranged. When, at the command of my father, our arms were entwined, I
swear to you, my brother, I felt them thrill with affection. But the
instinct of nature was soon superseded by the force of habit, and I
recoiled, collected all the forces of nature and passion in the terrible
expression that I dared to direct towards our parents, while the
Director stood behind them smiling, and encouraging me by gestures. I
thought I had acted my part with applause, at least I gave myself
enough, and retired from the scene with as proud a step as if I had
trampled on a prostrate world,--I had only trampled on nature and my own
heart. A few days after I was sent to a convent. The Director was
alarmed at the dogmatizing tone he himself had taught me to assume, and
he urged the necessity of my education being attended to. My parents
complied with every thing he required. I, for a wonder, consented; but,
as the carriage conveyed me to the convent, I repeated to the Director,
“Remember, my brother is not to be a monk.”

“(After these lines several were unintelligible to me, apparently from
the agitation under which they were written;--the precipitancy and fiery
ardor of my brother’s character communicated itself to his writings.
After many a defaced page I could trace the following words.) * * * * *

“It was singular enough that you, who were the object of my inveterate
hatred before my residence in the convent, became the object of my
interest from that moment. I had adopted your cause from pride, I now
upheld it from experience. Compassion, instinct, whatever it was, began
to assume the character of a duty. When I saw the indignity with which
the lower classes were treated, I said to myself, “No, he shall never
suffer that,--he is my brother.” When I succeeded in my exercises, and
was applauded, I said, “This is applause in which he never can share.”
When I was punished, and that was much more frequently, I said, “He
shall never feel this mortification.” My imagination expanded. I
believed myself your future patron, I conceived myself redeeming the
injustice of nature, aiding and aggrandizing you, forcing you to confess
that you owed more to me than to your parents, and throwing myself, with
a disarmed and naked heart, on your gratitude alone for affection. I
heard you call me brother,--I bid you stop, and call me benefactor. My
nature, proud, generous, and fiery, had not yet quite emancipated itself
from the influence of the Director, but every effort it made pointed, by
an indescribable impulse, towards you. Perhaps the secret of this is to
be found in the elements of my character, which always struggled against
dictation, and loved to teach itself all it wished to know, and inspire
itself with the object of its own attachments. It is certain that I
wished for your friendship, at the moment I was instructed to hate you.
Your mild eyes and affectionate looks haunted me perpetually in the
convent. To the professions of friendship repeatedly made me by the
boarders, I answered, “I want a brother.” My conduct was eccentric and
violent,--no wonder, for my conscience had begun to operate against my
habits. Sometimes I would apply with an eagerness that made them tremble
for my health; at others, no punishment, however severe, could make me
submit to the ordinary discipline of the house. The community grew weary
of my obstinacy, violence, and irregularities. They wrote to the
Director to have me removed, but before this could be accomplished I was
seized with a fever. They paid me unremitting attention, but there was
something on my mind no cares of theirs could remove. When they brought
me medicine with the most scrupulous punctuality, I said, “Let my
brother fetch it, and if it be poison I will drink it from his hand; I
have injured him much.” When the bell tolled for matins and vespers, I
said, “Are they going to make my brother a monk? The Director promised
me differently, but you are all deceivers.” At length they muffled the
bell. I heard its stifled sound, and I exclaimed, “You are tolling for
his funeral, but I,--I am his murderer!” The community became terrified
at these exclamations so often repeated, and with the meaning of which
they could not accuse themselves. I was removed in a state of delirium
to my father’s palace in Madrid. A figure like yours sat beside me in
the carriage, alighted when we stopped, accompanied me where I remained,
assisted me when I was placed again in the carriage. So vivid was the
impression, that I was accustomed to say to the attendants, “Stop, my
brother is assisting me.” When they asked me in the morning how I had
rested? I answered, “Very well,--Alonzo has been all night at my
bed-side.” I invited this visionary companion to continue his
attentions; and when the pillows were arranged to my satisfaction, I
would say, “How kind my brother is,--how useful,--but _why will he not
speak_?” At one stage I absolutely refused nourishment, because the
phantom appeared to decline it. I said, “Do not urge me, my brother, you
see, will not accept of it. Oh, I entreat his pardon, it is a day of
abstinence,--that is his reason, you see how he points to his
habit,--that is enough.” It is very singular that the food at this house
happened to be poisoned, and that two of my attendants died of partaking
of it before they could reach Madrid. I mention these circumstances,
merely to prove the rivetted hold you had taken both of my imagination
and my affections. On the recovery of my intellect, my first inquiry was
for you. This had been foreseen, and my father and mother, shunning the
discussion, and even trembling for the event, as they knew the violence
of my temper, intrusted the whole business to the Director. He undertook
it,--how he executed it is yet to be seen. On our first meeting he
approached me with congratulations on my convalescence, with regrets for
the constraints I must have suffered in the convent, with assurances
that my parents would make my home a paradise. When he had gone on for
some time, I said, “What have you done with my brother?” “He is in the
bosom of God,” said the Director, crossing himself. I understood him in
a moment,--I rushed past him before he had finished. “Where are you
going, my son?” “To my parents.” “Your parents,--it is impossible that
you can see them now.” “But it is certain that I will see them. Dictate
to me no longer,--degrade yourself not by this prostituted humiliation,”
for he was putting himself in a posture of intreaty,--“I _will_ see my
parents. Procure for me an introduction to them this moment, or tremble
for the continuance of your influence in the family.” At these words he
trembled. He did not indeed dread my influence, but he dreaded my
passions. His own lessons were bitterly retaliated on him that moment.
He had made me fierce and impetuous, because that suited his purpose,
but he had neither calculated on, or prepared himself for, this
extraordinary direction which my feelings had taken, so opposite to that
which he had laboured to give them. He thought, in exciting my passions,
he could ascertain their direction. Woe be to those, who, in teaching
the elephant to direct his trunk against their foes, forget that by a
sudden convolution of that trunk, he may rend the driver from his back,
and trample him under his feet into the mire. Such was the Director’s
situation and mine, I insisted on going instantly to my father’s
presence. He interposed, he supplicated; at last, as a hopeless
resource, he reminded me of his continual indulgence, his flattery of my
passions. My answer was brief, but Oh that it might sink into the souls
of such tutors and such priests! “And that has made me what I am. Lead
the way to my father’s apartment, or I will spurn you before me to the
door of it.” At this threat, which he saw I was able to execute, (for
you know my frame is athletic, and my stature twice that of his), he
trembled; and I confess this indication of both physical and mental
debility completed my contempt for him. He crawled before me to the
apartment where my father and mother were seated, in a balcony that
overlooked the garden. They had imagined all was settled, and were
astonished to see me rush in, followed by the Director, with an aspect
that left them no reason to hope for an auspicious result of our
conference. The Director gave them a sign which I did not observe, and
which they had not time to profit by,--and as I stood before them livid
from my fever, on fire with passion, and trembling with inarticulate
expressions, they shuddered. Some looks of reproach were levelled by
them at the Director, which he returned, as usual, by signs. I did not
understand _them_, but I made them understand me in a moment. I said to
my father, “Senhor, is it true you have made my brother a monk?” My
father hesitated; at last he said, “I thought the Director had been
commissioned to speak to you on that subject.” “Father, what has a
Director to do in the concerns of a parent and child? That man never can
be a parent,--never can have a child, how then can he be a judge in a
case like this?” “You forget yourself,--you forget the respect due to a
minister of the church.” “My father, I am but just raised from a
death-bed, my mother and you trembled for my life,--that life still
depends on your words. I promised submission to this wretch, on a
condition which he has violated, which--” “Command yourself, Sir,” said
my father, in a tone of authority which ill suited the trembling lips it
issued from, “or quit the apartment.” “Senhor,” interposed the Director,
in a softened tone, “let not me be the cause of dissension in a family
whose happiness and honour have been always my object, next to the
interests of the church. Let him go on, the remembrance of my crucified
Master will sustain me under his insults,” and he crossed himself.
“Wretch!” I cried, grasping his habit, “you are a hypocrite, a
deceiver!” and I know not of what violence I might have been guilty, but
my father interposed. My mother shrieked with terror, and a scene of
confusion followed, in which I recollect nothing but the hypocritical
exclamations of the Director, appearing to struggle between my father
and me, while he mediated with God for both. He repeated incessantly,
“Senhor, do not interpose, every indignity I suffer I make a sacrifice
to Heaven; it will qualify me to be an intercessor for my traducer with
God;” and, crossing himself, he called on the most sacred names, and
exclaimed, “Let insults, calumnies, and blows, be added to that
preponderance of merit which is already weighed in the scales of heaven
against my offences,” and he dared to mix the claims of the intercession
of the saints, the purity of the immaculate Virgin, and even the blood
and agony of Jesus Christ, with the vile submissions of his own
hypocrisy. The room was by this time filled with attendants. My mother
was conveyed away, still shrieking with terror. My father, who loved
her, was driven by this spectacle, and by my outrageous conduct, to a
pitch of fury,--he drew his sword. I burst into a laugh, that froze his
blood as he approached me. I expanded my arms, and presented my breast,
exclaiming, “Strike!--this is the consummation of monastic power,--it
begun by violating nature, and ends in filicide. Strike! give a glorious
triumph to the influence of the church, and add to the merits of the
holy Director. You have sacrificed your Esau, your first-born, already,
let Jacob be your next victim.” My father retreated from me, and,
revolted by the disfigurement which the violence of my agitation had
caused, almost to convulsion, he exclaimed, “Demon!” and stood at a
distance viewing, and shuddering at me. “And who has made me so? _He_
who fostered my evil passions for his own purposes; and, because one
generous impulse breaks out on the side of nature, would represent or
drive me mad, to effectuate his purposes. My father, I see the whole
power and system of nature reversed, by the arts of a corrupt
ecclesiastic. By his means my brother has been imprisoned for life;--by
his means our birth has been made a curse to my mother and to you. What
have we had in the family since his influence was fatally established in
it, but dissension and misery? Your sword was pointed against my heart
this moment; was it nature or a monk that armed a parent against his
child, whose crime was--interceding for his brother? Dismiss this man,
whose presence eclipses our hearts, and let us confer together for a
moment as father and son, and if I do not humiliate myself before you,
spurn me for ever. My father, for God’s sake examine the difference
between this man and me, as we stand before you. We are together at the
bar of your heart, judge between us. A dry and featureless image of
selfish power, consecrated by the name of the church, occupies his whole
soul,--I plead to you by the interests of nature, that must be sincere,
because they are contrary to my own. He only wishes to wither your
soul,--I seek to touch it. Is his heart in what he says? does he shed a
tear? does he employ one impassioned expression? he calls on God,--while
I call only on you. The very violence which you justly condemn, is not
only my vindication but my eulogy. They who prefer their cause to
themselves, need no proof of their advocacy being sincere.” “You
aggravate your crime, by laying it on another; you have always been
violent, obstinate, and rebellious.” “But who has made me so? Ask
himself,--ask this shameful scene, in which his duplicity has driven me
to act such a part.” “If you wish to show submission, give me the first
proof of it, by promising never to torture me by renewing the mention of
this subject. Your brother’s fate is decided,--promise not to utter his
name again, and----” “Never,--never,” I exclaimed, “never will I violate
my conscience by such a vow; and his who could propose it must be seared
beyond the power of Heaven to touch it.” Yet, in uttering these words, I
knelt to my father, but he turned from me. I turned in despair to the
Director. I said, “If you are the minister of Heaven, prove the truth of
your commission,--make peace in a distracted family, reconcile my father
to both his children. You can effect this by a word, you know you can,
yet you will not utter it. My unfortunate brother was not so inflexible
to your appeals, and yet were they inspired by a feeling as justifiable
as mine.” I had offended the Director beyond all forgiveness. I knew
this, and spoke indeed rather to expose than to persuade him. I did not
expect an answer from him, and I was not disappointed,--he did not utter
a word. I knelt in the middle of the floor between them. I cried,
“Deserted by my father and by you, I yet appeal to Heaven. I call on it
to witness my vow never to abandon my persecuted brother, whom I have
been made a tool to betray. I know you have power,--I defy it. I know
every art of circumvention, of imposture, of malignant industry,--every
resource of earth and hell, will be set at work against me. I take
Heaven to witness against you, and demand only its aid to insure my
victory.” My father had lost all patience; he desired the attendants to
raise and remove me by force. This mention of force, so repugnant to my
habits of imperious indulgence, operated fatally on intellects scarcely
recovering from delirium, and too strongly tried in the late struggle. I
relapsed into partial insanity. I said wildly, “My father, you know not
how mild, generous, and forgiving is the being you thus persecute,--I
owe my life to him. _Ask your domestics if he did not attend me, step by
step, during my journey?_ If he did not administer my food, my
medicines, and smoothe the pillows on which I was supported?” “You
rave,” cried my father, as he heard this wild speech, but he cast a look
of fearful inquiry on the attendants. The trembling servants swore, one
and all, as well they might, that not a human being but themselves had
been suffered to approach me since I quitted the convent, till my
arrival at Madrid. The small remains of reason forsook me completely at
this declaration, which was however true every word of it. I gave the
lie to the last speaker with the utmost fury,--I struck those who were
next me. My father, astonished at my violence, suddenly exclaimed, “He
is mad.” The Director, who had till then been silent, instantly caught
the word, and repeated, “He is mad.” The servants, half in terror, half
in conviction, re-echoed the cry.

“I was seized, dragged away; and this violence, which always excited
corresponding violence in me, realized all my father feared, and the
Director wished for. I behaved just as a boy, scarce out of a fever, and
still totally delirious, might be supposed to behave. In my apartment I
tore down the hangings, and there was not a porcelain vase in the room
that I did not dash at their heads. When they seized me, I bit their
hands; when at length they were compelled to bind me, I gnawed the
strings, and finally snapt them by a violent effort. In fact, I
completely realized all the hopes of the Director. I was confined to my
apartment for several days. During this time, I recovered the only
powers that usually revive in a state of isolation,--those of inflexible
resolution and profound dissimulation. I had soon exercise enough for
both of them. On the twelfth day of my confinement, a servant appeared
at the door of my apartment, and, bowing profoundly, announced, that if
my health was recovered, my father wished to see me. I bowed in complete
imitation of his mechanical movements, and followed him with the steps
of a statue. I found my father, armed with the Director at his side. He
advanced, and addressed me with an abruptness which proved that he
forced himself to speak. He hurried over a few expressions of pleasure
at my recovery, and then said, “Have you reflected on the subject of our
last conversation?” “I have _reflected on it_.”--“_I had time to do
so._”--“And you have employed that time well?”--“I hope so.”--“Then the
result will be favourable to the hopes of your family, and the interests
of the church.” The last words chilled me a little, but I answered as I
ought. In a few moments after the Director joined me, He spoke amicably,
and turned the conversation on neutral topics. I answered him,--what an
effort did it cost me!--yet I answered him in all the bitterness of
extorted politeness. All went on well, however. The family appeared
gratified by my renovation. My father, harassed out, was content to
procure peace on any terms. My mother, still weaker, from the struggles
between her conscience and the suggestions of the Director, wept, and
said she was happy. A month has now elapsed in profound but treacherous
peace on all sides. They think me subdued, but * * * * *

“In fact, the efforts of the Director’s power in the family would alone
be sufficient to precipitate my determinations. He has placed you in a
convent, but that is not enough for the persevering proselytism of the
church. The palace of the Duke de Monçada is, under his influence,
turned into a convent itself. My mother is almost a nun, her whole life
is exhausted in imploring forgiveness for a crime for which the
Director, to secure his own influence, orders her a new penance every
hour. My father rushes from libertinism to austerity,--he vacillates
between this world and the next;--in the bitterness of exasperated
feeling, sometimes reproaches my mother, and then joins her in the
severest penance. Must there not be something very wrong in the religion
which thus substitutes external severities for internal amendment? I
feel I am of an inquiring spirit, and if I could obtain a book they call
the Bible, (which, though they say it contains the words of Jesus
Christ, they never permit us to see) I think----but no matter. The very
domestics have assumed the _in ordine ad spiritualia_ character already.
They converse in whispers--they cross themselves when the clock
strikes--they dare to talk, even in my hearing, of the glory which will
redound to God and the church, by the sacrifice my father may yet be
induced to make of his family to its interests.

* * * *

“My fever has abated--I have not lost a moment in consulting your
interests--I have heard that there is a possibility of your reclaiming
your vows--that is, as I have been told, of declaring they were extorted
under impressions of fraud and terror. Observe me, Alonzo, I would
rather see you rot in a convent, than behold you stand forth as a living
witness of our mother’s shame. But I am instructed that this reclamation
of your vows may be carried on in a civil court: If this be practicable,
you may yet be free, and I shall be happy. Do not hesitate for
resources, I am able to supply them. If you do not fail in resolution, I
have no doubt of our ultimate success.--_Ours_ I term it, for I shall
not know a moment’s peace till you are emancipated. With the half of my
yearly allowance I have bribed one of the domestics, who is brother to
the porter of the convent, to convey these lines to you. Answer me by
the same channel, it is secret and secure. You must, I understand,
furnish a memorial, to be put into the hands of an advocate. It must be
strongly worded,--but remember, not a word of our unfortunate mother;--I
blush to say this to her son. Procure paper by some means. If you find
any difficulty, I will furnish you; but, to avoid suspicion, and too
frequent recurrences to the porter, try to do it yourself. Your
conventual duties will furnish you with a pretext of writing out your
confession,--I will undertake for its safe delivery. I commend you to
the holy keeping of God,--not the God of monks and directors, but the
God of nature and mercy.----I am your affectionate brother,


“Such were the contents of the papers which I received in fragments, and
from time to time, by the hands of the porter. I swallowed the first the
moment I had read it, and the rest I found means to destroy unperceived
as I received them,--my attendance on the infirmary entitling me to
great indulgences.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

At this part of the narrative, the Spaniard became so much agitated,
though apparently more from emotion than fatigue, that Melmoth intreated
him to suspend it for some days, and the exhausted narrator willingly


    Transcriber’s Note:

    The following is a list of corrections made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

  see any extravagance or waste in it “Oh never, never, your honor.”
  see any extravagance or waste in it?” “Oh never, never, your honor.”

  congregation answersed,--“Because he deserved his fate.” The murmurs of
  congregation answered,--“Because he deserved his fate.” The murmurs of

  (2) Vide Pope, (copying from Doune).
  (2) Vide Pope, (copying from Donne).

  majesty could not posssibly have understood), and converted him and his
  majesty could not possibly have understood), and converted him and his

  Between the pages were cut most exquisitely in paper the liknesses of
  Between the pages were cut most exquisitely in paper the likenesses of

  Aphra Beha’s plays, where the cavaliers are denominated the _heroicks_,
  Aphra Behn’s plays, where the cavaliers are denominated the _heroicks_,

  smote Goliah. It was _the man’s_ (such was the indecent language in
  smote Goliath. It was _the man’s_ (such was the indecent language in

  breeze blows, as if it meant to tantalize yon with a sigh from that
  breeze blows, as if it meant to tantalize you with a sigh from that

  He, whom he has for twelve hours been vociferating “is the loveliest
  “He, whom he has for twelve hours been vociferating “is the loveliest

  his life that very night in the most deperate and fruitless attempt to
  his life that very night in the most desperate and fruitless attempt to

  announced safety was near and--impossisible;--lanthorns held aloft in all
  announced safety was near and--impossible;--lanthorns held aloft in all

  expression formidable, revolting, and unnatural. At this moment, at
  expression formidable, revolting, and unnatural. At this moment, a

  contracted habits of my earily life had had their usual effect, of
  contracted habits of my early life had had their usual effect, of

  The brethren always assumed before me an air of tranquillity, that
  “The brethren always assumed before me an air of tranquillity, that

  As we went to the church, they conversed in whispers, but those
  “As we went to the church, they conversed in whispers, but those

  I was disappointed at the measured phrase he addressed me in, and this
  “I was disappointed at the measured phrase he addressed me in, and this

  My dear son, why have you thrice answered me in the same monotonous,
  “My dear son, why have you thrice answered me in the same monotonous,

  I was now in a state quite fit for the Director’s purpose; but he was
  “I was now in a state quite fit for the Director’s purpose; but he was

  I was overpowered with congratulations, blessings, and embraces. I
  “I was overpowered with congratulations, blessings, and embraces. I

  streaming with b ood. The monks, with their lights, their scourges, and
  streaming with blood. The monks, with their lights, their scourges, and

  excitement. The paroxysm ceases they become the elect of God again in
  excitement. The paroxysm ceases, they become the elect of God again in

  this delaration, which was however true every word of it. I gave the
  this declaration, which was however true every word of it. I gave the

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