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Title: Melmoth the Wanderer Vol 2 (of 4)
Author: Maturin, Charles Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 2 (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_.

    The motto for Chapter VI is misquoted from Iliad XXIII 72; it has
    been left as printed.




  VOL. II.





    Τηλε μἐιργουσι ψυχαι ειδωλα καμοντων.


When, after some days interval, the Spaniard attempted to describe
his feelings on the receipt of his brother’s letter, the sudden
resuscitation of heart, and hope, and existence, that followed its
perusal, he trembled,--uttered some inarticulate sounds;--wept;--and
his agitation appeared to Melmoth, with _his uncontinental feelings_,
so violent, that he entreated him to spare the description of his
feelings, and proceed with his narrative.

“You are right,” said the Spaniard, drying his tears, “joy is a
convulsion, but grief is a habit, and to describe what we never can
communicate, is as absurd as to talk of colours to the blind. I will
hasten on, not to tell of my feelings, but of the results which they
produced. A new world of hope was opened to me. I thought I saw liberty
on the face of heaven when I walked in the garden. I laughed at the jar
of the doors as they opened, and said to myself, “You shall soon expand
to me for ever.” I behaved with uncommon complacency to the community.
But I did not, amid all this, neglect the most scrupulous precautions
suggested by my brother. Am I confessing the strength or the weakness of
my heart? In the midst of all the systematic dissimulation that I was
prepared and eager to carry on, the only circumstance that gave me real
compunction, was my being obliged to destroy the letters of that dear
and generous youth who had risked every thing for my emancipation. In
the mean time, I pursued my preparations with industry inconceivable to
you, who have never been in a convent.

“Lent was now begun,--all the community were preparing themselves for
the great confession. They shut themselves up,--they prostrated
themselves before the shrines of the saints,--they occupied themselves
whole hours in taking minutes of their consciences, and magnifying the
trivial defects of conventual discipline into offences in the eye of
God, in order to give consequence to their penitence in the hearing of
the confessor,--in fact, they would have been glad to accuse themselves
of a crime, to escape from the monotony of a monastic conscience. There
was a kind of silent bustle in the house, that very much favoured my
purposes. Hour after hour I demanded paper for my confession. I obtained
it, but my frequent demands excited suspicion,--they little knew what I
was writing. Some said, for every thing excites inquiry in a convent,
“He is writing the history of his family; he will discharge it into the
ears of the confessor, along with the secrets of his own soul.” Others
said, “He has been in a state of _alienation_ for some time, he is
giving an account to God for it,--we shall never hear a word about it.”
Others, who were more judicious, said, “He is weary of the monastic
life, he is writing an account of his monotony and ennui, doubtless that
must be very long;” and the speakers yawned as they uttered these words,
which gave a very strong attestation to what they said. The Superior
watched me in silence. He was alarmed, and with reason. He consulted
with some of the _discreet_ brethren, whom I mentioned before, and the
result was a restless vigilance on their part, to which I supplied an
incessant fuel, by my absurd and perpetual demand for paper. Here, I
acknowledge, I committed a great oversight. It was impossible for the
most exaggerated conscience to charge itself, even in a convent, with
crimes enough to fill all the paper I required. I was filling them all
the time with _their_ crimes, not my own. Another great mistake I made,
was being wholly unprepared for the great confession when it came on. I
received intimations of this as we walked in the garden,--I have before
mentioned that I had assumed an amicability of habit toward them. They
would say to me, “You have made ample preparations for the great
confession.” “I have prepared myself.” “But we expect great edification
from its results.” “I trust you will receive it.”--I said no more, but I
was very much disturbed at these hints. Others would say, “My brother,
amid the multitudinous offences that burden your conscience, and which
you have found necessary to employ quires of paper to record, would it
not be a relief to you to open your mind to the Superior, and ask for a
few previous moments of consolation and direction from _him_.” To this I
answered, “I thank you, and will consider of it.”--I was thinking all
the time of something else.

“It was a few nights before the time of the great confession, that I had
to entrust the last packet of my memorial to the porter. Our meetings
had been hitherto unsuspected. I had received and answered my brother’s
communications, and our correspondence had been conducted with a secrecy
unexampled in convents. But this last night, as I put my packet into the
porter’s hand, I saw a change in his appearance that terrified me. He
had been a comely, robust man, but now, even by the moon-light, I could
perceive he was wasted to a shadow,--his hands trembled as he took the
papers from me,--his voice faultered as he promised his usual secrecy.
The change, which had been observed by the whole convent, had escaped me
till that night; my mind had been too much occupied by my own situation.
I noticed it then, however, and I said, “But what is the matter?” “Can
you then ask? I am withered to a spectre by the terrors of the office I
have been bribed to. Do you know what I risk?--incarceration for life,
or rather for death,--perhaps a denunciation to the Inquisition. Every
line I deliver from you, or to you, seems a charge against my own
soul,--I tremble when I meet you. I know that you have the sources of
life and death, temporal and eternal, in your hands. The secret in which
I am an agent should never be intrusted but to _one_, and _you are
another_. As I sit in my place, I think every step in the cloister is
advancing to summon me to the presence of the Superior. When I attend in
the choir, amid the sounds of devotion your voice swells to accuse me.
When I lie down at night, the evil spirit is beside my bed, reproaching
me with perjury, and reclaiming his prey;--his emissaries surround me
wherever I move,--I am beset by the tortures of hell. The saints from
their shrines frown on me,--I see the painting of the traitor Judas on
every side I turn to. When I sleep for a moment, I am awakened by my own
cries. I exclaim, “Do not betray me, he has not yet violated his vows, I
was but an agent,--I was bribed,--do not kindle those fires for me.” I
shudder,--I start up in a cold sweat. My rest, my appetite, are gone.
Would to God you were out of this convent;--and O! would that I had
never been instrumental to your release, then both of us might have
escaped damnation to all eternity.” I tried to pacify him, to assure him
of his safety, but nothing could satisfy him but my solemn and sincere
assurance that this was the last packet I would ever ask him to deliver.
He departed tranquillized by this assurance; and I felt the dangers of
my attempt multiplying around me every hour.

“This man was faithful, but he was timid; and what confidence can we
have in a being whose right hand is held out to you, while his left
trembles to be employed in transferring your secret to your enemy. This
man died a few weeks after. I believe I owed his dying fidelity to the
delirium that seized on his last moments. But what I suffered during
those moments!--his death under such circumstances, and the unchristian
joy I felt at it, were only in my mind stronger evidences against the
unnatural state of life that could render such an event, and such
feelings, almost necessary. It was on the evening after this, that I was
surprised to see the Superior, with four of the monks, enter my cell. I
felt this visit boded me no good. I trembled all over, while I received
them with deference. The Superior seated himself opposite to me,
arranging his seat so as that I was opposite the light. I did not
understand what this precaution meant, but I conceive now, that he
wished to watch every change in my countenance, while his was concealed
from me. The four monks stood at the back of his chair; their arms were
folded, their lips closed, their eyes half shut, their heads
declined--they looked like men assembled reluctantly to witness the
execution of a criminal. The Superior began, in a mild voice, “My son,
you have been intently employed on your confession for some time--that
was laudable. But have you, then, accused yourself of every crime your
conscience charges you with?” “I have, my father.” “Of all, you are
sure?” “My father, I have accused myself of all I was conscious of. Who
but God can penetrate the abysses of the heart? I have searched mine as
far as I could.” “And you have recorded all the accusations you found
there?” “I have.” “And you did not discover among them the crime of
obtaining the means of writing out your confession, to abuse them to a
very different purpose?”--This was coming to the point. I felt it
necessary to summon my resolution--and I said, with a venial
equivocation, “That is a crime of which my conscience _does not accuse
me_.” “My son, do not dissemble with your conscience, or with me. I
should be even above it in your estimation; for if it errs and deceives
you, it is to me you should apply to enlighten and direct it. But I see
it is in vain to attempt to touch your heart. I make my last appeal to
it in these plain words. A few moments only of indulgence await you--use
them or abuse them, as you will. I have to ask you a few plain
questions, which, if you refuse to answer, or do not answer truly, your
blood be on your own head.” I trembled, but I said, “My father, have I
then refused to answer your questions?” “Your answers are all either
interrogations or evasions. They must be direct and simple to the
questions I am about to propose in the presence of these brethren. More
depends on your answer than you are aware of. The warning voice breaks
forth in spite of me.”--Terrified at these words, and humbled to the
wish to propitiate them, I rose from my chair--then gasping, I leant on
it for support. I said, “My God! what is all this terrible preparation
for? Of what am I guilty? Why am I summoned by this warning voice so
often, whose warnings are only so many mysterious threatenings? Why am I
not told of my offence?”

“The four monks, who had never spoken or lifted up their heads till
that moment, now directed their livid eyes at me, and repeated,
all together, in a voice that seemed to issue from the bottom of
a sepulchre, “Your crime is--” The Superior gave them a signal to
be silent, and this interruption increased my consternation. It is
certain, that when we are conscious of guilt, we always suspect
that a greater degree of it will be ascribed to us by others. Their
consciences avenge the palliations of our own, by the most horrible
exaggerations. I did not know of what crime they might be disposed
to accuse me; and already I felt the accusation of my clandestine
correspondence as dust in the balance of their resentment. I had heard
the crimes of convents were sometimes unutterably atrocious; and I
felt as anxious now for a distinct charge to be preferred against me,
as I had a few moments before to evade it. These indefinite fears were
soon exchanged for real ones, as the Superior proposed his questions.
“You have procured a large quantity of paper--how did you employ it?”
I recovered myself, and said, “As I ought to do.” “How, in unburdening
your conscience?” “Yes, in unburdening my conscience.” “That is false;
the greatest sinner on earth could not have blotted so many pages with
the record of his crimes.” “I have often been told in the convent, I
_was_ the greatest sinner on earth.” “You equivocate again, and convert
your ambiguities into reproaches--this will not do--you must answer
plainly: For what purpose did you procure so much paper, and how have
you employed it?” “I have told you already.” “It was, then, employed
in your confession?”--I was silent, but bowed assentingly.--“You
can, then, shew us the proofs of your application to your duties.
Where is the manuscript that contains your confession?” I blushed and
hesitated, as I showed about half-a-dozen blotted and scrawled pages as
my confession. It was ridiculous. It did not occupy more than a tenth
part of the paper which I had received. “And this is your confession?”
“It is.” “And you dare to say that you have employed all the paper
entrusted to you for that purpose.”--I was silent. “Wretch!” said the
Superior, losing all patience, “disclose instantly for what purpose
you have employed the paper granted you. Acknowledge instantly that
it was for some purpose contrary to the interests of this house.”--At
these words I was roused. I saw again the cloven foot of interest
peeping from beneath the monastic garb. I answered, “Why am I suspected
if _you_ are not guilty? What could I accuse you of? What could I
complain of if there were no cause? Your own consciences must answer
this question for me.” At these words, the monks were again about to
interpose, when the Superior, silencing them by a signal, went on with
his matter-of-fact questions, that paralyzed all the energy of passion.
“You will not tell me what you have done with the paper committed
to you?”--I was silent.--“I enjoin you, by your holy obedience, to
disclose it this moment.”--His voice rose in passion as he spoke, and
this operated as a signal on mine. I said, “You have no right, my
father, to demand such a declaration.” “Right is not the question now.
I command you to tell me. I require your oath on the altar of Jesus
Christ, and by the image of his blessed Mother.” “You have no right to
demand such an oath. I know the rules of the house--I am responsible
to the confessor.” “Do you, then, make a question between right and
power? You shall soon feel, within these walls, they are the same.” “I
make no question--perhaps they are the same.” “And you will not tell
what you have done with those papers, blotted, doubtless, with the most
infernal calumnies?” “I will not.” “And you will take the consequences
of your obstinacy on your own head?” “I will.” And the four monks
chorussed again, all in the same unnatural tone, “The consequences be
on his own head.” But while they spoke thus, two of them whispered in
my ears, “Deliver up your papers, and all is well. The whole convent
knows you have been writing.” I answered, “I have nothing to give
up--nothing on the faith of a monk. I have not a single page in my
possession, but what you have seized on.” The monks, who had whispered
in a conciliatory tone to me before, quitted me. They conversed in
whispers with the Superior, who, darting on me a terrible look,
exclaimed, “And you will not give up your papers?” “I have nothing to
give up: Search my person--search my cell--every thing is open to you.”
“Every thing shall be soon,” said the Superior in fury. In a moment
the examination commenced. There was not an article of furniture in
my cell that was not the object of their investigation. My chair and
table were overturned, shaken, and finally broken, in the attempt to
discover whether any papers had been secreted in them. The prints were
snatched from the walls,--held up between them and the light.--Then
the very frames were broken, to try if any thing was concealed in
them. Then they examined my bed;--they threw all the furniture about
the floor, they unripped the mattress, and tore out the straw; one of
them, during this operation, actually applied his teeth to facilitate
it,--and this malice of activity formed a singular contrast to the
motionless and rigid torpor with which they had clothed themselves
but a few moments before. All this time, I stood in the centre of the
floor, as I was ordered, without turning to right or left. Nothing was
found to justify their suspicions. They then surrounded me; and the
examination of my person was equally rapid, minute, and indecorous.
Every thing I wore was on the floor in a moment: The very seams of my
habit were ript open; and, during the examination, I covered myself
with one of the blankets they had taken from my bed. When it was over,
I said, “Have you discovered any thing?” The Superior answered, in a
voice of rage, struggling proudly, but vainly, with disappointment, “I
have other means of discovery--prepare for them, and tremble when they
are resorted to.” At these words he rushed from my cell, giving a sign
to the four monks to follow him. I was left alone. I had no longer any
doubt of my danger. I saw myself exposed to the fury of men who would
risk nothing to appease it. I watched, waited, trembled, at every step
I heard in the gallery--at the sound of every door that opened or shut
near me. Hours went on in this agony of suspense, and terminated at
last without an event. No one came near me that night--the next was to
be that of the great confession. In the course of the day, I took my
place in the choir, trembling, and watching every eye. I felt as if
every countenance was turned on me, and every tongue said in silence,
“Thou art the man.” Often I wished that the storm I felt was gathering
around me, would burst at once. It is better to hear the thunder than
to watch the cloud. It did not burst, however, then. And when the
duties of the day were over, I retired to my cell, and remained there,
pensive, anxious, and irresolute.

“The confession had begun; and as I heard the penitents, one by one,
return from the church, and close the doors of their cells, I began
to dread that I was to be excluded from approaching the holy chair,
and that this exclusion from a sacred and indispensible right, was to
be the commencement of some mysterious course of rigour. I waited,
however, and was at last summoned. This restored my courage, and I went
through my duties more tranquilly. After I had made my confession, only
a few simple questions were proposed to me, as, Whether I could accuse
myself of any _inward_ breach of conventual duty? of any thing I had
_reserved_? any thing in my conscience? &c.--and on my answering them
in the negative, was suffered to depart. It was on that very night the
porter died. My last packet had gone some days before,--all was safe
and well. Neither voice or line could bear witness against me now, and
hope began to revisit me, as I reflected that my brother’s zealous
industry would discover some other means for our future communication.

“All was profound calm for a few days, but the storm was to come soon
enough. On the fourth evening after the confession, I was sitting alone
in my cell, when I heard an unusual bustle in the convent. The bell was
rung,--the new porter seemed in great agitation,--the Superior hurried
to the parlour first, then to his cell,--then some of the elder monks
were summoned. The younger whispered in the galleries,--shut their
doors violently,--all seemed in agitation. In a domestic building,
occupied by the smallest family, such circumstances would hardly be
noticed, but, in a convent, the miserable monotony of what may be
called their internal existence, gives an importance,--an interest, to
the most trivial external circumstance in common life. I felt all this.
I said to myself, “Something is going on.”--I added, “Something is
going on against me.” I was right in both my conjectures. Late in the
evening I was ordered to attend the Superior in his own apartment,--I
said I was ready to go. Two minutes after the order was reversed, and
I was desired to remain in my cell, and await the approach of the
Superior,--I answered I was willing to obey. But this sudden change of
orders filled me with an _indefinite_ fear; and in all the changes of
my life, and vicissitude of my feelings, I have never felt any fear
so horrible. I walked up and down, I repeated incessantly, “My God
protect me! my God strengthen me!” Then I dreaded to ask the protection
of God, doubting whether the cause in which I was engaged merited
his protection. My ideas, however, were all scattered by the sudden
entrance of the Superior and the four monks who had attended him on
the visit previous to the confession. At their entrance I rose,--no
one desired me to sit down. The Superior advanced with a look of fury,
and, dashing some papers on my table, said, “Is that your writing?” I
threw a hurried and terrified eye over the papers,--_they were a copy
of my memorial_. I had presence of mind enough to say, “That is not my
writing.” “Wretch! you equivocate, it is a copy of your writing.”--I
was silent.--“Here is a proof of it,” he added, throwing down another
paper. It was a copy of the memoir of the advocate, addressed to me,
and which, by the influence of a superior court, they had not the power
of withholding from me. I was expiring with anxiety to examine it, but
I did not dare to glance at it. The Superior unfolded page after page.
He said, “Read, wretch! read,--look into it, examine it line by line.”
I approached trembling,--I glanced at it,--in the very first lines I
read _hope_. My courage revived.--I said, “My father, I acknowledge
this to be the copy of my memorial. I demand your permission to read
the answer of the advocate, you cannot refuse me this right.” “Read
it,” said the Superior, and he flung it towards me.

“You may readily believe, Sir, that, under such circumstances, I could
not read with very steady eyes; and my penetration was not at all
quickened by the four monks disappearing from the cell, at a signal I
did not see. The Superior and I were now alone. He walked up and down my
cell, while I appeared to hang over the advocate’s memoir. Suddenly he
stopped;--he struck his hand with violence on the table,--the pages I
was trembling over quivered from the violence of the blow,--I started
from my chair. “Wretch,” said the Superior, “when have such papers as
those profaned the convent before? When, till your unhallowed entrance,
were we insulted with the memoirs of legal advocates? How comes it that
you have dared to----” “Do what, my father?” “Reclaim your vows, and
expose _us_ to all the scandal of a civil court and its proceedings.” “I
weighed it all against my own misery.” “Misery! is it thus you speak of
a conventual life, the only life that can promise tranquillity here, or
ensure salvation hereafter.” These words, uttered by a man convulsed by
the most frantic passion, were their own refutation. My courage rose in
proportion to his fury; and besides, I was driven to a point, and forced
to act on my defence. The sight of the papers added to my confidence. I
said, “My father, it is in vain to endeavour to diminish my repugnance
to the monastic life; the proof that that repugnance is invincible lies
before you. If I have been guilty of a step that violates the decorum of
a convent, I am sorry,--but I am not reprehensible. Those who forced me
into a convent, are guilty of the violence which is falsely ascribed to
me. I am determined, if it be possible, to change my situation. You see
the efforts I have already made, be assured they will never cease.
Disappointment will only redouble their energy; and if it be in the
power of heaven or earth to procure the annulment of my vows, there is
no power in either I will not have recourse to.” I expected he would not
have heard me out, but he did. He even listened with calmness, and I
prepared myself to encounter and repel that alternation of reproach and
remonstrance, of solicitation and menace, which they so well know how to
employ in a convent. “Your repugnance to a conventual life is then
invincible?” “It is.” “But to what do you object?--not to your duties,
for you perform them with the most edifying punctuality,--not to the
treatment you receive, for it has been the most indulgent that our
discipline admits of,--not to the community itself, who are all disposed
to cherish and love you;--of what do you complain?” “Of the life
itself,--that comprehends every thing. I am not fit to be a monk.”
“Remember, I implore you, that though the forms of earthly courts must
be obeyed, from the necessity that makes us dependent on human
institutions, in all matters between man and man, they never can be
available in matters between God and man. Be assured, my deluded child,
that if all the courts on earth pronounced you absolved from your vows
this moment, your own conscience never can absolve you. All your
ignominious life, it will continue to reproach you with the violation of
a vow, whose breach man has connived at, but God has not. And, at your
last hour, how horrible will those reproaches be!” “Not so horrible as
at the hour I took that vow, or rather at the hour when it was
extorted.” “Extorted!” “Yes, my father, yes,--I take Heaven to witness
against you. On that disastrous morning, your anger, your remonstrances,
your pleadings, were as ineffectual as they are now, till you flung the
body of my mother before my feet.” “And do you reproach me with my zeal
in the cause of your salvation?” “I do not wish to reproach you. You
know the step I have taken, you must be aware I will pursue it with all
the powers of nature,--that I will never rest till my vows are annulled,
while a hope of it remains,--and that a soul, determined as mine, can
convert despair itself into hope. Surrounded, suspected, watched as I
have been, I yet found the means of conveying my papers to the hands of
the advocate. Calculate the strength of that resolution which could
effectuate such a measure in the very heart of a convent. Judge of the
futility of all future opposition, when you failed in defeating, or even
detecting, the first steps of my design.” At these words the Superior
was silent. I believed I had made an impression on him. I added, “If you
wish to spare the community the disgrace of my prosecuting my appeal
within its walls, the alternative is easy. Let the door be left
unguarded some day, connive at my escape, and my presence shall never
molest or dishonour you another hour.” “How! would you make me not only
a witness, but an accomplice in your crime? Apostate from God, and
plunged in perdition as you are, do you repay the hand stretched out to
save you, by seizing it, that you may drag me into the infernal gulph
along with you?” and he walked up and down the cell in the most violent
agitation. This unlucky proposal operated on his master-passion, (for he
was exemplarily rigid in discipline), and produced only convulsions of
hostility. I stood waiting till this fresh burst had subsided, while he
continued to exclaim incessantly, “My God, for what offence am I thus
humiliated?--for what inconceivable crime is this disgrace precipitated
on the whole convent? What will become of our character? What will all
Madrid say?” “My father, whether an obscure monk lives, dies, or recalls
his vows, is an object of little importance beyond the walls of his
convent. They will forget me soon, and you will be consoled by the
restored harmony of the discipline, in which I should always be a
jarring note. Besides, all Madrid, with all the interest you ascribe to
it, could never be made responsible for my salvation.” He continued to
walk up and down, repeating, “What will the world say? What will become
of us?” till he had worked himself into a state of fury; and, suddenly
turning on me, he exclaimed, “Wretch! renounce your horrible
resolution,--renounce it this moment! I give you but five minutes for
consideration.” “Five thousand would make no change.” “Tremble, then,
lest you should not have life spared to see the fulfilment of your
impious purposes.”

“As he uttered these words he rushed from my cell. The moments I passed
during his absence were, I think, the most horrible of my life. Their
terror was aggravated by darkness, for it was now night, and he had
carried away the light along with him. My agitation did not at first
permit me to observe this. I felt I was in the dark, but knew not how or
why. A thousand images of indescribable horror rushed in a host on me. I
had heard much of the terrors of convents,--of their punishments, often
carried to the infliction of death, or of reducing their victim to a
state in which death would have been a blessing. Dungeons, chains, and
scourges, swam before my eyes in a fiery mist. The threatening words of
the Superior appeared emblazoned on the darkened walls of my cell in
characters of flame. I shuddered,--I cried aloud, though conscious that
my voice would be echoed by no friendly answering tones in a community
of sixty persons,--such is the sterility of humanity in a convent. At
last my very fears recovered me by their excess. I said to myself, “They
dare not murder me,--they dare not incarcerate me;--they are answerable
to the court to which I have appealed for my forthcoming,--they dare not
be guilty of any violence.” Just as I had come to this comfortable
conclusion, which indeed was the triumph of the sophistry of hope, the
door of my cell was thrown open, and the Superior, attended by his four
satellites, re-entered. My eyes were dim from the darkness in which I
had been left, but I could distinguish that they carried with them a
rope and a piece of sackcloth. I drew the most frightful presages from
this apparatus. I altered my reasoning in a moment, and instead of
saying they dare not do so and so, I instantly argued, “What dare they
not do? I am in their power,--they know it. I have provoked them to the
utmost,--what is it monks will not do in the impotence of their
malignity?--what is to become of me?” They advanced, and I imagined the
rope was to strangle me, and the sackcloth to inclose my murdered body.
A thousand images of blood swam before me,--a gush of fire choaked up my
respiration. The groans of a thousand victims seemed to rise from the
vaults of the convent, to which they had been hurried by a fate like
mine. I know not what is death, but I am convinced I suffered the
agonies of many deaths in that moment. My first impulse was to throw
myself on my knees. I said, “I am in your power,--I am guilty in your
eyes,--accomplish your purpose, but do not keep me long in pain.” The
Superior, without heeding, or perhaps hearing me, said, “Now you are in
the posture that becomes you.” At hearing these words, which sounded
less dreadful than I had feared, I prostrated myself to the ground. A
few moments before I would have thought this a degradation, but fear is
very debasing. I had a dread of violent means,--I was very young, and
life was not the less attractive from its being arrayed only in the
brilliant drapery of imagination. The monks observed my posture,--they
feared its effect on the Superior. They said, in that choral
monotony,--that _discordant unison_ that had frozen my blood when I
knelt in the same posture but a few nights before, “Reverend father, do
not suffer yourself to be imposed on by this prostituted
humiliation,--the time for mercy is past. You gave him his moments of
deliberation,--he refused to avail himself of them. You come now not to
listen to pleadings, but to inflict justice.” At these words, that
announced every thing horrible, I went on my knees from one to the
other, as they all stood in a grim and executioner-like row. I said to
each with tears, “Brother Clement,--Brother Justin,--why do you try to
irritate the Superior against me? Why do you precipitate a sentence
which, whether just or not, must be severe, since you are to be the
executioners? What have I done to offend you? I interceded for you when
you were guilty of any slight deviation--Is this my return?” “This is
wasting time,” said the monks. “Hold,” said the Superior; “give him
leave to speak. Will you avail yourself of the last moment of indulgence
I can ever afford you, to renounce your horrible resolution of recalling
your vows?” Those words renewed all my energies. I stood upright before
them all. I said, in a loud distinct voice, “Never--I stand at the bar
of God.” “Wretch! you have renounced God.” “Well, then, my father, I
have only to hope that God will not renounce me. I have appealed to a
bar also, over which you have no power.” “But we have power here, and
that you shall feel.” He made a signal, and the four monks approached. I
uttered one short cry of fear, but submitted the next moment. I felt
convinced it was to be my last. I was astonished, when, instead of
fastening the cords round my neck, they bound my arms with them. They
then took off my habit, and covered me with the sackcloth. I made no
resistance; but shall I confess to you, Sir, I felt some disappointment.
I was prepared for death, but something worse than death appeared
threatened in these preparations. When we are driven to the precipice of
mortality, we spring forward with resolution, and often defeat the
triumph of our murderers, by merging it in our own. But when we are led
to it step by step, held often over it, and then withdrawn, we lose our
resolution along with our patience; and feel, that the last blow would
be mercy, compared with its long-suspended, slowly descending, wavering,
mutilating, hesitating stroke. I was prepared for every thing but what
followed. Bound with this rope as fast as a felon, or a galley-slave,
and covered only with the sackcloth, they dragged me along the gallery.
I uttered no cry, made no resistance. They descended the stairs that led
to the church. I followed, or rather was dragged after them. They
crossed the aisle; there was a dark passage near it which I had never
observed before. We entered it. A low door at the end presented a
frightful perspective. At sight of it I cried aloud, “You will not
immure me? You will not plunge me in that horrible dungeon, to be
withered by damps, and devoured by reptiles? No, you will not,--remember
you are answerable for my life.” At these words, they surrounded me;
then, for the first time, I struggled,--I called for help;--this was the
moment they waited for; they wanted some repugnance on my part. The
signal was instantly given to a lay-brother, who waited in the
passage,--the bell was rung,--that terrible bell, that requires every
member of a convent to plunge into his cell, as something extraordinary
is going on in the house. At the first toll I lost all hope. I felt as
if not a living being was in existence but those who surrounded me, and
who appeared, in the livid light of one taper burning faintly in that
dismal passage, like spectres hurrying a condemned soul to his doom.
They hurried me down the steps to this door, which was considerably
below the level of the passage. It was a long time before they could
open it; many keys were tried; perhaps they might have felt some
agitation at the thoughts of the violence they were going to commit. But
this delay increased my terrors beyond expression; I imagined this
terrible vault had never been inclosed before; that I was to be the
first victim inhumed within it; and that their determination was, I
should never quit it alive. As these thoughts occurred, in unutterable
agony I cried aloud, though I felt I was beyond all human hearing; but
my cries were drowned in the jarring of the heavy door, as it yielded to
the efforts of the monks, who, uniting their strength, pushed it with
extended arms, grating all the way against the floor of stone. The monks
hurried me in, while the Superior stood at the entrance with the light,
appearing to shudder at the view it disclosed. I had time to view all
the furniture of what I thought my last abode. It was of stone; the roof
formed an arch; a block of stone supported a crucifix, and a death’s
head, with a loaf and a pitcher of water. There was a mat on the floor,
to lie on; another rolled up at the end of it formed a pillow. They
flung me on it, and prepared to depart. I no longer struggled, for I
knew escape was in vain, but I supplicated them at least to leave me a
light; and I petitioned for this with as much earnestness as I could
have done for my liberty. Thus it is that misery always breaks down the
mind into petty details. We have not strength to comprehend the whole of
our calamity. We feel not the mountain which is heaped on us, but the
nearest grains press on and grind us. I said, “In Christian mercy leave
me a light, if it be but to defend myself against the reptiles that must
swarm here.” And already I saw this was true, for some of extraordinary
size, disturbed by the phænomenon of the light, came crawling down the
walls. All this time the monks were straining their strength to close
the heavy door; they did not utter a word. “I adjure you to leave me
light, _if it is but to gaze on that skull_; fear not the exercise of
sight can be any indulgence in this place; but still let me have a
light; think that when I wish to pray, I must _feel my way_ to that
crucifix.” As I spoke, the door was with difficulty closed and locked,
and I heard their departing steps. You will hardly believe, Sir, that I
slept profoundly; yet I did; but I would rather never sleep again, than
awake so horribly. I awoke in _the darkness of day_. I was to behold the
light no more; nor to watch those divisions of time, which, by measuring
our portions of suffering, appear to diminish them. When the clock
strikes, we know an hour of wretchedness is past, never to return. My
only time-keeper was the approach of the monk, who every day renewed my
allowance of bread and water; and had he been the object I loved most on
earth, the sound of his steps could not have made more delicious music.
These æras by which we compute the hours of darkness and inanity are
inconceivable to any but those who are situated as I was. You have
heard, Sir, no doubt, that the eye which, on its being first immersed
into darkness, appears deprived of the power of vision for ever,
acquires, imperceptibly, a power of accommodating itself to its darkened
sphere, and even of distinguishing objects by a kind of conventional
light. The mind certainly possesses the same power, otherwise, how could
I have had the power to reflect, to summon some resolution, and even to
indulge some hope, in this frightful abode? Thus it is, when all the
world seems sworn to hostility against us, we turn friends to ourselves
with all the obstinacy of despair;--and _while all the world is
flattering and deifying us, we are the perpetual victims of lassitude
and self-reproach_.

“The prisoner whose hours are visited by a dream of emancipation, is
less a prey to ennui than the sovereign on a throne, begirt with
adulation, voluptuousness, and satiety. I reflected that all my papers
were safe,--that my cause was prosecuting with vigour,--that, owing to
my brother’s zeal, I had the ablest advocate in Madrid,--that they dared
not murder me, and were answerable with the whole credit of the house
for my re-appearance whenever the courts demanded it,--that the very
rank of my family was a powerful protection, though none of them but my
generous fiery Juan was probably favourable to me;--that if I was
permitted to receive and read the advocate’s first memoir, even through
the hands of the Superior, it was absurd to imagine that I could be
denied intercourse with him in a more advanced and important stage of
the business. These were the suggestions of my hope, and they were
plausible enough. What were the suggestions of my despair, I shudder
even at this moment to reflect on. The most terrible of all was, that I
might be murdered _conventually_ before it was possible that my
liberation could be accomplished.

“Such, Sir, were my reflections; you may ask, what were my occupations?
My situation supplied me with those, and, revolting as they were, they
were still occupations. I had my devotions to perform; religion was my
only resource in solitude and darkness, and while I prayed only for
liberty and peace, I felt I was not at least insulting God by the
prayers of hypocrisy, which I would have been compelled to utter in the
choir. There I was obliged to join in a sacrifice that was odious to me,
and offensive to him;--in my dungeon I offered up the sacrifice of my
heart, and felt it was not unacceptable. During the glimpse of light
afforded me by the approach of the monk who brought me bread and water,
I arranged the crucifix so as that I could feel it when I awoke. This
was very often, and not knowing whether it was day or night, I uttered
my prayers at random. I knew not whether it was matins or vespers; there
was neither morning or evening for me, but it was like a talisman to me
to touch the crucifix, and I said as I felt for it, “My God is with me
in the darkness of my dungeon; he is a God who has suffered, and can
pity me. My extremest point of wretchedness can be nothing to what this
symbol of divine humiliation for the sins of man, has undergone for
mine!”--and I kissed the sacred image (with lips wandering from the
darkness) with more emotion than I had ever felt when I saw it
illuminated by the blaze of tapers, amid the elevation of the Host, the
tossing of the perfumed censers, the gorgeous habits of the priests, and
the breathless prostration of the faithful. I had other occupations less
dignified, but quite as necessary. The reptiles, who filled the hole
into which I had been thrust, gave me opportunity for a kind of
constant, miserable, ridiculous hostility. My mat had been placed in the
very seat of warfare;--I shifted it,--still they pursued me;--I placed
it against the wall,--the cold crawling of their bloated limbs often
awoke me from my sleep, and still oftener made me shudder when awake. I
struck at them;--I tried to terrify them by my voice, to arm myself
against them by the help of my mat; but above all, my anxiety was
ceaseless to defend my bread from their loathsome incursions, and my
pitcher of water from their dropping into it. I adopted a thousand
precautions, trivial as they were inefficacious, but still there was
occupation. I do assure you, Sir, I _had more to do in my dungeon than
in my cell_. To be fighting with reptiles in the dark appears the most
horrible struggle that can be assigned to man; but what is it compared
to his combat with those reptiles which his own heart hourly engenders
in a cell, and of which, if his heart be the mother, solitude is the
father. I had another employment,--I cannot call it occupation. I had
calculated with myself, that sixty minutes made an hour, and sixty
seconds a minute. I began to think I could keep time as accurately as
any clock in a convent, and measure the hours of my confinement or--my
release. So I sat and counted sixty; a doubt always occurred to me, that
I _was counting them faster than the clock_. Then I wished to be the
clock, that I might have no feeling, no _motive for hurrying on the
approach of time_. Then I reckoned slower. Sleep sometimes overtook me
in this exercise, (perhaps I adopted it from that hope); but when I
awoke, I applied to it again instantly. Thus I oscillated, reckoned, and
measured time on my mat, while time withheld its delicious diary of
rising and setting suns,--of the dews of dawn and of twilight,--of the
glow of morning and the shades of the evening. When my reckoning was
broken by my sleep, (and I knew not whether I slept by day or by night),
I tried to eke it out by my incessant repetition of minutes and seconds,
and I succeeded; for I always consoled myself, that whatever hour it
was, sixty minutes must go to an hour. Had I led this life much longer,
I might have been converted into the idiot, who, as I have read, from
the habit of watching a clock, imitated its mechanism so well, that when
it was down, he sounded the hour as faithfully as ear could desire. Such
was my life. On the fourth day, (as I reckoned by the visits of the
monk), he placed my bread and water on the block of stone as usual, but
hesitated for some time before he departed. In fact, he felt a
repugnance at delivering an intimation of hope; it was not consonant
either to his profession, or the office which, in the wantonness of
monastic malignity, he had accepted as penance. You shudder at this,
Sir, but it is nevertheless true; this man thought he was doing service
to God, by witnessing the misery of a being incarcerated amid famine,
darkness, and reptiles. He recoiled when his penance terminated. Alas!
how false is that religion which makes our aggravating the sufferings of
others our mediator with that God who willeth all men to be saved. But
this is a question to be solved in convents. This man hesitated long,
struggled with the ferocity of his nature, and at last departed and
bolted the door, that he might indulge it a few moments longer. Perhaps
in those moments he prayed to God, and ejaculated a petition, that this
protraction of _my_ sufferings might be accepted as a melioration of his
own. I dare say he was very sincere; but if men were taught to look to
the _one great Sacrifice_, would they be so ready to believe that their
own, or those of others, could ever be accepted as a commutation for it?
You are surprised, Sir, at these sentiments from a Catholic; but another
part of my story will disclose the cause of my uttering them. At length
this man could delay his commission no longer. He was obliged to tell me
that the Superior was moved by my sufferings, that God had touched his
heart in my behalf, and that he permitted me to quit my dungeon. The
words were scarce out of his mouth, before I rose, and rushed out with a
shout that electrified him. Emotion is very unusual in convents, and the
expression of joy a phenomenon. I had gained the passage before he
recovered his surprise; and the convent walls, which I had considered as
those of a prison, now appeared the area of emancipation. Had its doors
been thrown open to me that moment, I don’t think I could have felt a
more exquisite sensibility of liberty. I fell on my knees in the passage
to thank God. I thanked him for the light, for the air, for the restored
power of respiration. As I was uttering these effusions, (certainly not
the least sincere that were ever poured forth within those walls),
suddenly I became sick,--my head swam round,--I had feasted on the light
to excess. I fell to the ground, and remember nothing for many hours
afterwards. When I recovered my senses, I was in my cell, which appeared
just as I had left it; it was day-light, however; and I am persuaded
that circumstance contributed more to my restoration, than the food and
cordials with which I was now liberally supplied. All that day I heard
nothing, and had time to meditate on the motives of the indulgence with
which I had been treated. I conceived that an order might have been
issued to the Superior to produce me, or, at all events, that he could
not prevent those interviews between the advocate and me, which the
former might insist on as necessary while my cause was carrying on.
Towards evening some monks entered my cell; they talked of indifferent
matters,--affected to consider my absence as the result of
indisposition, and I did not undeceive them. They mentioned, as if
incidentally, that my father and mother, overwhelmed with grief at the
scandal I had brought on religion by appealing against my vows, had
quitted Madrid. At this intelligence I felt much more emotion than I
showed. I asked them how long I had been _ill_? They answered, Four
days. This confirmed my suspicions with regard to the cause of my
liberation, for the advocate’s letter had mentioned, that on the fifth
day he would require an interview with me on the subject of my appeal.
They then departed; but I was soon to receive another visitor. After
vespers, (from which I was excused), the Superior entered my cell alone.
He approached my bed. I attempted to rise, but he desired me to compose
myself, and sat down near me with a calm but penetrating look. He said,
“You have now found we have it in our power to punish.”--“I never
doubted it.”--“Before you tempt that power to an extremity, which, I
warn you, you will not be able to endure, I come to demand of you to
resign this desperate appeal against your vows, which can terminate only
in dishonouring God, and disappointing yourself.”--“My father, without
entering into details, which the steps taken on both sides have rendered
wholly unnecessary, I can only reply, that I will support my appeal with
every power Providence puts within my reach, and that my punishment has
only confirmed my resolution.”--“And this is your final
determination?”--“It is, and I implore you to spare me all further
importunity,--it will be useless.” He was silent for a long time; at
length he said, “And you will insist on your right to an interview with
the advocate to-morrow?”--“I shall claim it.”--“It will not be
necessary, however, to mention to him your late punishment.” These words
struck me. I comprehended the meaning which he wished to conceal in
them, and I answered, “It may not be necessary, but it will probably be
expedient.”--“How?--would you violate the secrets of the house, while
you are yet within its walls?”--“Pardon me, my father, for saying, that
you must be conscious of having exceeded your duty, to be so anxious for
its concealment. It is not, then, the secrets of your discipline, but
the violation of it, I shall have to disclose.”--He was silent, and I
added, “If you have abused your power, though I have been the sufferer,
it is you who are guilty.”--The Superior rose, and quitted my cell in
silence. The next morning I attended matins. Service went on as usual,
but at its conclusion, when the community were about to rise from their
knees, the Superior, striking the desk violently with his hand,
commanded them all to remain in the same posture. He added, in a
thundering voice, “The intercession of this whole community with God is
supplicated for a monk who, abandoned by the Spirit of God, is about to
commit an act dishonourable to Him, disgraceful to the church, and
infallibly destructive of his own salvation.” At these terrible sounds
the monks, all shuddering, sunk on their knees again. I was kneeling
among them, when the Superior, calling me by my name, said aloud, “Rise,
wretch! rise, and pollute not our incense with your unhallowed breath!”
I rose, trembling and confounded, and shrunk to my cell, where I
remained till I was summoned by a monk to the parlour, to meet the
advocate, who waited for me there. This interview was rendered quite
ineffective by the presence of the monk, who was desired by the Superior
to witness our conference, and whom the advocate could not order away.
When we entered into details, he interrupted us with declarations, that
his duty would not permit such a violation of the rules of the parlour.
When I asserted a fact, he contradicted it, gave me the lie repeatedly,
and finally disturbed the purpose of our conference so completely, that
in mere self-defence, I spoke of the subject of my punishment, which he
could not deny, and to which my livid looks bore a testimony invincible.
The moment I spoke on this subject the monk became silent, (he was
treasuring every word for the Superior), and the advocate redoubled his
attention. He took minutes of every thing I said, and appeared to lay
more stress on the matter than I had imagined, or indeed wished for.
When the conference was over, I retired again to my cell. The advocate’s
visits were repeated for some days, till he had obtained the information
requisite for carrying on my suit; and during this time, my treatment in
the convent was such as to give me no cause of complaint; and this
doubtless was the motive of their forbearance. But the moment those
visits ceased, the warfare of persecution commenced. They considered me
as one with whom no measures were to be kept, and they treated me
accordingly. I am convinced it was their intention that I should not
survive the event of my appeal; at least it is certain they left nothing
unaccomplished that could verify that intention. This began, as I
mentioned, on the day of the advocate’s last visit. The bell rung for
refection;--I was going to take my place as usual, when the Superior
said, “Hold,--place a mat for him in the midst of the hall.” This was
done, and I was required to sit down on it, and supplied with bread and
water. I eat a little, which I moistened with my tears. I foresaw what I
had to undergo, and did not attempt to expostulate. When grace was about
to be said, I was desired to stand without the door, lest my presence
should frustrate the benediction they implored.

“I retired, and when the bell rung for vespers, I presented myself among
the rest at the door of the church. I was surprised to find it shut, and
they all assembled. When the bell ceased, the Superior appeared, the
door was opened, and the monks hurried in. I was following, when the
Superior repelled me, exclaiming, “_You, wretch, you!_ Remain where you
are.” I obeyed; and the whole community entered the church, while I
remained at the door. This species of excommunication produced its full
effect of terror on me. As the monks slowly came out, and cast on me
looks of silent horror, I thought myself the most abject being on earth;
I could have hid myself under the pavement till the event of my appeal
was over.

“The next morning, when I went to matins, the same scene was renewed,
with the horrible addition of audible reproaches, and almost
imprecations, denounced against me, as they entered and returned. I
knelt at the door. I did not answer a word. I returned not “railing for
railing,” and lifted up my heart with a trembling hope, that this
offering might be as acceptable to God as the sonorous chaunt of the
choir, which I still felt it was miserable to be excluded from joining.

“In the course of the day, every sluice of monastic malignity and
vengeance was thrown open. I appeared at the door of the refectory. I
did not dare to enter. Alas! Sir, how are monks employed in the hour of
refection? It is an hour, when, while they swallow their meal, they
banquet on the little scandal of the convent. They ask, “Who was late at
prayers? Who is to undergo penance?” This serves them for conversation;
and the details of their miserable life supply no other subject for that
mixture of exhaustless malignity and curiosity, which are the
inseparable twins of monastic birth. As I stood at the door of the
refectory, a lay-brother, to whom the Superior nodded, bid me retire. I
went to my cell, waited for several hours, and just when the bell for
vespers had rung, was supplied with food, which famine itself would have
shrunk from. I tried to swallow it, but could not, and hurried away, as
the bell tolled, to attend vespers; for I wished to have no cause of
complaint against my neglect of duties. I hastened down. The door was
again shut; service began; and again I was compelled to retire without
partaking of it. The next day I was excluded from matins; the same
degrading scene was acted over when I appeared at the door of the
refectory. Food was sent to my cell, that a dog would have rejected; and
the door was shut when I attempted to enter the church. A thousand
circumstances of persecution, too contemptible, too minute, either for
recollection or repetition, but infinitely harassing to the sufferer,
were heaped on me every day. Imagine, Sir, a community of upwards of
sixty persons, all sworn to each other to make the life of one
individual insupportable; joined in a common resolution to insult,
harass, torment, and persecute him; and then imagine how that individual
can support such a life. I began to dread the preservation of my
reason--of my existence, which, miserable as it was, still fed on the
hope of my appeal. I will sketch one day of my life for you. _Ex uno
disce omnes._ I went down to matins, and knelt at the door; I did not
dare to enter. When I retired to my cell, I found the crucifix taken
away. I was about to go to the Superior’s apartment to complain of this
outrage; in the passage I happened to meet a monk and two boarders. They
all shrunk close to the walls; they drew in their garments, as if
trembling to encounter the pollution of my touch. I said mildly, “There
is no danger; the passage is wide enough.” The monk replied, “Apage
Satana. My children,” addressing the boarders, “repeat with me, apage
Satana; avoid the approach of that demon, who insults the habit he
desecrates.” They did so; and to render the exorcism complete, they spit
in my face as they passed. I wiped it off, and thought how little of the
spirit of Jesus was to be found in the house of his nominal brethren. I
proceeded to the apartment of the Superior, and knocked timidly at the
door. I heard the words, “Enter in peace;” and I prayed that it might be
in peace. As I opened the door, I saw several monks assembled with the
Superior. The latter uttered an exclamation of horror when he saw me,
and threw his robe over his eyes; the monks understood the signal; the
door was closed, and I was excluded. That day I waited several hours in
my cell before any food was brought me. There is no state of feeling
that exempts us from the wants of nature. I had no food for many days
requisite for the claims of adolescence, which were then rapidly
manifesting themselves in my tall, but attenuated frame. I descended to
the kitchen to ask for my share of food. The cook crossed himself as I
appeared at the door; for even at the door of the kitchen I faultered at
the threshold. He had been taught to consider me as a demon incarnate,
and shuddered, while he asked, “What do you want?”--“Food,” I replied;
“food;--that is all.”--“Well, you shall have it--but come no
further--there is food.” And he flung me the offal of the kitchen on the
earth; and I was so hungry, that I devoured it eagerly. The next day I
was not so lucky; the cook had learned the secret of the convent, (that
of tormenting those whom they no longer have hopes of commanding), and
mixed the fragments he threw to me, with ashes, hair, and dust. I could
hardly pick out a morsel that, famished as I was, was eatable. They
allowed me no water in my cell; I was not permitted to partake of it at
refection; and, in the agonies of thirst, aggravated by my constant
solicitude of mind, I was compelled to kneel at the brink of the well,
(as I had no vessel to drink out of), and take up the water in my hand,
or lap it like a dog. If I descended to the garden for a moment, they
took the advantage of my absence to enter my cell, and remove or destroy
every article of furniture. I have told you that they took away my
crucifix. I had still continued to kneel and repeat my prayers before
the table on which it stood. That was taken away,--table, chair, missal,
rosary, every thing, disappeared gradually; and my cell presented
nothing but four bare walls, with a bed, on which they had rendered it
impossible for me to taste repose. Perhaps they dreaded I might,
however, and they hit on an expedient, which, if it had succeeded, might
have deprived me of reason as well as repose.

“I awoke one night, and saw my cell in flames; I started up in horror,
but shrunk back on perceiving myself surrounded by demons, who, clothed
in fire, were breathing forth clouds of it around me. Desperate with
horror, I rushed against the wall, and found what I touched was cold. My
recollection returned, and I comprehended, that these were hideous
figures scrawled in phosphorus, to terrify me. I then returned to my
bed, and as the day-light approached, observed these figures gradually
decline. In the morning, I took a desperate resolution of forcing my way
to the Superior, and speaking to him. I felt my reason might be
destroyed amid the horrors they were surrounding me with.

“It was noon before I could work myself up to execute this resolution. I
knocked at his cell, and when the door was opened, he exhibited the same
horror as at my former intrusion, but I was not to be repelled. “My
father, I require you to hear me, nor will I quit this spot till you do
so.”--“Speak.”--“They famish me,--I am not allowed food to support
nature.”--“Do you deserve it?”--“Whether I do or not, neither the laws
of God or man have yet condemned me to die of hunger; and if _you_ do,
you commit murder.”--“Have you any thing else to complain of?”--“Every
thing; I am not allowed to enter the church,--I am forbid to pray,--they
have stripped my cell of crucifix, rosary, and the vessel for holy
water. It is impossible for me to perform my devotions even
alone.”--“_Your_ devotions!”--“My father, though I am not a monk, may I
not still be a Christian?”--“In renouncing your vows, you have abjured
your claim to either character.”--“But I am still a human being, and as
such--But I appeal not to your humanity, I call on your authority for
protection. Last night, my cell was covered with representations of
fiends. I awoke in the midst of flames and spectres.”--“So you will at
the last day!”--“My punishment will then be enough, it need not commence
already.”--“These are the phantoms of your conscience.”--“My father, if
you will deign to examine my cell, you will find the traces of
phosphorus on the walls.”--“_I_ examine your cell? _I_ enter it?”--“Am I
then to expect no redress? Interpose your authority for the sake of the
house over which you preside. Remember that, when my appeal becomes
public, all these circumstances will become so too, and you are to judge
what degree of credit they will attach to the community.” “Retire!” I
did so, and found my application attended to, at least with regard to
food, but my cell remained in the same dismantled state, and I continued
under the same desolating interdiction from all communion, religious or
social. I assure you, with truth, that so horrible was this amputation
from life to me, that I have walked hours in the cloister and the
passages, to place myself in the way of the monks, who, I knew, as they
passed, would bestow on me some malediction or reproachful epithet. Even
this was better than the withering silence which surrounded me. I began
almost to receive it as a customary salutation, and always returned it
with a benediction. In a fortnight my appeal was to be decided on; this
was a circumstance I was kept in ignorance of, but the Superior had
received a notification of it, and this precipitated his resolution to
deprive me of the benefit of its eventual success, by one of the most
horrible schemes that ever entered the human (I retract the expression)
the monastic heart. I received an indistinct intimation of it the very
night after my application to the Superior; but had I been apprised,
from the first, of the whole extent and bearings of their purpose, what
resources could I have employed against it?

“That evening I had gone into the garden; my heart felt unusually
oppressed. Its thick troubled beatings, seemed like the vibrations of a
time-piece, as it measures our approach to some hour of sorrow.

“It was twilight; the garden was empty; and kneeling on the ground, in
the open air, (the only oratory they had left me), I attempted to pray.
The attempt was in vain;--I ceased to articulate sounds that had no
meaning--and, overcome by a heaviness of mind and body inexpressible, I
fell on the ground, and remained extended on my face, torpid, but not
senseless. Two figures passed, without perceiving me; they were in
earnest conversation. One of them said, “More vigorous measures must be
adopted. You are to blame to delay them so long. You will be answerable
for the disgrace of the whole community, if you persist in this foolish
lenity.”--“But his resolution remains unbroken,” said the Superior, (for
it was he).--“It will not be proof against the measure I have
proposed.”--“He is in your hands then; but remember I will not be
accountable for----” They were by this time out of hearing. I was less
terrified than you will believe, by what I had heard. Those who have
suffered much, are always ready to exclaim, with the unfortunate Agag,
“Surely the bitterness of death is past.” They know not, that that is
the very moment when the sword is unsheathed to hew them in pieces. That
night, I had not been long asleep, when I was awoke by a singular noise
in my cell: I started up, and listened. I thought I heard some one hurry
away barefooted. I knew I had no lock to my door, and could not prevent
the intrusion of any one into my cell who pleased to visit it; but still
I believed the discipline of the convent too strict to allow of this. I
composed myself again, but was hardly asleep, when I was again awoke by
something that touched me. I started up again; a soft voice near me said
in whispers, “Compose yourself; I am your friend.”--“My friend? Have I
one?--but why visit me at this hour?”--“It is the only hour at which I
am permitted to visit you.”--“But who are you, then?”--“One whom these
walls can never exclude. One to whom, if you devote yourself, you may
expect services beyond the power of man.”--There was something frightful
in these words. I cried out, “Is it the enemy of souls that is tempting
me?” As I uttered these words, a monk rushed in from the passage, (where
he had been evidently waiting, for his dress was on). He exclaimed,
“What is the matter? You have alarmed me by your cries,--you pronounced
the name of the infernal spirit,--what have you seen? what is it you
fear?” I recovered myself, and said, “I have seen or heard nothing
extraordinary. I have had frightful dreams, that is all. Ah! Brother St
Joseph, no wonder, after passing such days, my nights should be

“The monk retired, and the next day passed as usual; but at night the
same whispering sounds awoke me again. The preceding night these sounds
had only startled me; they now alarmed me. In the darkness of night, and
the solitude of my cell, this repeated visitation overcame my spirits. I
began almost to admit the idea that I was exposed to the assaults of the
enemy of man. I repeated a prayer, but the whisper, which seemed close
to my ear, still continued. It said, “Listen,--listen to me, and be
happy. Renounce your vows, place yourself under my protection, and you
shall have no cause to complain of the exchange. Rise from your bed,
trample on the crucifix which you will find at the foot of it, spit on
the picture of the Virgin that lies beside it, and----” At these words I
could not suppress a cry of horror. The voice ceased in a moment, and
the same monk, who occupied the cell next to mine, rushed in with the
same exclamations as on the preceding night; and, as he entered my cell,
the light in his hand shewed a crucifix, and a picture of the blessed
Virgin, _placed_ at the foot of my bed. I had sprung up when the monk
entered my cell; I saw them, and recognized them to be the very crucifix
and picture of the Virgin which had been taken from my cell. All the
hypocritical outcries of the monk, at the disturbance I had again caused
him, could not efface the impression which this slight circumstance made
on me. I believed, and not without reason, they had been left there by
the hands of some human tempter. I started, awake to this horrible
imposition, and required the monk to leave my cell. He demanded, with a
frightful paleness in his looks, why I had again disturbed him? said it
was impossible to obtain repose while such noises were occurring in my
cell; and, finally, stumbling over the crucifix and picture, demanded
how they came there. I answered, “You know best.”--“How, then, do you
accuse me of a compact with the infernal demon? By what means could
these have been brought to your cell?”--“By the very hands that removed
them,” I answered; and these words appeared to produce an effect on him
for a moment; but he retired, declaring, that if the nightly disturbance
in my cell continued, he must represent it to the Superior. I answered,
the disturbance did not proceed from me,--but I trembled for the
following night.

“I had reason to tremble. That night, before I lay down, I repeated
prayer after prayer, the terrors of my excommunication pressing heavy on
my soul. I also repeated the prayers against possession or temptation by
the evil spirit. These I was compelled to utter from memory, for I have
told you that they had not left a book in my cell. In repeating these
prayers, which were very long, and somewhat verbose, I at last fell
asleep. That sleep was not to continue long. I was again addressed by
the voice that whispered close to my bed. The moment I heard it, I rose
without fear. I crept around my cell with my hands extended, and my feet
bare. I could feel nothing but the empty walls,--not a single object,
tangible or visible, could I encounter. I lay down again, and had hardly
begun the prayer with which I tried to fortify myself, when the same
sounds were repeated close to my ear, without the possibility either of
my discovering from whence they proceeded, or preventing their reaching
me. Thus I was completely deprived of sleep; and if I dozed for a
moment, the same terrible sounds were re-echoed in my dreams. I became
feverish from want of rest. The night was passed in watching for these
sounds, or listening to them, and the day in wild conjectures or fearful
anticipations. I felt a mixture of terror and impatience inconceivable
at the approach of night. I had a consciousness of imposture the whole
time, but this gave me no consolation, for there is a point to which
human malice and mischief may be carried, that would baffle those of a
demon. Every night the persecution was renewed, and every night it
became more terrible. At times the voice would suggest to me the most
unutterable impurities,--at another, blasphemies that would make a demon
shudder. Then it would applaud me in a tone of derision, and assure me
of the final success of my appeal, then change to the most appalling
menaces. The wretched sleep I obtained, during the intervals of this
visitation, was any thing but refreshing. I would awake in a cold
perspiration, catching at the bed-furniture, and repeating in an
inarticulate voice, the last sounds that had rung in my closing ears. I
would start up and see the bed surrounded by monks, who assured me they
had been disturbed by my cries,--that they had hurried in terror to my
cell. Then they would cast looks of fear and consternation on each other
and on me; say, “Something extraordinary is the matter,--something
presses on your mind that you will not disburden it of.” They implored
me, in the most awful names, and for the interests of my salvation, to
disclose the cause of these extraordinary visitations. At these words,
however agitated before, I always became calm. I said, “Nothing is the
matter,--why do you intrude into my cell?” They shook their heads, and
affected to retire slowly and reluctantly, as if from pity of my
dreadful situation, while I repeated, “Ah, Brother Justin, ah Brother
Clement, I see you, I understand you,--remember there is a God in

“One night I lay for a considerable time without hearing any sound. I
fell asleep, but was soon awoke by an extraordinary light. I sat up in
my bed, and beheld displayed before me the mother of God, in all the
glorious and irradiated incarnation of beatitude. She hovered, rather
than stood, in an atmosphere of light at the foot of my bed, and held a
crucifix in her hand, while she appeared to invite me, with a benign
action, to kiss the five mysterious wounds(1). For a moment I almost
believed in the actual presence of this glorious visitor, but just then
_the voice_ was heard louder than ever, “Spurn them,--spit on them,--you
are mine, and I claim this homage from my vassal.” At these words the
figure disappeared instantly, and the voice was renewing its whispers,
but they were repeated to an insensible ear, for I fell into a swoon. I
could easily distinguish between this state and sleep, by the deadly
sickness, the cold sweats, and the horrid sense of _evanition_, that
preceded it, and by the gasping, sobbing, choaking efforts that attended
my recovery. In the mean time the whole community carried on and even
aggravated the terrible delusion, which, while it was my torment to
detect, it was my greater to be the victim of. When art assumes the
omnipotence of reality, when we feel we suffer as much from an illusion
as from truth, our sufferings lose all dignity and all consolation. We
turn demons against ourselves, and laugh at what we are writhing under.
All day long I was exposed to the stare of horror, the shudder of
suspicion, and, worst of all, the hastily-averted glance of hypocritical
commiseration, that dropt its pitying ray on me for a moment, and was
then instantly raised to heaven, as if to implore forgiveness for the
involuntary crime of compassionating one whom God had renounced. When I
encountered any of them in the garden, they would strike into another
walk, and cross themselves in my sight. If I met them in the passages of
the convent, they drew their garments close, turned their faces to the
wall, and told their beads as I went by. If I ventured to dip my hands
in the holy water that stood at the door of the church, it was thrown
out before my face. Certain extraordinary precautions were adopted by
the whole community against the power of the evil one. Forms of exorcism
were distributed, and additional prayers were used in the service of
matins and vespers. A report was industriously diffused, that Satan was
permitted to visit a favoured and devoted servant of his in the convent,
and that all the brethren might expect the redoubled malice of his
assaults. The effect of this on the young boarders was indescribable.
They flew with the speed of lightning from me, whenever they saw me. If
accident forced us to be near each other for a moment, they were armed
with holy water, which they flung at me in pailfuls; and when that
failed, what cries,--what convulsions of terror! They knelt,--they
screamed,--they shut their eyes,--they cried, “Satan have mercy on
me,--do not fix your infernal talons on me,--take your victim,” and they
mentioned my name. The terror that I inspired I at last began to feel. I
began to believe myself--I know not what, whatever they thought me. This
is a dreadful state of mind, but one impossible to avoid. In some
circumstances, where the whole world is against us, we begin to take its
part against ourselves, to avoid the withering sensation of being alone
on our own side. Such was my appearance, too, my flushed and haggard
look, my torn dress, my unequal gait, my constant internal muttering,
and my complete isolation from the habits of the house, that it was no
wonder I should justify, by my exterior, all of horrible and awful that
might be supposed passing in my mind. Such an impression I must have
made on the minds of the younger members. They had been taught to hate
me, but their hatred was now combined with fear, and such a union is the
most terrible amid all the complications of human passion. Desolate as
my cell was, I retired to it early, as I was excluded from the exercises
of the community. The bell for vespers would ring, I would hear the
steps of those who were hastening to join in the service of God, and
tedious as that service had once appeared to me, I would now have given
worlds to be permitted to join in it, as a defence against that
_horrible midnight mass of Satan_(2), that I was awaiting to be summoned
to. I knelt however in my cell, and repeated what prayers I could
recollect, while every toll of the bell struck on my heart, and the
chaunt of the choir from below sounded like a repulsive echo to an
answer which my fears already anticipated from heaven.

  (1) Vide Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History for the truth of this part
  of the narrative. I have suppressed circumstances in the original too
  horrible for modern ears.

  (2) This expression is not exaggerated. In the dreams of sorcery, or
  of imposture, the evil spirit was supposed to perform a mass in
  derision; and in Beaumont and Fletcher there is mention of “_howling a
  black Santis_,” _i. e._ Satan’s mass.

“One evening that I still continued to pray, and audibly, as the monks
passed my cell they said, “Do _you_ presume to pray? Die, desperate
wretch,--die and be damned. Precipitate yourself into the infernal gulph
at once, no longer desecrate these walls by your presence.” At these
words I only redoubled my prayers; but this gave greater offence, for
churchmen cannot bear to hear prayers uttered in a form different from
their own. The cry of a solitary individual to God, sounds like
profanation in their ears. They ask, Why do they not employ our form?
How dare they hope to be heard? Alas! is it forms then that God regards?
or is it not rather the prayer of the heart which alone reaches him, and
prospers in its petition? As they called out, passing my cell, “Perish,
impious wretch, perish,--God will not hear you,” I answered them on my
knees with blessings,--which of us had the spirit of prayer? That night
was one of trial I could no longer support. My frame was exhausted, my
mind excited, and, owing to our frail nature, this battle of the senses
and soul is never long carried on without the worst side remaining
conqueror. I was no sooner laid down than the voice began to whisper. I
began to pray, but my head swam round, my eyes flashed fire,--fire
almost tangible, my cell appeared in flames. Recollect my frame worn out
with famine, my mind worn out with persecution. I struggled with what I
was conscious was delirium,--but this consciousness aggravated its
horror. It is better to be mad at once, than to believe that all the
world is sworn to think and _make_ you be so, in spite of your own
consciousness of your sanity. The whispers this night were so horrible,
so full of ineffable abominations, of--I cannot think of them,--that
they _maddened my very ear_. My senses seemed deranged along with my
intellect. I will give you an instance, it is but a slight one, of the
horrors which----” Here the Spaniard whispered Melmoth(3). The hearer
shuddered, and the Spaniard went on in an agitated tone.

  (3) We do not venture to guess at the _horrors_ of this whisper, but
  every one conversant with ecclesiastical history knows, that _Tetzel_
  offered indulgences in Germany, even on the condition that the sinner
  had been guilty of the _impossible_ crime of violating the mother of

“I could bear it no longer. I sprung from my bed, I ran through the
gallery like a maniac, knocking at the doors of the cells, and
exclaiming, “Brother such a one, pray for me,--pray for me, I beseech
you.” I roused the whole convent. Then I flew down to the church; it was
open, and I rushed in. I ran up the aisle, I precipitated myself before
the altar, I embraced the images, I clung to the crucifix with loud and
reiterated supplications. The monks, awakened by my outcries, or perhaps
on the watch for them, descended in a body to the church, but,
perceiving I was there, they would not enter,--they remained at the
doors, with lights in their hands, gazing on me. It was a singular
contrast between me, hurrying round the church almost in the dark, (for
there were but a few lamps burning dimly), and the groupe at the door,
whose expression of horror was strongly marked by the light, which
appeared to have deserted me to concentrate itself among them. The most
impartial person on earth might have supposed me deranged, or possessed,
or both, from the state in which they saw me. Heaven knows, too, what
construction might have been put on my wild actions, which the
surrounding darkness exaggerated and distorted, or on the prayers which
I uttered, as I included in them the horrors of the temptation against
which I implored protection. Exhausted at length, I fell to the ground,
and remained there, without the power of moving, but able to hear and
observe every thing that passed. I heard them debate whether they should
leave me there or not, till the Superior commanded them to remove that
abomination from the sanctuary; and such was the terror of me into which
they had _acted_ themselves, that he had to repeat his orders before he
could procure obedience to them. They approached me at last, with the
same caution that they would an infected corse, and dragged me out by
the habit, leaving me on the paved floor before the door of the church.
They then retired, and in this state I actually fell asleep, and
continued so till I was awoke by the bell for matins. I recollected
myself, and attempted to rise; but my having slept on a damp floor, when
in a fever from terror and excitement, had so cramped my limbs, that I
could not accomplish this without the most exquisite pain. As the
community passed in to matins, I could not suppress a few cries of pain.
They must have seen what was the matter, but not one of them offered me
assistance, nor did I dare to implore it. By slow and painful efforts, I
at last reached my cell; but, shuddering at the sight of the bed, I
threw myself on the floor for repose.

“I was aware that some notice must be taken of a circumstance so
extraordinary--that such a subversion of the order and tranquillity of a
convent, would force an inquiry, even if the object was less remarkable.
But I had a sad foreboding, (for suffering makes us full of presages),
that this inquiry, however conducted, would terminate unfavourably to
me. I was the Jonah of the vessel--let the storm blow from what point it
would, I felt the lot was to fall on me. About noon, I was summoned to
the apartment of the Superior. I went, but not as at former times, with
a mixture of supplication and remonstrance on my lips,--with hope and
fear in my heart,--in a fever of excitement or of terror,--I went
sullen, squalid, listless, reckless; my physical strength, borne down by
fatigue and want of sleep; my mental, by persecution, incessant and
insupportable. I went no longer shrinking from, and deprecating _their
worst_, but defying, almost desiring it, in the terrible and indefinite
curiosity of despair. The apartment was full of monks; the Superior
stood among them, while they formed a semicircle at a respectful
distance from him. I must have presented a miserable contrast to these
men arrayed against me in their pride of power,--their long and not
ungraceful habits, giving their figures an air of solemnity, perhaps
more imposing than splendour--while I stood opposed to them, ragged,
meagre, livid, and obdurate, the very personification of an evil spirit
summoned before the angels of judgment. The Superior addressed me in a
long discourse, in which he but slightly touched on the scandal given by
the attempt to repeal my vows. He also suppressed any allusion to the
circumstance which was known to every one in the convent but myself,
that my appeal would be decided on in a few days. But he adverted in
terms that (in spite of my consciousness that they were hollow) made me
shudder, to the horror and consternation diffused through the convent by
my late tremendous visitation, as he called it. “Satan hath desired to
have you,” he said, “because you have put yourself within his power, by
your impious reclamation of your vows. You are the Judas among the
brethren; a branded Cain amid a primitive family; a scape-goat that
struggles to burst from the hands of the congregation into the
wilderness. The horrors that your presence is hourly heaping on us here,
are not only intolerable to the discipline of a religious house, but to
the peace of civilized society. There is not a monk who can sleep within
three cells of you. You disturb them by the most horrible cries--you
exclaim that the infernal spirit is perpetually beside your bed--that he
is whispering in your ears. You fly from cell to cell, supplicating the
prayers of the brethren. Your shrieks disturb the holy sleep of the
community--that sleep which they snatch only in the intervals of
devotion. All order is broken, all discipline subverted, while you
remain among us. The imaginations of the younger members are at once
polluted and inflamed, by the idea of the infernal and impure orgies
which the demon celebrates in your cell; and of which we know not
whether your cries, (which all can hear), announce triumph in, or
remorse for. You rush at midnight into the church, deface the images,
revile the crucifix, spurn at the altar; and when the whole community is
forced, by this unparalleled atrocity of blasphemy, to drag you from the
spot you are desecrating, you disturb, by your cries, those who are
passing to the service of God. In a word, your howls, your distortions,
your demoniac language, habits, and gestures, have but too well
justified the suspicion entertained when you first entered the convent.
You were abominable from your very birth,--you were the offspring of
sin--you are conscious of it. Amid the livid paleness, that horrible
unnatural white that discolours your very lips, I see a tinge like
crimson burning on your cheek at the mention of it. The demon who was
presiding at your natal hour--the demon of impurity and
anti-monasticism--pursues you in the very walls of a convent. The
Almighty, in my voice, bids you begone;--depart, and trouble us no
more.--Stop,” he added, as he saw I was obeying his directions
literally, “hold, the interests of religion, and of the community, have
required that I should take particular notice of the extraordinary
circumstances that have haunted your unhallowed presence within these
walls. In a short time you may expect a visit from the Bishop--prepare
yourself for it as you may.” I considered these as the final words
addressed to me, and was about to retire, when I was recalled. I was
desired to utter some words, which every one was eager to put into my
mouth, of expostulation, of remonstrance, of supplication. I resisted
them all as steadily as if I had known (which I did not) that the Bishop
had himself instituted the examination into the deranged state of the
convent; and that instead of the Superior inviting the Bishop to examine
into the cause of the disturbance in his convent, (the very last step he
would have taken), the Bishop, (a man whose character will shortly be
developed), had been apprized of the _scandal_ of the convent, and had
determined to take the matter into his own hands. Sunk in solitude and
persecution, I knew not that all Madrid was on fire,--that the Bishop
had determined to be no longer a passive hearer of the extraordinary
scenes reported to pass in the convent,--that, in a word, my _exorcism_
and my appeal were quivering in alternate scales, and that the Superior
himself doubted which way the scale might incline. All this I was
ignorant of, for no one dared to tell it to me. I therefore was about to
retire without uttering a word in answer to the many whispered speeches
to humble myself to the Superior, to implore his intercession with the
Bishop to suspend this disgraceful examination that threatened _us_ all.
I broke from them as they surrounded me; and standing calm and sullen at
the door, I threw a retorting look at them, and said, “God forgive you
all, and grant you such an acquittal at his judgment-seat, as I hesitate
not to claim at that of the Bishop-visitant.” These words, though
uttered by a ragged demoniac, (as they thought me), made them tremble.
Truth is rarely heard in convents, and therefore its language is equally
emphatical and portentous.

“The monks crossed themselves, and, as I left the apartment, repeated,
“But how then,--what if we _prevented_ this mischief?”--“By what
means?”--“By any that the interests of religion may suggest,--the
character of the convent is at stake. The Bishop is a man of a strict
and scrutinizing character,--he will keep his eyes open to the
truth,--he will inquire into facts,--what will become of us? Were it not
better that----” “What?”--“You comprehend us.”--“And if I dared to
comprehend you, _the time is too short_.”--“We have heard of the death
of maniacs being very sudden, of----” “What do you dare to hint
at?”--“Nothing, we only spoke of what every one knows, that a profound
sleep is often a restorative to lunatics. _He_ is a lunatic, as all the
convent are ready to swear,--a wretch possessed by the infernal spirit,
whom he invocates every night in his cell,--he disturbs the whole
convent by his outcries.”

“The Superior all this time walked impatiently up and down his
apartment. He entangled his fingers in his rosary,--he threw on the
monks angry looks from time to time; at last he said, “I am myself
disturbed by his cries,--his wanderings,--his undoubted commerce with
the enemy of souls. I need rest,--I require a profound sleep to repair
my exhausted spirits,--_what would you prescribe?_” Several pressed
forward, not understanding the hint, and eagerly recommended the common
opiates--Mithridate, &c. &c. An old monk whispered in his ear,
“Laudanum,--it will procure a deep and sound sleep. Try it, my father,
if you want rest; but to make the experiment sure, were it not best to
try it first on another?” The Superior nodded, and the party were about
to disperse, when the Superior caught the old monk by his habit, and
whispered, “But no murder!”--“Oh no! only profound sleep.--What matter
when he wakes? It must be to suffering in this life or the next. _We_
are not guilty in the business. What signifies a few moments sooner or
later?” The Superior was of a timid and passionate character. He still
kept hold of the monk’s habit;--he whispered, “But it must not be
known.”--“But who can know it?” At this moment the clock struck, and an
old ascetic monk, who occupied a cell adjacent to the Superior’s, and
who had accustomed himself to the exclamation, “God knoweth all things,”
whenever the clock struck, repeated it aloud. The Superior quitted his
hold of the monk’s habit,--the monk crawled to his cell _God-struck_, if
I may use the expression,--the laudanum was not administered that
night,--the voice did not return,--I slept the entire night, and the
whole convent was delivered from the harassings of the infernal spirit.
Alas! none haunted it, but that spirit which the natural _malignity of
solitude_ raises within the circle of every heart, and forces us, from
the terrible economy of misery, to feed on the vitals of others, that we
may spare our own.

“This conversation was repeated to me afterwards by a monk who was on
his dying bed. He had witnessed it, and I have no reason to doubt his
sincerity. In fact, I always considered it as rather a palliation than
an aggravation of their cruelty to me. They had made me suffer worse
than many deaths,--the single suffering would have been
instantaneous,--the single act would have been mercy. The next day the
visit of the Bishop was expected. There was an indescribable kind of
terrified preparation among the community. This house was the first in
Madrid, and the singular circumstance of the son of one of the highest
families in Spain having entered it in early youth,--having protested
against his vows in a few months,--having been accused of being in a
compact with the infernal spirit a few weeks after,--the hope of a scene
of exorcism,--the doubt of the success of my appeal,--the probable
interference of the Inquisition,--the _possible_ festival of an auto da
fe,--had set the imagination of all Madrid on fire; and never did an
audience long more for the drawing up of the curtain at a popular opera,
than the religious and irreligious of Madrid did for the developement of
the scene which was acting at the convent of the Ex-Jesuits.

“In Catholic countries, Sir, religion is the national drama; the priests
are the principal performers, the populace the audience; and whether the
piece concludes with a “Don Giovanni” plunging in flames, or the
beatification of a saint, the applause and the enjoyment is the same.

“I feared my destiny was to be the former. I knew nothing of the Bishop,
and hoped nothing from his visit; but my hopes began to rise in
proportion to the visible fears of the society. I argued, with the
natural malignity of wretchedness, “If they tremble, I may exult.” When
suffering is thus weighed against suffering, the hand is never steady;
we are always disposed to make the balance incline a little on our own
side. The Bishop came early, and passed some hours with the Superior in
his own apartment. During this interval, there was a stillness in the
house that was strongly contrasted with its previous agitation. I stood
alone in my cell,--_stood_, for I had no seat left me. I said to myself,
“This event bodes neither good or evil to me. I am not guilty of what
they accuse me of. They never can prove it,--an accomplice with
Satan!--the victim of diabolical delusion!--Alas! my only crime is my
involuntary subjection to the delusions they have practised on me. This
man, this Bishop, cannot give me freedom, but he may at least do me
justice.” All this time the community were in a fever--the character of
the house was at stake--my situation was notorious. They had laboured to
represent me as a possessed being beyond their walls, and to _make_ me
appear as one within them. The hour of trial approached. For the honour
of human nature,--from the dread of violating decency,--from the dread
of apparently violating truth, I will not attempt to relate the means
they had recourse to the morning of the Bishop’s visitation, to qualify
me to perform the part of a possessed, insane, and blasphemous wretch.
The four monks I have before mentioned, were the principal executioners,
(I must call them so).--Under pretence that there was no part of my
person which was not under the influence of the demon, * * * * * * *

“This was not enough. I was deluged almost to suffocation with
aspersions of holy water. Then followed, &c. * * * * *

“The result was, that I remained half-naked, half-drowned, gasping,
choaking, and delirious with rage, shame, and fear, when I was summoned
to attend the Bishop, who, surrounded by the Superior and the community,
awaited me in the church. This was the moment they had fixed on--I
yielded myself to them. I said, stretching out my arms, “Yes, drag me
naked, mad--religion and nature alike violated in my abused
figure--before your Bishop. If he speaks truth,--if he feels
conscience,--woe be to you, hypocritical, tyrannical wretches. You have
half-driven me mad!--half-murdered me, by the unnatural cruelties you
have exercised on me!--and in this state you drag me before the Bishop!
Be it so, I must follow you.” As I uttered these words, they bound my
arms and legs with ropes, carried me down, and placed me at the door of
the church, standing close to me. The Bishop was at the altar, the
Superior near him; the community filled the choir. They flung me down
like a heap of carrion, and retreated as if they fled from the pollution
of my touch. This sight struck the Bishop: He said, in a loud voice,
“Rise, _unhappy_, and come forward.” I answered, in a voice whose tones
appeared to thrill him, “Bid them unbind me, and I will obey you.” The
Bishop turned a cold and yet indignant look on the Superior, who
immediately approached and whispered him. This whispering consultation
was carried on for some time; but, though lying on the ground, I could
perceive the Bishop shook his head at every whisper of the Superior; and
the end of the business was an order to unbind me. I did not fare much
the better for this order, for the four monks were still close to me.
They held my arms as they led me up the steps to the altar. I was then,
for the first time, placed opposite to the Bishop. He was a man, the
effect of whose physiognomy was as indelible as that of his
character.--The one left its impress on the senses, as strongly as the
other did on the soul. He was tall, majestic, and hoary; not a feeling
agitated his frame--not a passion had left its trace on his features. He
was a marble statue of Episcopacy, chiselled out by the hand of
Catholicism,--a figure magnificent and motionless. His cold black eyes
did not seem to see you, when they were turned on you. His voice, when
it reached you, did not address _you_, but your _soul_. Such was his
exterior:--for the rest, his character was unimpeachable, his discipline
exemplary, his life that of an Anchorite hewed out in stone. But he was
partially suspected of what is called _liberality_ in opinions, (that
is, of an inclination to Protestantism), and the sanctity of his
character went bail in vain for this imputed heterodoxy, which the
Bishop could hardly redeem by his rigid cognizance of every conventual
abuse in his district, among which my convent happened to be. Such was
the man before whom I stood. At the command to unloose me, the Superior
shewed much agitation; but the command was positive, and I was released.
I was then between the four monks, who held me, and I felt that my
appearance must have justified the impression he had received. I was
ragged, famished, livid, and on fire, with the horrible treatment I had
just received. I hoped, however, that my submission to whatever was to
be performed, might, in some degree, redeem the opinion of the Bishop.
He went with evident reluctance through the forms of exorcism, which
were delivered in Latin, while all the time, the monks crossed
themselves, and the _Acolytes_ were not sparing of holy water and of
incense. Whenever the terms “diabole te adjuro” occurred, the monks who
held me twisted my arms, so that I appeared to make contortions, and
uttered cries of pain. This, at first, seemed to disturb the Bishop; but
when the form of exorcism was over, he commanded me to approach the
altar alone. I attempted to do so; but the four monks surrounding me,
made it appear an act of great difficulty. He said, “Stand apart--let
him alone.” They were compelled to obey. I advanced alone, trembling. I
knelt. The Bishop, placing his stole on my head, demanded, “Did I
believe in God, and the holy Catholic church?” Instead of answering, I
shrieked, flung off the stole, and trampled in agony on the steps of the
altar. The Bishop retreated, while the Superior and the rest advanced. I
collected courage as I saw them approach; and, without uttering a word,
pointed to the pieces of broken glass which had been thrown on the steps
where I stood, and which had pierced me through my torn sandals. The
Bishop instantly ordered a monk to sweep them away with the sleeve of
his tunic. The order was obeyed in a moment, and the next I stood before
him without fear or pain. He continued to ask, “Why do you not pray in
the church?”--“Because its doors are shut against me.”--“How? what is
this? A memorial is in my hands urging many complaints against you, and
this among the first, that you do not pray in the church.”--“I have told
you the doors of the church are shut against me.--Alas! I could no more
open them, than I could open the hearts of the community--every thing is
shut against me here.” He turned to the Superior, who answered, “The
doors of the church are always shut to the enemies of God.” The Bishop
said, with his usual stern calmness, “I am asking a plain
question--evasive and circuitous answers will not do. Have the doors of
the church been shut against this wretched being?--have you denied him
the privilege of addressing God?”--“I did so, because I thought and
believed--” “I ask not what you thought or believed; I ask a plain
answer to a matter-of-fact question. Did you, or did you not, deny him
access to the house of God?”--“I had reason to believe that--” “I warn
you, these answers may compel me to make you exchange situations in one
moment with the object you accuse. Did you, or did you not, shut the
doors of the church against him?--answer yes or no.” The Superior,
trembling with fear and rage, said, “I did; and I was justified in doing
so.”--“That is for another tribunal to judge. But it seems you plead
guilty to the fact of which you accuse him.” The Superior was dumb. The
Bishop then examining his paper, addressed me again, “How is it that the
monks cannot sleep in their cells from the disturbance you cause?”--“I
know not--you must ask them.”--“Does not the evil spirit visit you
nightly? Are not your blasphemies, your execrable impurities, disgorged
even in the ears of those who have the misfortune to be placed near you?
Are you not the terror and the torment of the whole community?” I
answered, “I am what they have made me. I do not deny there are
extraordinary noises in my cell, but they can best account for them. I
am assailed by whispers close to my bed-side: It seems these whispers
reach the ears of the brethren, for they burst into my cell, and take
advantage of the terror with which I am overwhelmed, to put the most
incredible constructions on it.”--“Are there no cries, then, heard in
your cell at night?”--“Yes, cries of terror--cries uttered not by one
who is celebrating infernal orgies, but dreading them.”--“But the
blasphemies, the imprecations, the impurities, which proceed from your
lips?”--“Sometimes, in irrepressible terror, I have repeated the sounds
that were suggested to my ears; but it was always with an exclamation of
horror and aversion, that proved these sounds were not _uttered_ but
_echoed_ by me,--as a man may take up a reptile in his hand, and gaze on
its hideousness a moment, before he flings it from him. I take the whole
community to witness the truth of this. The cries I uttered, the
expressions I used, were evidently those of hostility to the infernal
suggestions which had been breathed into my ears. Ask the whole
community--they must testify, that when they broke into my cell, they
found me alone, trembling, convulsed. That I was the victim of those
disturbances, they affected to complain of; and though I never was able
to guess the means by which this persecution was effected, I am not rash
in ascribing it to the hands that covered the walls of my cell with
representations of demons, the traces of which still remain.”--“You are
also accused of having burst into the church at midnight, defaced the
images, trampled on the crucifix, and performed all the acts of a demon
violating the sanctuary.” At this accusation, so unjust and cruel, I was
agitated beyond controul. I exclaimed, “I flew to the church for
protection in a paroxysm of terror, which their machinations had filled
me with! I flew there at night, because it was shut against me during
the day, as you have discovered! I prostrated myself before the cross,
instead of trampling on it! I embraced the images of the blessed saints,
instead of violating them! And I doubt whether prayers more sincere were
ever offered within these walls, than those I uttered that night amid
helplessness, terror, and persecutions!”--“Did you not obstruct and
deter the community next morning by your cries, as they attempted to
enter the church?”--“I was paralyzed from the effects of lying all night
on the stone pavement, where they had flung me. I attempted to rise and
crawl away at their approach, and a few cries of pain were extorted from
me by my efforts to do so--efforts rendered more painful by their
refusing to offer me the slightest assistance. In a word, the whole is a
fabrication. I flew to the church to implore for mercy, and they
represent it as the outrages of an apostate spirit. Might not the same
arbitrary and absurd construction be put on the daily visits of
multitudes of afflicted souls, who weep and groan audibly as I did? If I
attempted to overturn the crucifix, to deface the images, would not the
marks of this violence remain? Would they not have been preserved with
care, to substantiate the accusation against me? Is there a trace of
them?--there is not, there cannot be, because they never existed.” The
Bishop paused. An appeal to his feelings would have been vain, but this
appeal to facts had its full effect. After some time, he said, “You can
have no objection, then, to render before the whole community the same
homage to the representations of the Redeemer and the holy saints, that
you say it was your purpose to render them that night?”--“None.” A
crucifix was brought me, which I kissed with reverence and unction, and
prayed, while the tears streamed from my eyes, an interest in the
infinite merits of the sacrifice it represented. The Bishop then said,
“Make a deed of faith, of love, of hope.” I did so; and though they were
extempore, my expressions, I could perceive, made the dignified
ecclesiastics who attended on the Bishop, cast on each other looks in
which were mingled compassion, interest, and admiration. The Bishop
said, “Where did you learn those prayers?”--“My heart is my only
teacher--I have no other--I am allowed no book.”--“How!--recollect what
you say.”--“I repeat I have none. They have taken away my breviary, my
crucifix;--they have stript my cell of all its furniture. I kneel on the
floor--I pray from the heart. If you deign to visit my cell, you will
find I have told you the truth.” At these words, the Bishop cast a
terrible look on the Superior. He recovered himself, however,
immediately, for he was a man unaccustomed to any emotion, and felt it
at once a suspension of his habits, and an infringement of his rank. In
a cold voice he bid me retire; then, as I was obeying him, he recalled
me,--my appearance for the first time seemed to strike him. He was a man
so absorbed in the contemplation of that waveless and frozen tide of
duty in which his mind was anchored, without fluctuation, progress, or
improvement, that physical objects must be presented before him a long
time before they made the least impression on him,--his senses were
almost ossified. Thus he had come to examine a supposed demoniac; but he
had made up his mind that there must be injustice and imposture in the
case, and he acted in the matter with a spirit, decision, and integrity,
that did him honour.

“But, all the time, the horror and misery of my appearance, which would
have made the first impression on a man whose feelings were at all
_external_, made the last. They struck him as I slowly and painfully
crawled from the steps of the altar, and the impression was forcible in
proportion to its slowness. He called me back and inquired, as if he saw
me for the first time, “How is it your habit is so scandalously ragged?”
At these words I thought I could disclose a scene that would have added
to the Superior’s humiliation, but I only said, “It is the consequence
of the ill treatment I have experienced.” Several other questions of the
same kind, relating to my appearance, which was deplorable enough,
followed, and at last I was forced to make a full discovery. The Bishop
was incensed at the detail more than was credible. Rigid minds, when
they yield themselves to emotion, do it with a vehemence inconceivable,
for to them every thing is a duty, and passion (when it occurs) among
the rest. Perhaps the novelty of emotion, too, may be a delightful
surprise to them.

“More than all this was the case now with the good Bishop, who was as
pure as he was rigid, and shrunk with horror, disgust, and indignation,
at the detail I was compelled to give, which the Superior trembled at my
uttering, and which the community dared not to contradict. He resumed
his cold manner; for to him feeling was an effort, and rigour a habit,
and he ordered me again to retire. I obeyed, and went to my cell. The
walls were as bare as I had described them, but, even contrasted with
all the splendour and array of the scene in the church, they seemed
emblazoned with my triumph. A dazzling vision passed before me for a
moment, then all subsided; and, in the solitude of my cell, I knelt and
implored the Almighty to touch the Bishop’s heart, and impress on him
the moderation and simplicity with which I had spoken. As I was thus
employed, I heard steps in the passage. They ceased for a moment, and I
was silent. It appeared the persons overheard me, and paused; and these
few words, uttered in solitude, made, I found, a deep impression on
them. A few moments after the Bishop, with some dignified attendants,
followed by the Superior, entered my cell. The former all stopped,
horror-struck at its appearance.

“I have told you, Sir, that my cell now consisted of four bare walls and
a bed;--it was a scandalous, degrading sight. I was kneeling in the
middle of the floor, God knows, without the least idea of producing an
effect. The Bishop gazed around him for some time, while the
ecclesiastics who attended him testified their horror by looks and
attitudes that needed no interpretation. The Bishop, after a pause,
turned to the Superior, “Well, what do you say to this?” The Superior
hesitated, and at last said, “I was ignorant of this.”--“That is false,”
said the Bishop; “and even if it was true, it would be your crimination,
not your apology. Your duty binds you to visit the cells every day; how
could you be ignorant of the shameful state of this cell, without
neglecting your own duties?” He took several turns about the cell,
followed by the ecclesiastics, shrugging their shoulders, and throwing
on each other looks of disgust. The Superior stood dismayed. They went
out, and I could hear the Bishop say, in the passage, “All this disorder
must be rectified before I quit the house.” And to the Superior, “You
are unworthy of the situation you hold,--you ought to be deposed.” And
he added in severer tones, “Catholics, monks, Christians, this is
shocking,--horrible! tremble for the consequences of my next visit, if
the same disorders exist,--I promise you it shall be repeated soon.” He
then returned, and standing at the door of my cell, said to the
Superior, “Take care that all the abuses committed in this cell are
rectified before to-morrow morning.” The Superior signified his
submission to this order in silence.

“That evening I went to sleep on a bare mattress, between four dry
walls. I slept profoundly, from exhaustion and fatigue. I awoke in the
morning far beyond the time for matins, and found myself surrounded by
all the comforts that can be bestowed on a cell. As if magic had been
employed during my sleep, crucifix, breviary, desk, table, every thing
was replaced. I sprung from bed, and actually gazed in extasy around my
cell. As the day advanced, and the hour for refection approached, my
extasy abated, and my terrors increased;--it is not easy to pass from
extreme humiliation and utter abhorrence, to your former state in the
society of which you are a member. When the bell rung I went down. I
stood at the door for a moment,--then, with an impulse, like despair, I
entered, and took my usual place. No opposition was made,--not a word
was said. The community separated after dinner. I watched for the toll
of the bell for vespers,--I imagined that would be decisive. The bell
tolled at last,--the monks assembled. I joined them without
opposition,--I took my place in the choir,--my triumph was complete, and
I trembled at it. Alas! in what moment of success do we not feel a
sensation of terror? Our destiny always acts the part of the ancient
slave to us, who was required every morning to remind the monarch that
he was a man; and it seldom neglects to fulfil its own predictions
before the evening. Two days passed away,--the storm that had so long
agitated us, seemed to have sunk into a sudden calm. I resumed my former
place,--I performed the customary duties,--no one congratulated or
reviled me. They all seemed to consider me as one beginning monastic
life _de novo_. I passed two days of perfect tranquillity, and I take
God to witness, I enjoyed this triumph with moderation. I never reverted
to my former situation,--I never reproached those who had been agents in
it,--I never uttered a syllable on the subject of the visitation, which
had made me and the whole convent change places in the space of a few
hours, and the oppressed take the part (if he pleased) of the oppressor.
I bore my success with temperance, for I was supported by the hope of
liberation. The Superior’s triumph was soon to come.

“On the third morning I was summoned to the parlour, where a messenger
put into my hands a packet, containing (as I well understood) the result
of my appeal. This, according to the rules of the convent, I was
compelled to put first into the hands of the Superior to read, before I
was permitted to read it myself. I took the packet, and slowly walked to
the Superior’s apartment. As I held it in my hand, I considered it, felt
every corner, weighed it over and over again in my hand, tried to catch
an omen from its very shape. Then a withering thought crossed me, that,
if its intelligence was auspicious, the messenger would have put it into
my hands with an air of triumph, that, in spite of convent etiquette, I
might break open the seals which inclosed the sentence of my liberation.
We are very apt to take our presages from our destination, and mine
being that of a monk, no wonder its auguries were black,--and were

“I approached the Superior’s cell with the packet. I knocked, was
desired to enter, and, my eyes cast down, could only distinguish the
hems of many habits, whose wearers were all assembled in the Superior’s
apartment. I offered the packet with reverence. The Superior cast a
careless eye over it, and then flung it on the floor. One of the monks
approached to take it up. The Superior exclaimed, “Hold, let _him_ take
it up.” I did so, and retired to my cell, making first a profound
reverence to the Superior. I then went to my cell, where I sat down with
the fatal packet in my hands. I was about to open it, when a voice from
within me seemed to say,--It is useless, you must know the contents
already. It was some hours before I perused it,--it contained the
account of the failure of my appeal. It seemed, from the detail, that
the advocate had exerted his abilities, zeal, and eloquence to the
utmost; and that, at one time, the court had been near deciding in
favour of my claims, but the precedent was reckoned too dangerous. The
advocate on the other side had remarked, “If this succeeds, we shall
have all the monks in Spain appealing against their vows.” Could a
stronger argument have been used in favour of my cause? An impulse so
universal must surely originate in nature, justice, and truth.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

On reverting to the disastrous issue of his appeal, the unfortunate
Spaniard was so much overcome, that it was some days before he could
resume his narrative.


    Pandere res alta terrâ et caligine mersas.

    I’ll shew your Grace the strangest sight,--
    Body o’me, what is it, Butts?--


“Of the desolation of mind into which the rejection of my appeal plunged
me, I can give no account, for I retain no distinguishing image. All
colours disappear in the night, and despair has no diary,--monotony is
her essence and her curse. Hours have I walked in the garden, without
retaining a single impression but that of the sounds of my
footsteps;--thought, feeling, passion, and all that employs them,--life
and futurity, extinct and swallowed up. I was already like an inhabitant
of the land where “all things are forgotten.” I hovered on the regions
of mental twilight, where the “light is as darkness.” The clouds were
gathering that portended the approach of utter night,--they were
scattered by a sudden and extraordinary light.

“The garden was my constant resort,--a kind of instinct supplying the
place of that choice I had no longer energy enough to make, directed me
there to avoid the presence of the monks. One evening I saw a change in
its appearance. The fountain was out of repair. The spring that supplied
it was beyond the walls of the convent, and the workmen, in prosecuting
the repairs, had found it necessary to excavate a passage under the
garden-wall, that communicated with an open space in the city. This
passage, however, was closely watched during the day while the workmen
were employed, and well secured at night by a door erected for the
purpose, which was chained, barred, and bolted, the moment the workmen
quitted the passage. It was, however, left open during the day; and this
tantalizing image of escape and freedom, amid the withering certainty of
eternal imprisonment, gave a kind of awakened sting to the pains that
were becoming obtuse. I entered the passage, and drew as close as
possible to the door that shut me out from life. My seat was one of the
stones that were scattered about, my head rested on my hand, and my eyes
were sadly fixed on the _tree and the well_, the scene of that false
miracle. I knew not how long I sat thus. I was aroused by a slight noise
near me, and perceived a paper, which some one was thrusting under the
door, where a slight inequality in the ground rendered the attempt just
practicable. I stooped and attempted to seize it. It was withdrawn; but
a moment after a voice, whose tones my agitation did not permit me to
distinguish, whispered, “Alonzo.”--“Yes,--yes,” I answered eagerly. The
paper was instantly thrust into my hands, and I heard a sound of steps
retreating rapidly. I lost not a moment in reading the few words it
contained. “Be here to-morrow evening at the same hour. I have suffered
much on your account,--destroy this.” It was the hand of my brother
Juan, that hand so well remembered from our late eventful
correspondence,--that hand whose traces I never beheld without feeling
corresponding characters of hope and confidence retraced in my soul, as
lines before invisible appear on exposure to the heat that seems to
vivify them. I am surprised that between this and the following evening
my agitation did not betray me to the community. But perhaps it is only
agitation arising from frivolous causes, that vents itself in external
indications,--I was absorbed in mine. It is certain, at least, that my
mind was all that day vacillating like a clock that struck every minute
the alternate sounds, “_There is hope,--there is no hope._” The
day,--the eternal day, was at last over. Evening came on; how I watched
the advancing shades! At vespers, with what delight did I trace the
gradual mellowing of the gold and purple tinges that gleamed through the
great eastern window, and calculated that their western decline, though
slower, must come at last!--It came. Never was a more propitious
evening. It was calm and dark--the garden deserted, not a form to be
seen, not a step to be heard in the walks.--I hurried on. Suddenly I
thought I heard the sound of something pursuing me. I paused,--it was
but the beating of my own heart, audible in the deep stillness of that
eventful moment. I pressed my hand on my breast, as a mother would on an
infant whom she tried to pacify;--it did not cease to throb, however. I
entered the passage. I approached the door, of which hope and despair
seemed to stand the alternate portresses. The words still rung in my
ears, “Be here to-morrow evening at the same hour.” I stooped, and saw,
with eyes that devoured the sight, a piece of paper appear under the
door. I seized and buried it in my habit. I trembled with such ecstacy,
that I thought I never should be able to carry it undiscovered to my
cell. I succeeded, however; and the contents, when I read them,
justified my emotion. To my unspeakable uneasiness, great part of it was
illegible, from being crushed amid the stones and damp clay contiguous
to the door, and from the first page I could hardly extract that he had
been kept in the country almost a prisoner, through the influence of the
Director; that one day, while shooting with only one attendant, the hope
of liberation suddenly filled him with the idea of terrifying this man
into submission. Presenting his loaded fowling piece at the terrified
wretch, he threatened him with instant death, if he made the least
opposition. The man suffered himself to be bound to a tree; and the next
page, though much defaced, gave me to understand he had reached Madrid
in safety, and heard for the first time the event of my ill-fated
appeal. The effect of this intelligence on the impetuous, sanguine, and
affectionate Juan, could be easily traced in the broken and irregular
lines in which he vainly attempted to describe it. The letter then
proceeded. “I am now in Madrid, pledged body and soul never to quit it
till you are liberated. If you possess resolution, this is not
impossible,--the doors even of convents are not inaccessible to a silver
key. My first object, that of obtaining a communication with you,
appeared as impracticable as your escape, yet it has been accomplished.
I understood that repairs were going on in the garden, and stationed
myself at the door evening after evening, whispering your name, but it
was not till the sixth that you were there.”

“In another part he detailed his plans more fully. “Money and secrecy
are the primary objects,--the latter I can insure by the disguises I
wear, but the former I scarce know how to obtain. My escape was so
sudden, that I was wholly unprovided, and have been obliged to dispose
of my watch and rings since I reached Madrid, to purchase disguises and
procure subsistence. I could command what sums I pleased by disclosing
my name, but this would be fatal. The report of my being in Madrid would
immediately reach my father’s ears. My resource must be a Jew; and when
I have obtained money, I have little doubt of effecting your liberation.
I have already heard of a person in the convent under very extraordinary
circumstances, who would probably not be disinclined to * * * * * * *

“Here a long interval occurred in the letter, which appeared to be
written at different times. The next lines that I could trace, expressed
all the light-heartedness of this most fiery, volatile, and generous of
created beings. * * * * * *

“Be not under the least uneasiness about me, it is impossible that I
should be discovered. At school I was remarkable for a dramatic talent,
a power of personation almost incredible, and which I now find of
infinite service. Sometimes I strut as a _Majo_(4), with enormous
whiskers. Sometimes I assume the accent of a Biscayan, and, like the
husband of Donna Rodriguez, “am as good a gentleman as the king, because
I came from the mountains.” But my favourite disguise is that of a
mendicant or a fortune-teller,--the former procures me access to the
convent, the other money and intelligence. Thus I am paid, while I
appear to be the buyer. When the wanderings and stratagems of the day
are over, you would smile to see the loft and pallet to which the heir
of Monçada retires. This masquerade amuses _me_ more than the
spectators. A consciousness of our superiority is often more delightful
when confined to our own breasts, than when expressed by others.
Besides, I feel as if the squalid bed, the tottering seat, the cobwebbed
rafters, the rancid oil, and all the other _agremens_ of my new abode,
were a kind of atonement for the wrongs I have done you, Alonzo. My
spirits sometimes sink under privations so new to me, but still a kind
of playful and wild energy, peculiar to my character, supports me. I
shudder at my situation when I retire at night, and place, for the first
time _with my own hands_, the lamp on the miserable hearth; but I laugh
when, in the morning, I attire myself in fantastic rags, discolour my
face, and modulate my accent, so that the people in the house, (where I
tenant a garret), when they meet me on the stairs, do not know the being
they saw the preceding evening. I change my abode and costume every day.
Feel no fears for me, but come every evening to the door in the passage,
for every evening I shall have fresh intelligence for you. My industry
is indefatigable, my zeal unquenchable, my heart and soul are on fire in
the cause. Again I pledge myself, soul and body, never to quit this spot
till you are free,--_depend on me, Alonzo_.”

  (4) Something between a bully and a rake.

“I will spare you, Sir, the detail of the feelings,--feelings! Oh my
God, pardon me the prostration of heart with which I kissed those lines,
with which I could have consecrated the hand that traced them, and which
are worthy only to be devoted to the image of the great Sacrifice. Yet a
being so young, so generous, so devoted, with a heart at once so wild
and warm, sacrificing all that rank, and youth, and pleasure could
offer,--submitting to the vilest disguises, undergoing the most
deplorable privations, struggling with what must have been most
intolerable to a proud voluptuous boy, (and I knew he was all this),
hiding his revoltings under a gaiety that was assumed, and a magnanimity
that was real--and all this for me!----Oh what I felt! * * * * * *

“The next evening I was at the door; no paper appeared, though I sat
watching for it till the declining light made it impossible for me to
discover it, had it been there. The next I was more fortunate; it
appeared. The same disguised voice whispered “Alonzo,” in tones that
were the sweetest music that ever reached my ears. This billet contained
but a very few lines, (so I found no difficulty in _swallowing it_
immediately after perusal). It said, “I have found a Jew, at last, who
will advance me a large sum. He pretends not to know me, though I am
satisfied he does.--But his usurious interest and illegal practices are
my full security. I shall be master of the means of liberating you in a
few days; and I have been fortunate enough to discover how those means
may be applied. There is a wretch----”

“Here the billet ended; and for four following evenings the state of the
repairs excited so much curiosity in the convent, (where it is so easy
to excite curiosity), that I dared not to remain in the passage, without
the fear of exciting suspicion. All this time I suffered not only the
agony of suspended hope, but the dread of this accidental communication
being finally closed; for I knew the workmen could not have more than a
few days to employ on their task. This I conveyed the intelligence of to
my brother in the same way in which I received his billets. Then I
reproached myself for hurrying him. I reflected on the difficulties of
his concealment--of his dealing with Jews--of his bribing the servants
of the convent. I thought of all he had undertaken, and all he had
undergone. Then I dreaded that all might be in vain. I would not live
over those four days again to be sovereign of the earth. I will give you
one slight proof of what I must have felt, when I heard the workmen say,
“It will be finished soon.” I used to rise at an hour before matins,
displace the stones, trample on the mortar, which I mingled with the
clay, so as to render it totally useless; and finally, _re-act
Penelope’s web_ with such success, that the workmen believed the devil
himself was obstructing their operations, and latterly never came to
their task unless armed with a vessel of holy water, which they dashed
about with infinite sanctimony and profusion. On the fifth evening I
caught the following lines beneath the door. “All is settled--I have
fixed the Jew on _Jewish terms_. He affects to be ignorant of my real
rank, and certain (_future_) wealth, but he knows it all, and dare not,
for his own sake, betray me. The Inquisition, to which I could expose
him in a moment, is my best security--I must add, my _only_. There is a
wretch in your convent, who took sanctuary from _parricide_, and
consented to become a monk, to escape the vengeance of heaven in this
life at least. I have heard, that this monster cut his own father’s
throat, as he sat at supper, to obtain a small sum which he had lost at
gambling. His partner, who was a loser also, had, it seems, made a vow
to an image of the Virgin, that was in the neighbourhood of the wretched
house where they gamed, to present two wax tapers before it in the event
of his success. He lost; and, in the fury of a gamester, as he repassed
the image, he struck and spit at it. This was very shocking--but what
was it to the crime of him who is now an inmate of your convent? The one
defaced an image, the other murdered his father: Yet the former expired
under tortures the most horrible, and the other, after some vain efforts
to elude justice, _took sanctuary_, and is now a lay-brother in your
convent. On the crimes of this wretch I build all my hopes. His soul
must be saturated with avarice, sensuality, and desperation. There is
nothing he will hesitate at if he be bribed;--for money he will
undertake your liberation--for money he will undertake to strangle you
in your cell. He envies Judas the thirty pieces of silver for which the
Redeemer of mankind was sold. _His_ soul might be purchased at
half-price. Such is the instrument with which I must work.--It is
horrible, but necessary. I have read, that from the most venomous
reptiles and plants, have been extracted the most sanative medicines. I
will squeeze the juice, and trample on the weed.

“Alonzo, tremble not at these words. Let not your habits prevail over
your character. Entrust your liberation to me, and the instruments I am
compelled to work with; and doubt not, that the hand which traces these
lines, will soon be clasping that of a brother in freedom.”

“I read these lines over and over again in the solitude of my cell, when
the excitement of watching for, secreting, and perusing it _for the
first time_, were over, and many doubts and fears began to gather round
me like twilight clouds. In proportion as Juan’s confidence increased,
mine appeared to diminish. There was a terrifying contrast between the
fearlessness, independence, and enterprise of _his_ situation, and the
loneliness, timidity, and danger of mine. While the hope of escape,
through his courage and address, still burnt like an inextinguishable
light in the depth of my heart, I still dreaded entrusting my destiny to
a youth so impetuous, though so affectionate; one who had fled from his
parents’ mansion, was living by subterfuge and imposture in Madrid, and
had engaged, as his coadjutor, a wretch whom nature must revolt from.
Upon whom and what did my hopes of liberation rest? On the affectionate
energies of a wild, enterprising, and unaided being, and the
co-operation of a demon, who might snatch at a bribe, and then shake it
in triumph in his ears, as the seal of our mutual and eternal despair,
while he flung the key of liberation into an abyss where no light could
penetrate, and from which no arm could redeem it.

“Under these impressions, I deliberated, I prayed, I wept in the agony
of doubt. At last I wrote a few lines to Juan, in which I honestly
stated my doubts and apprehensions. I stated first my doubts of the
possibility of my escape. I said, “Can it be imagined that a being whom
all Madrid, whom all Spain, is on the watch for, can elude their
detection? Reflect, dear Juan, that I am staked against a community, a
priesthood, a nation. The escape of a monk is almost impossible,--but
his concealment afterwards is downright impossible. Every bell in every
convent in Spain would ring out _untouched_ in pursuit of the fugitive.
The military, civil, and ecclesiastical powers, would all be on the “qui
vive.” Hunted, panting, and despairing, I might fly from place to
place--no place affording me shelter. The incensed powers of the
church--the fierce and vigorous gripe of the law--the execration and
hatred of society--the suspicions of the lowest order among whom I must
lurk, to shun and curse their penetration; think of encountering all
this, while the fiery cross of the Inquisition blazes in the van,
followed by the whole pack, shouting, cheering, hallooing on to the
prey. Oh Juan! if you knew the terrors under which I live--under which I
would rather die than encounter them again, even on the condition of
liberation! Liberation! Great God! what chance of liberation for a monk
in Spain? There is not a cottage where I could rest one night in
security--there is not a cavern whose echoes would not resound to the
cry of my apostacy. If I was hid in the bowels of the earth, they would
discover me, and tear me from its entrails. My beloved Juan, when I
consider the omnipotence of the ecclesiastical power in Spain, may I not
address it in the language applied to Omnipotence itself: “If I climb up
to heaven, thou art _there_;--if I go down to hell, thou art _there_
also;--if I take the wings of the morning, and flee unto the _uttermost
parts of the sea_, _even there_--” And suppose my liberation was
accomplished--suppose the convent plunged in a profound torpor, and the
unsleeping eye of the Inquisition winked at my apostacy--where am I to
reside? how am I to procure subsistence? The luxurious indolence of my
early years unfit me for active employment. The horrible conflict of
apathy the deepest, with hostility the most deadly, in monastic life,
disqualifies me for society. Throw the doors of every convent in Spain
open, and for what will their inmates be fit? For nothing that will
either embellish or improve it. What could I do to serve myself?--what
could I do that would not betray me? I should be a persecuted,
breathless fugitive,--a branded _Cain_. Alas!--perhaps expiring in
flames, I might see _Abel_ not _my_ victim, but that of the

“When I had written these lines, with an impulse for which all can
account but the writer, I tore them to atoms, burnt them deliberately by
the assistance of the lamp in my cell, and went to watch again at the
door in the passage--the door of hope. In passing through the gallery, I
encountered, for a moment, a person of a most forbidding aspect. I drew
on one side--for I had made it a point not to mix, in the slightest
degree, with the community, beyond what the discipline of the house
compelled me to. As he passed, however, he touched my habit, and gave a
most significant look. I immediately comprehended this was the person
Juan alluded to in his letter. And in a few moments after, on descending
to the garden, I found a note that confirmed my conjectures. It
contained these words: “I have procured the money--I have secured our
agent. He is an incarnate devil, but his resolution and intrepidity are
unquestionable. Walk in the cloister to-morrow evening--some one will
touch your habit--grasp his left wrist, that will be the signal. If he
hesitates, whisper to him--“Juan,” he will answer--“Alonzo.” That is
your man, consult with him. Every step that I have taken will be
communicated to you by him.”

“After reading these lines, I appeared to myself like a piece of
mechanism wound up to perform certain functions, in which its
co-operation was irresistible. The precipitate vigour of Juan’s
movements seemed to impel mine without my own concurrence; and as the
shortness of the time left me no opportunity for deliberation, it left
me also none for choice. I was like a clock whose hands are pushed
forward, and I struck the hours I was impelled to strike. When a
powerful agency is thus exercised on us,--when another undertakes to
think, feel, and act for us, we are delighted to transfer to him, not
only our physical, but our moral responsibility. We say, with selfish
cowardice, and self-flattering passiveness, “Be it so--you have decided
for me,”--without reflecting that at the bar of God there is no bail. So
I walked the next evening in the cloister. I composed my habit,--my
looks; any one would have imagined me plunged in profound
meditation,--and so I was, but not on the subjects with which they
conceived I was occupied. As I walked, some one touched my habit. I
started, and, to my consternation, one of the monks asked my pardon for
the sleeve of his tunic having touched mine. Two minutes after another
touched my habit. I felt the difference,--there was an intelligential
and communicative force in his grasp. He seized it as one who did not
fear to be known, and who had no need to apologise. How is it that crime
thus seizes us in life with a fearless grasp, while the touch of
conscience trembles on the verge of our garment. One would almost parody
the words of the well known Italian proverb, and say that guilt is
masculine, and innocence feminine. _I grasped his wrist_ with a
trembling hand, and whispered--“Juan,” in the same breath. He
answered--“Alonzo,” and passed me onward in a moment. I had then a few
moments leisure to reflect on a destiny thus singularly entrusted to a
being whose affections honoured humanity, and a being whose crimes
disgraced it. I was suspended like Mahomet’s tomb between heaven and
earth. I felt an antipathy indescribable to hold any communication with
a monster who had tried to hide the stains of parricide, by casting over
their bloody and ineffaceable traces the shroud of monasticism. I felt
also an inexpressible terror of Juan’s passions and precipitancy; and I
felt ultimately that I was in the power of all I dreaded most, and must
submit to the operation of that power for my liberation.

“I was in the cloisters the following evening. I cannot say I walked
with a step so equal, but I am sure I did with a step much more
artificially regular. For the second time the same person touched my
habit, and whispered the name of Juan. After this I could no longer
hesitate. I said, in passing, “I am in your power.” A hoarse repulsive
voice answered, “No, I am in yours.” I murmured, “Well, then, I
understand you, we belong to each other.”--“Yes. We must not speak here,
but a fortunate opportunity presents itself for our communication.
To-morrow will be the eve of the feast of Pentecost; the vigil is kept
by the whole community, who go two and two every hour to the altar, pass
their hour in prayer, and then are succeeded by two more, and this
continues all night. Such is the aversion with which you have inspired
the community, that they have one and all refused to accompany you
during your hour, which is to be from two till three. You will therefore
be alone, and during your hour I will come and visit you,--we shall be
undisturbed and unsuspected.” At these words he quitted me. The next
night was the eve of Pentecost, the monks went two and two all night to
the altar,--at two o’clock my turn arrived. They rapped at my cell, and
I descended to the church alone.”


    Ye monks and nuns throughout the land,
      Who go to church at night in pairs,
    Never take bell-ropes in your hands,
      To raise you up again from prayers.


“I am not superstitious, but, as I entered the church, I felt a chill of
body and soul inexpressible. I approached the altar, and attempted to
kneel,--an invisible hand repelled me. A voice seemed to address me from
the recesses of the altar, and demand what brought me there? I reflected
that those who had just quitted that spot had been absorbed in prayer,
that those who were to succeed me would be engaged in the same profound
homage, while I sought the church with a purpose of imposture and
deception, and abused the hour allotted to the divine worship in
contriving the means to escape from it. I felt I was a deceiver,
shrouding my fraud in the very veils of the temple. I trembled at my
purpose and at myself. I knelt, however, though I did not dare to pray.
The steps of the altar felt unusually cold,--I shuddered at the silence
I was compelled to observe. Alas! how can we expect that object to
succeed, which we dare not entrust to God. Prayer, Sir, when we are
deeply engaged in it, not only makes us eloquent, but communicates a
kind of answering eloquence to the objects around us. At former times,
while I poured out my heart before God, I felt as if the lamps burnt
brighter, and the images smiled,--the silent midnight air was filled
with forms and voices, and every breeze that sighed by the casement bore
to my ear the harpings of a thousand angels. Now all was stilled,--the
lamps, the images, the altar, the roof, seemed to behold me in silence.
They surrounded me like witnesses, whose presence alone is enough to
condemn you, without their uttering a word. I dared not look up,--I
dared not speak,--I dared not pray, lest it would unfold a thought I
could not supplicate a blessing on; and this kind of keeping a secret,
which God must know, is at once so vain and impious.

“I had not remained long in this state of agitation, when I heard a step
approach,--it was that of him I expected. “Rise,” said he, for I was on
my knees; “rise,--we have no time to lose. You have but an hour to
remain in the church, and I have much to tell you in that hour.” I rose.
“To-morrow night is fixed for your escape.”--“To-morrow night,--merciful
God!”--“Yes; in desperate steps there is always more danger from delay
than from precipitation. A thousand eyes and ears are on the watch
already,--a single sinister or ambiguous movement would render it
impossible to escape their vigilance. There may be some danger in
hastening matters thus, but it is unavoidable. To-morrow night, after
midnight, descend to the church, it is probable no one will then be
here. If any one should, (engaged in recollection or in penance), retire
to avoid suspicion. Return as soon as the church is empty,--I will be
here. Do you observe that door?” and he pointed to a low door which I
had often observed before, but never remembered to have seen opened; “I
have obtained the key of that door,--no matter by what means. It
formerly led to the vaults of the convent, but, for some extraordinary
reasons, which I have not time to relate, another passage has been
opened, and the former has not been employed or frequented for many
years. From thence branches another passage, which, I have heard, opens
by a trap-door into the garden.”--“Heard,” I repeated; “Good God! is it
on report, then, you depend in a matter so momentous? If you are not
certain that such a passage exists, and that you will be able to trace
its windings, may we not be wandering amid them all night? Or
perhaps----” “Interrupt me no more with those faint objections; I have
no time to listen to fears which I can neither sympathise with or
obviate. When we get through the trap-door into the garden, (if ever we
do), another danger awaits us.” He paused, I thought, like a man who is
watching the effect of the terrors he excites, not from malignity but
vanity, merely to magnify his own courage in encountering them. I was
silent; and, as he heard neither flattery nor fear, he went on. “Two
fierce dogs are let loose in the garden every night,--but they must be
taken care of. The wall is sixteen feet high,--but your brother has
provided a ladder of ropes, which he will fling over, and by which you
may descend on the other side in safety.”--“Safety! but then Juan will
be in danger.”--“Interrupt me no more,--the danger within the walls is
the least you have to dread, beyond them, where can you seek for refuge
or secrecy? Your brother’s money will enable you possibly to escape from
Madrid. He will bribe high, and every inch of your way must be paved
with his gold. But, after that, so many dangers present themselves, that
the enterprise and the danger seem but just begun. How will you cross
the Pyrennees? How----” and he passed his hand over his forehead, with
the air of a man engaged in an effort beyond his powers, and sorely
perplexed about the means to effect it. This expression, so full of
sincerity, struck me forcibly. It operated as a balance against all my
former prepossessions. But still the more confidence I felt in him, the
more I was impressed by his fears. I repeated after him, “How is it
possible for me to escape ultimately? I may, by your assistance,
traverse those intricate passages, whose cold dews I feel already
distilling on me. I may emerge into light, ascend and descend the wall,
but, after that, how am I to escape?--how am I even to live? All Spain
is but one great monastery,--I must be a prisoner every step that I
take.”--“Your brother must look to that,” said he abruptly; “I have done
what I have undertaken.” I then pressed him with several questions
relating to the details of my escape. His answer was monotonous,
unsatisfactory, and evasive, to a degree that again filled me first with
suspicion, and then with terror. I asked, “But how have you obtained
possession of the keys?”--“It is not your business to inquire.” It was
singular that he returned the same answer to every question I put to
him, relative to his becoming possessed of the means to facilitate my
escape, so that I was compelled to desist unsatisfied, and revert to
what he had told me.--“But, then, that terrible passage near the
vaults,--the chance, the fear that we may never emerge to light! Think
of wandering amid sepulchral ruins, of stumbling over the bones of the
dead, of encountering what I cannot describe,--the horror of being among
those who are neither the living or the dead;--those dark and shadowless
things that sport themselves with the reliques of the dead, and feast
and love amid corruption,--ghastly, mocking, and terrific. _Must_ we
pass near the vaults?”--“What matter? perhaps I have more reason to
dread them than you. Do _you_ expect the spirit of your father to start
from the earth to blast you?” At these words, which he uttered in a tone
intended to inspire me with confidence, I shuddered with horror. They
were uttered by a parricide, boasting of his crime in a church at
midnight, amid saints, whose images were silent, but seemed to tremble.
For relief I reverted to the unscaleable wall, and the difficulty of
managing the ladder of ropes without detection. The same answer was on
his lips,--“Leave that to me,--all that is settled.” While he answered
thus, he always turned his face away, and broke his words into
monosyllables. At last I felt that the case was desperate,--that I must
trust every thing to him. _To him!_ Oh, my God! what I felt when I said
this to myself! The conviction thrilled on my soul,--I am in his power.
And yet, even under the impression, I could not help recurring to the
impracticable difficulties that appeared to obstruct my escape. He then
lost patience,--reproached me with timidity and ingratitude; and, while
resuming his naturally ferocious and menacing tone, I actually felt more
confidence in him than when he had attempted to disguise it.
Half-remonstrance, half-invective as it was, what he said displayed so
much ability, intrepidity, and art, that I began to feel a kind of
doubtful security. I conceived, at least, that if any being on earth
could effect my liberation, this was the man. He had no conception of
fear,--no idea of conscience. When he hinted at his having murdered his
father, it was done to impress me with an idea of his hardihood. I saw
this from his expression, for I had involuntarily looked up at him. His
eye had neither the hollowness of remorse, or the wandering of fear,--it
glared on me bold, challenging, and prominent. He had but one idea
annexed to the word danger,--that of strong excitement. He undertook a
perilous attempt as a gamester would sit down to encounter an antagonist
worthy of him; and, if life and death were the stake, he only felt as if
he were playing at a higher rate, and the increased demands on his
courage and talent actually supplied him with the means of meeting them.
Our conference was now nearly at an end, when it occurred to me that
this man was exposing himself to a degree of danger which it was almost
incredible he should brave on my account; and this mystery, at least, I
was resolved to penetrate. I said, “But how will you provide for your
own safety? What will become of you when my escape is discovered? Would
not the most dreadful punishments attend even the suspicion of your
having been an agent in it, and what must be the result when that
suspicion is exchanged for the most undeniable certainty?” It is
impossible for me to describe the change his expression underwent while
I uttered these words. He looked at me for some time without speaking,
with an indefinable mixture of sarcasm, contempt, doubt, and curiosity
in his countenance, and then attempted to laugh, but the muscles of his
face were too stubborn and harsh to admit of this modulation. To
features like his, frowns were a habit, and smiles a convulsion. He
could produce nothing but a _rictus Sardonicus_, the terrors of which
there is no describing. It is very frightful to behold crime in its
merriment,--its smile must be purchased by many groans. My blood ran
cold as I looked at him. I waited for the sound of his voice as a kind
of relief. At length he said, “Do you imagine me such an ideot as to
promote your escape at the risk of imprisonment for life,--perhaps of
immurement,--perhaps of the Inquisition?” and again he laughed. “No, we
must escape together. Could you suppose I would have so much anxiety
about an event, in which I had no part but that of an assistant? It was
of my own danger I was thinking,--it was of my own safety I was
doubtful. Our situation has happened to unite very opposite characters
in the same adventure, but it is an union inevitable and _inseparable_.
Your destiny is now bound to mine by a tie which no human force can
break,--we part no more for ever. The secret that each is in possession
of, must be watched by the other. Our lives are in each other’s hands,
and a moment of absence might be that of treachery. We must pass life in
each watching every breath the other draws, every glance the other
gives,--in dreading sleep as an involuntary betrayer, and watching the
broken murmurs of each other’s restless dreams. We may hate each other,
torment each other,--worst of all, we may be weary of each other, (for
hatred itself would be a relief, compared to the tedium of our
inseparability), but separate we must never.” At this picture of the
liberty for which I had risked so much, my very soul recoiled. I gazed
on the formidable being with whom my existence was thus incorporated. He
was now retiring, when he paused at some distance to repeat his last
words, or perhaps to observe their effect. I was sitting on the
altar,--it was late,--the lamps in the church burned very dimly, and, as
he stood in the aisle, he was placed in such a position, with regard to
that which hung from the roof, that the light fell only on his face and
one hand, which he extended towards me. The rest of his figure,
enveloped in darkness, gave to this bodyless and spectre head an effect
truly appalling. The ferocity of his features, too, was softened into a
heavy and death-like gloom, as he repeated, “We part never,--I must be
near you for ever,” and the deep tones of his voice rolled like
subterranean thunder round the church. A long pause followed. He
continued to stand in the same posture, nor had I power to change mine.
The clock struck three, its sound reminded me that my hour had expired.
We separated, each taking different directions; and the two monks who
succeeded me luckily came a few minutes late, (both of them yawning most
fearfully), so our departure was unobserved.

“The day that followed I have no more power of describing, than of
analysing a dream to its component parts of sanity, delirium, defeated
memory, and triumphant imagination. The sultan in the eastern tale, who
plunged his head in a bason of water, and, before he raised it again,
passed through adventures the most vicissitudinous and incredible--was a
monarch, a slave, a husband, a widower, a father, childless,--in five
minutes, never underwent the changes of _mind_ that I did during that
memorable day. I was a prisoner,--free,--a happy being, surrounded by
smiling infants,--a victim of the Inquisition, writhing amid flames and
execrations. I was a maniac, oscillating between hope and despair. I
seemed to myself all that day to be pulling the rope of a bell, whose
alternate knell was _heaven_--_hell_, and this rung in my ears with all
the dreary and ceaseless monotony of the bell of the convent. Night came
at last. I might almost say _day came_, for that day had been my night.
Every thing was propitious to me,--the convent was all hushed. I put my
head several times out of my cell, to be assured of this,--_all was
hushed_. There was not a step in the corridor,--not a voice, not a
whisper to be heard under a roof containing so many souls. I stole from
my cell, I descended to the church. This was not unusual for those whose
consciences or nerves were disturbed, during the sleepless gloom of a
conventual night. As I advanced to the door of the church, where the
lamps were always kept burning, I heard a human voice. I retreated in
terror;--then I ventured to give a glance. An old monk was at prayers
before one of the images of the saints, and the object of his prayers
was to be relieved, not from the anguish of conscience, or the
annihilation of monasticism, but from the pains of a toothache, for
which he had been desired to apply his gums to the image of a saint
quite notorious for her efficacy in such cases(5). The poor, old,
tortured wretch, prayed with all the fervency of agony, and then rubbed
his gums over and over again on the cold marble, which increased his
complaint, his suffering, and his devotion. I watched, listened,--there
was something at once ludicrous and frightful in my situation. I felt
inclined to laugh at my own distress, while it was rising almost to
agony every moment. I dreaded, too, the approach of another intruder,
and feeling my fear about to be realized by the approach of some one, I
turned round, and, to my inexpressible relief, saw my companion. I made
him comprehend, by a sign, how I was prevented from entering the church;
he answered me in the same way, and retreated a few steps, but not
without shewing me a bunch of huge keys under his habit. This revived my
spirits, and I waited for another half-hour in a state of mental
excruciation, which, were it inflicted on the bitterest enemy I have on
earth, I think I would have cried, “Hold,--hold, spare him.” The clock
struck two,--I writhed and stamped with my feet, as loud as I dared, on
the floor of the passage. I was not at all tranquillized by the visible
impatience of my companion, who started, from time to time, from his
hiding-place behind a pillar of the cloister, flung on me a
glance----no, a glare--of wild and restless inquiry, (which I answered
with one of despondency), and retired, grinding curses between his
teeth, whose horrible grating I could hear distinctly in the intervals
of my long-withheld breath. At last I took a desperate step. I walked
into the church, and, going straight up to the altar, prostrated myself
on the steps. The old monk observed me. He believed that I had come
there with the same purpose, if not with the same feelings, as himself;
and he approached me, to announce his intention of joining in my
aspirations, and intreating an interest in them, _as the pain had now
reached from the lower jaw to the upper_. There is something that one
can hardly describe in this union of the lowest with the highest
interests of life. I was a prisoner, panting for emancipation, and
staking my existence on the step I was compelled to take,--my whole
interest for time, and perhaps for eternity, hung on a moment; and
beside me knelt a being whose destiny was decided already, who could be
nothing but a monk for the few years of his worthless existence, and who
was supplicating a short remission from a temporary pain, that I would
have endured my whole life for an hour’s liberty. As he drew near me,
and supplicated an interest in my prayers, I shrunk away. I felt a
difference in the object of our addresses to God, that I dared not
search my heart for the motive of. I knew not, at the moment, which of
us was right,--he, whose prayer did no dishonour to the place,--or I,
who was to struggle against a disorganized and unnatural state of life,
whose vows I was about to violate. I knelt with him, however, and prayed
for the removal of his pain with a sincerity that cannot be questioned,
as the success of my petitions might be the means of procuring his
absence. As I knelt, I trembled at my own hypocrisy. I was profaning the
altar of God,--I was mocking the sufferings of the being I supplicated
for,--I was the worst of all hypocrites, a hypocrite on my knees, and at
the altar. Yet, was I not compelled to be so? If I _was_ a hypocrite,
who had made me one? If I profaned the altar, who had dragged me there,
to insult it by vows my soul belied and reversed faster than my lips
could utter them? But this was no time for self-examination. I knelt,
prayed, and trembled, till the poor sufferer, weary of his ineffectual
and unanswered supplications, rose, and began to crawl away. For a few
minutes I shivered in horrible anxiety, lest some other intruder might
approach, but the quick decisive step that trod the aisle restored my
confidence in a moment,--it was my companion. He stood beside me. He
uttered a few curses, which sounded very shocking in my ears, more from
the force of habit, and influence of the place, than from the meaning
attached to them, and then hurried on _to the door_. A large bunch of
keys was in his hand, and I followed instinctively this pledge of my

  (5) Vide Moore’s View of France and Italy.

“The door was very low--we descended to it by four steps. He applied his
key, muffling it in the sleeve of his habit to suppress the sound. At
every application he recoiled, gnashed his teeth, stamped--then applied
both hands. The lock did not give way--I clasped my hands in agony--I
tossed them over my head. “Fetch a light,” he said in a whisper; “take a
lamp from before one of those figures.” The levity with which he spoke
of the holy images appalled me, and the act appeared to me nothing short
of sacrilege; yet I went and took a lamp, which, with a shuddering hand,
I held to him as he again tried the key. During this second attempt, we
communicated in whispers those fears that left us scarce breath even for
whispers. “Was not that a noise?”--“No, it was the echo of this jarring,
stubborn lock. Is there no one coming?”--“Not one.”--“Look out into the
passage.”--“Then I cannot hold the light to you.”--“No matter--any thing
but detection.”--“Any thing for escape,” I retorted with a courage that
made him start, as I set down the lamp, and joined my strength to his to
turn the key. It grated, resisted; the lock seemed invincible. Again we
tried, with cranched teeth, indrawn breath, and fingers stripped almost
to the bone,--in vain.--Again--in vain.--Whether the natural ferocity of
his temper bore disappointment worse than mine, or that, like many men
of undoubted courage, he was impatient of a _slight_ degree of physical
pain, in a struggle where he would have risked and lost life without a
murmur,--or how it was, I know not,--but he sunk down on the steps
leading to the door, wiped away the big drops of toil and terror from
his forehead with the sleeve of his habit, and cast on me a look that
was at once the pledge of sincerity and of despair. The clock struck
three. The sound rung in my ears like the trumpet of the day of
doom--the trumpet that _will sound_. He clasped his hands with a fierce
and convulsive agony, that might have pictured the last struggles of the
impenitent malefactor,--that agony without remorse, that suffering
without requital or consolation, that, if I may say so, arrays crime in
the dazzling robe of magnanimity, and makes us admire the fallen spirit,
with whom we dare not sympathize. “We are undone,” he cried; “_you_ are
undone. At the hour of three another monk is to enter on his hour of
recollection.” And he added, in a lower tone of horror inexpressible, “I
hear his steps in the passage.” At the moment he uttered these words,
the key, that I had never ceased to struggle with, turned in the lock.
The door opened, the passage lay free to us. My companion recovered
himself at the sight, and in the next moment we were both in the
passage. Our first care was to remove the key, and lock the door on the
inside; and during this, we had the satisfaction to discover, that there
was no one in the church, no one approaching it. Our fears had deceived
us; we retired from the door, looked at each other with a kind of
breathless, half-revived confidence, and began our progress through the
vault in silence and in safety. In safety! my God! I yet tremble at the
thought of that subterranean journey, amid the vaults of a convent, with
a parricide for my companion. But what is there that danger will not
familiarize us with? Had I been told such a story of another, I would
have denounced him as the most reckless and desperate being on
earth--yet _I was the man_. I had secured the lamp, (whose light
appeared to reproach me with sacrilege at every gleam it shed on our
progress), and followed my companion in silence. Romances have made your
country, Sir, familiar with tales of subterranean passages, and
supernatural horrors. All these, painted by the most eloquent pen, must
fall short of the breathless horror felt by a being engaged in an
enterprise beyond his powers, experience, or calculation, driven to
trust his life and liberation to hands that reeked with a father’s
blood. It was in vain that I tried _to make up my mind_,--that I said to
myself, “This is to last but for a short time,”--that I struggled to
force on myself the conviction that it was necessary to have such
associates in desperate enterprises;--it was all in vain. I trembled at
my situation,--at myself, and that is a terror we can never overcome. I
stumbled over the stones,--I was chilled with horror at every step. A
blue mist gathered before my eyes,--it furred the edges of the lamp with
a dim and hazy light. My imagination began to operate, and when I heard
the curses with which my companion reproached my involuntary delay, I
began almost to fear that I was following the steps of a demon, who had
lured me there for purposes beyond the reach of imagination to picture.
Tales of superstition crowded on me like images of terror on those who
are in the dark. I had heard of infernal beings who deluded monks with
the hopes of liberation, seduced them into the vaults of the convent,
and then proposed conditions which it is almost as horrible to relate as
to undergo the performance of. I thought of being forced to witness the
unnatural revels of a diabolical feast,--of seeing the rotting flesh
distributed,--of drinking the dead corrupted blood,--of hearing the
anthems of fiends howled in insult, on that awful verge where life and
eternity mingle,--of hearing the hallelujahs of the choir, echoed even
through the vaults, where demons were yelling the _black mass_ of their
infernal Sabbath.--I thought of all that the interminable passages, the
livid light, and the diabolical companion, might suggest.

“Our wanderings in the passage seemed to be endless. My companion turned
to right, to left,--advanced, retreated, paused,--(the pause was
dreadful)!--Then advanced again, tried another direction, where the
passage was so low that I was obliged to crawl on my hands and knees to
follow him, and even in this posture my head struck against the ragged
roof. When we had proceeded for a considerable time, (at least so it
appeared to me, for minutes are hours in the _noctuary_ of
terror,--terror has no _diary_), this passage became so narrow and so
low, that I could proceed no farther, and wondered how my companion
could have advanced beyond me. I called to him, but received no answer;
and, in the darkness of the passage, or rather hole, it was impossible
to see ten inches before me. I had the lamp, too, to watch, which I had
held with a careful trembling hand, but which began to burn dim in the
condensed and narrow atmosphere. A gush of terror rose in my throat.
Surrounded as I was by damps and dews, my whole body felt in a fever. I
called again, but no voice answered. In situations of peril, the
imagination is unhappily fertile, and I could not help recollecting and
_applying_ a story I had once read of some travellers who attempted to
explore the vaults of the Egyptian pyramids. One of them, who was
advancing, as I was, on his hands and knees, stuck in the passage, and,
whether from terror, or from the natural consequences of his situation,
swelled so that it was impossible for him to retreat, advance, or allow
a passage for his companions. The party were on their return, and
finding their passage stopped by this irremoveable obstruction, their
lights trembling on the verge of extinction, and their guide terrified
beyond the power of direction or advice, proposed, in the selfishness to
which the feeling of vital danger reduces all, to cut off the limbs of
the wretched being who obstructed their passage. He heard this proposal,
and, contracting himself with agony at the sound, was reduced, by that
strong muscular spasm, to his usual dimensions, dragged out, and
afforded room for the party to advance. He was suffocated, however, in
the effort, and left behind a corse. All this detail, that takes many
words to tell, rushed on my soul in a moment;--on my soul?--no, on my
body. I was all physical feeling,--all intense corporeal agony, and God
only knows, and man only can feel, how that agony can absorb and
annihilate all other feeling within us,--how we could, in such a moment,
feed on a parent, to gnaw out our passage into life and liberty, as
sufferers in a wreck have been known to gnaw their own flesh, for the
support of that existence which the unnatural morsel was diminishing at
every agonizing bite.

“I tried to crawl backwards,--I succeeded. I believe the story I
recollected had an effect on me, I felt a contraction of muscles
corresponding to what I had read of. I felt myself almost liberated by
the sensation, and the next moment I was actually so;--I had got out of
the passage I knew not how. I must have made one of those extraordinary
exertions, whose energy is perhaps not only increased by, but dependent
on, our unconsciousness of them. However it was, I was extricated, and
stood breathless and exhausted, with the dying lamp in my hand, staring
around me, and seeing nothing but the black and dripping walls, and the
low arches of the vault, that seemed to lower over me like the frown of
an eternal hostility,--a frown that forbids hope or escape. The lamp was
rapidly extinguishing in my hand,--I gazed on it with a fixed eye. I
knew that my life, and, what was dearer than my life, my liberation,
depended on my watching its last glimpse, yet I gazed on it with the eye
of an ideot,--a stupified stare. The lamp glimmered more faintly,--its
dying gleams awoke me to recollection. I roused myself,--I looked
around. A strong flash discovered an object near me. I shuddered,--I
uttered cries, though I was unconscious of doing so, for a voice said to
me,--“Hush, be silent; I left you only to reconnoitre the passages. I
have made out the way to the trap-door,--be silent, and all is well.” I
advanced trembling, my companion appeared trembling too. He whispered,
“Is the lamp so nearly extinguished?”--“You see.”--“Try to keep it in
for a few moments.”--“I will; but, if I cannot, what then?”--“Then we
must perish,” he added, with an execration that I thought would have
brought down the vaults over our heads. It is certain, Sir, however,
that desperate sentiments are best suited to desperate emergencies, and
this wretch’s blasphemies gave me a kind of horrible confidence in his
courage. On he went, muttering curses before me; and I followed,
watching the last light of the lamp with agony increased by my fear
of further provoking my horrible guide. I have before mentioned how
our feelings, even in the most fearful exigencies, dwindle into
petty and wretched details. With all my care, however, the lamp
declined,--quivered,--flashed a pale light, like the smile of despair
on me, and was extinguished. I shall never forget the look my guide
threw on me by its sinking light. I had watched it like the last
beatings of an expiring heart, like the shiverings of a spirit about to
part for eternity. I saw it extinguished, and believed myself already
among those for “whom the blackness of darkness is reserved for ever.”

“It was at this moment that a faint sound reached our frozen ears;--it
was the chaunt of matins, performed by candle-light at this season of
the year, which was begun in the chapel now far above us. This voice of
heaven thrilled us,--we seemed the pioneers of darkness, on the very
frontiers of hell. This superb insult of celestial triumph, that amid
the strains of hope spoke despair to us, announced a God to those who
were stopping their ears against the sound of his name, had an effect
indescribably awful. I fell to the ground, whether from stumbling from
the darkness, or shrinking from emotion, I know not. I was roused by the
rough arm, and rougher voice of my companion. Amid execrations that
froze my blood, he told me this was no time for failing or for fear. I
asked him, trembling, what I was to do? He answered, “Follow me, and
feel your way in darkness.” Dreadful sounds!--Those who tell us _the
whole_ of our calamity always appear malignant, for our hearts, or our
imaginations, always flatter us that it is not so great as reality
proves it to be. Truth is told us by any mouth sooner than our own.

“In darkness, total darkness, and on my hands and knees, for I could no
longer stand, I followed him. This motion soon affected my head; I grew
giddy first, then stupified. I paused. He growled a curse, and I
instinctively quickened my movements, like a dog who hears the voice of
a chiding master. My habit was now in rags from my struggles, my knees
and hands stript of skin. I had received several severe bruises on my
head, from striking against the jagged and unhewn stones which formed
the irregular sides and roof of this eternal passage. And, above all,
the unnatural atmosphere, combined with the intensity of my emotion, had
produced a thirst, the agony of which I can compare to nothing but that
of a burning coal dropt into my throat, which I seemed to suck for
moisture, but which left only drops of fire on my tongue. Such was my
state, when I called out to my companion that I could proceed no
farther. “Stay there and rot, then,” was the answer; and perhaps the
most soothing words of encouragement could not have produced so strong
an effect on me. This confidence of despair, this bravado against
danger, that menaced the power in his very citadel, gave me a temporary
courage,--but what is courage amid darkness and doubt? From the
faultering steps, the suffocated breath, the muttered curses, I guessed
what was going on. I was right. The final--hopeless stop followed
instantly, announced by the last wild sob, the cranching of despairing
teeth, the clasping, or rather clap, of the locked hands, in the
terrible extacy of utter agony. I was kneeling behind him at that
moment, and I echoed every cry and gesture with a violence that started
my guide. He silenced me with curses. Then he attempted to pray; but his
prayers sounded so like curses, and his curses were so like prayers to
the evil one, that, choaking with horror, I implored him to cease. He
did cease, and for nearly half an hour neither of us uttered a word. We
lay beside each other like two panting dogs that I have read of, who lay
down to die close to the animal they pursued, whose fur they fanned with
their dying breath, while unable to mouthe her.

“Such appeared emancipation to us,--so near, and yet so hopeless. We lay
thus, not daring to speak to each other, for who could speak but of
despair, and which of us dared to aggravate the despair of the other.
This kind of fear which we know already felt by others, and which we
dread to aggravate by uttering, _even to those who know it_, is perhaps
the most horrible sensation ever experienced. The very thirst of my body
seemed to vanish in this fiery thirst of the soul for communication,
where all communication was unutterable, impossible, hopeless. Perhaps
the condemned spirits will feel thus at their final sentence, when they
know all that is to be suffered, and dare not disclose to each other
that horrible truth which is no longer a secret, but which the profound
silence of their despair would seem to make one. The secret of silence
is the only secret. Words are a blasphemy against that taciturn and
invisible God, whose presence enshrouds us in our last extremity. These
moments that appeared to me endless, were soon to cease. My companion
sprung up,--he uttered a cry of joy. I imagined him deranged,--he was
not. He exclaimed, “Light, light,--the light of heaven; we are near the
trap-door, I see the light through it.” Amid all the horrors of our
situation, he had kept his eye constantly turned upwards, for he knew
that, if we were near it, the smallest glimmering of light would be
visible in the intense darkness that enveloped us. He was right. I
started up,--I saw it too. With locked hands, with dropt and wordless
lips, with dilated and thirsting eyes, we gazed upwards. A thin line of
grey light appeared above our heads. It broadened, it grew brighter,--it
_was_ the light of heaven, and its breezes too came fluttering to us
through the chinks of the trap-door that opened into the garden.”


“Though life and liberty seemed so near, our situation was still very
critical. The morning light that aided our escape, might open many an
eye to mark it. There was not a moment to be lost. My companion proposed
to ascend first, and I did not venture to oppose him. I was too much in
his power to resist; and in early youth superiority of depravity always
seems like a superiority of power. We reverence, with a prostituted
idolatry, those who have passed through the degrees of vice before us.
This man was criminal, and crime gave him a kind of heroic immunity in
my eyes. Premature knowledge in life is always to be purchased by guilt.
He knew more than I did,--he was my all in this desperate attempt. I
dreaded him as a demon, yet I invoked him as a god.

“In the end I submitted to his proposal. I was very tall, but he was
much stronger than I. He rose on my shoulders, I trembled under his
weight, but he succeeded in raising the trap-door,--the full light of
day broke on us both. In a moment he dropt his hold of the door,--he
fell to the ground with a force that struck me down. He exclaimed, “The
workmen are there, they have come about the repairs, we are lost if we
are discovered. They are there, the garden is full of them already, they
will be there the whole day. That cursed lamp, it has undone us! Had it
but kept in for a few moments, we might have been in the garden, might
have crossed the wall, might have been at liberty, and now----” He fell
to the ground convulsed with rage and disappointment, as he spoke. To me
there was nothing so terrible in this intelligence. That we were
disappointed for a time was evident, but we had been relieved from the
most horrible of all fears, that of wandering in famine and darkness
till we perished,--we had found the way to the trap-door. I had
unfailing confidence in Juan’s patience and zeal. I was sure that if he
was watching for us on that night, he would watch for many a successive
night. Finally, I felt we had but twenty-four hours or less to wait, and
what was that to the eternity of hours that must otherwise be wasted in
a convent. I suggested all this to my companion as I closed the
trap-door; but I found in his complaints, imprecations, and tossing
restlessness of impatience and despair, the difference between man and
man in the hour of trial. He possessed active, and I passive fortitude.
Give him something to do, and he would do it at the risk of limb, and
life, and soul,--he never murmured. Give me something to suffer, to
undergo, to submit, and I became at once the _hero of submission_. While
this man, with all his physical strength, and all his mental hardihood,
was tossing on the earth with the imbecillity of an infant, in a
paroxysm of unappeasable passion, I was his consoler, adviser, and
supporter. At last he suffered himself to hear reason; he agreed that we
must remain twenty-four hours more in the passage, on which he bestowed
a whole litany of curses. So we determined to stand in stillness and
darkness till night; but such is the restlessness of the human heart,
that this arrangement, which a few hours before we would have embraced
as the offer of a benignant angel for our emancipation, began to
display, as we were compelled to examine its aspect more closely,
certain features that were repulsive almost to hideousness. We were
exhausted nearly to death. Our physical exertions had been, for the last
few hours, almost incredible; in fact, I am convinced that nothing but
the consciousness that we were engaged in a struggle for life or death,
could have enabled us to support it, and now that the struggle was over,
we began to feel our weakness. Our mental sufferings had not been
less,--we had been excruciated body and soul alike. Could our mental
struggles have operated like our bodily ones, we would have been seen to
weep drops of blood, as we felt we were doing at every step of our
progress. Recollect too, Sir, the unnatural atmosphere we had breathed
so long, amid darkness and danger, and which now began to show its
anti-vital and pestilent effect, in producing alternately on our bodies
deluges of perspiration, succeeded by a chill that seemed to freeze the
very marrow. In this state of mental fever, and bodily exhaustion, we
had now to wait many hours, in darkness, without food, till Heaven
pleased to send us night. But how were those hours to be passed? The
preceding day had been one of strict abstinence,--we began already to
feel the gnawings of hunger, a hunger not to be appeased. We must fast
till the moment of liberation, and we must fast amid stone walls, and
damp seats on floors of stone, which diminished every moment the
strength necessary to contend with their impenetrable hardness,--their
withering chillness.

“The last thought that occurred to me was,--with what a companion those
hours must be passed. With a being whom I abhorred from my very soul,
while I felt that his presence was at once an irrepealable curse, and an
invincible necessity. So we stood, shivering under the trap-door, not
daring to whisper our thoughts to each other, but feeling _that despair
of incommunication_ which is perhaps the severest curse that can be
inflicted on those who are compelled to be together, and compelled, by
the same necessity that imposes their ungenial union, not even to
communicate their fears to each other. We _hear_ the throb of each
others hearts, and yet dare not say, “My heart beats in unison with

“As we stood thus, the light became suddenly eclipsed. I knew not from
what this arose, till I felt a shower, the most violent perhaps that
ever was precipitated on the earth, make its way even through the
trap-door, and drench me in five minutes to the skin. I retreated from
the spot, but not before I had received it in every pore of my body.
You, Sir, who live in happy Ireland, blessed by God with an exemption
from those vicissitudes of the atmosphere, can have no idea of their
violence in continental countries. This rain was followed by peals of
thunder, that made me fear God was pursuing me into the abysses where I
had shrunk to escape from his vengeance, and drew from my companion
blasphemies more loud than thunder, as he felt himself drenched by the
shower, that now, flooding the vault, rose almost to our ancles. At last
he proposed our retiring to a place which he said he was acquainted
with, and which would shelter us. He added, that it was but a few steps
from where we stood, and that we could easily find our way back. I did
not dare to oppose him, and followed to a dark recess, only
distinguished from the rest of the vault by the remains of what had once
been a door. It was now light, and I could distinguish objects plainly.
By the deep hollows framed for the shooting of the bolt, and the size of
the iron hinges that still remained, though covered with rust, I saw it
must have been of no common strength, and probably intended to secure
the entrance to a dungeon,--there was no longer a door, yet I shuddered
to enter it. As we did so, both of us, exhausted in body and mind, sunk
on the hard floor. We did not say a word to each other, an inclination
to sleep irresistibly overcame us; and whether that sleep was to be my
last or not, I felt a profound indifference. Yet I was now on the verge
of liberty, and though drenched, famishing, and comfortless, was, in any
rational estimate, an object much more enviable than in the
heart-withering safety of my cell. Alas! it is too true that our souls
always contract themselves on the approach of a blessing, and seem as if
their powers, exhausted in the effort to obtain it, had no longer energy
to embrace the object. Thus we are always compelled to substitute the
pleasure of the pursuit for that of the attainment,--to reverse the
means for the end, or confound them, in order to extract any enjoyment
from either, and at last fruition becomes only another name for
lassitude. These reflections certainly did not occur to me, when, worn
out with toil, terror, and famine, I fell on the stone floor in a sleep
that was not sleep,--it seemed the suspension both of my mortal and
immortal nature. I ceased from animal and intellectual life at once.
There are cases, Sir, where the thinking power appears to accompany us
to the very verge of slumber, where we sleep full of delightful
thoughts, and sleep only to review them in our dreams: But there are
also cases when we feel that our sleep is a “sleep for ever,”--when we
resign the hope of immortality for the hope of a profound repose,--when
we demand from the harassings of fate, “Rest, rest,” and no more,--when
the soul and body faint together, and all we ask of God or man is to let
us sleep.

“In such a state I fell to the ground; and, at that moment, would have
bartered all my hopes of liberation for twelve hours profound repose, as
Esau sold his birth-right for a small but indispensible refreshment. I
was not to enjoy even this repose long. My companion was sleeping too.
Sleeping! great God! what was his sleep?--that in whose neighbourhood no
one could close an eye, or, worse, an ear. He talked as loudly and
incessantly as if he had been employed in all the active offices of
life. I heard involuntarily the secret of his dreams. I knew he had
murdered his father, but I did not know that the vision of parricide
haunted him in his broken visions. My sleep was first broken by sounds
as horrible as any I ever had heard at my bed-side in the convent. I
heard sounds that disturbed me, but I was not yet fully awake. They
increased, they redoubled,--the terrors of my habitual associations
awoke me. I imagined the Superior and the whole community pursuing us
with lighted torches. I felt the blaze of the lights in contact with my
very eye-balls. I shrieked. I said, “Spare my sight, do not blind me, do
not drive me mad, and I will confess all.” A deep voice near me
muttered, “Confess.” I started up fully awake,--it was only the voice of
my sleeping companion. I stood on my feet, I viewed him as he lay. He
heaved and wallowed on his bed of stone, as if it had been down. He
seemed to have a frame of adamant. The jagged points of stone, the
hardness of the floor, the ruts and rudenesses of his inhospitable bed,
produced no effect on him. He could have slept, but his dreams were from
within. I have heard, I have read, of the horrors attending the dying
beds of the guilty. They often told us of such in the convent. One monk
in particular, who was a priest, was fond of dwelling on a death-bed
scene he had witnessed, and of describing its horrors. He related that
he had urged a person, who was sitting calmly in his chair, though
evidently dying, to intrust him with his confession. The dying person
answered, “I will, when those leave the room.” The monk, conceiving that
this referred to the relatives and friends, motioned them to retire.
They did so, and again the monk renewed his demands on the conscience of
the penitent. The room was now empty. The monk renewed his adjuration to
the dying man to disclose the secrets of his conscience. The answer was
the same,--“I will, when those are gone.”--“_Those!_”--“Yes, those whom
you cannot see, and cannot banish,--send them away, and I will tell you
the truth.”--“Tell it now, then; there are none here but you and
me.”--“There are,” answered the dying man. “There are none that I can
see,” said the monk, gazing round the room. “But there are those that I
do see,” replied the dying wretch, “and that see me; that are watching,
waiting for me, the moment the breath is out of my body. I see them, I
feel them,--stand on my right side.” The monk changed his position. “Now
they are on the left.” The monk shifted again. “Now they are on my
right.” The monk commanded the children and relatives of the dying
wretch to enter the room, and surround the bed. They obeyed the command.
“Now they are every where,” exclaimed the sufferer, and expired(6).

  (6) Fact,--me ipso teste.

“This terrible story came freshly to my recollection, accompanied by
many others. I had heard much of the terrors that surrounded the dying
bed of the guilty, but, from what I was compelled to hear, I almost
believe them to be less than the terrors of a guilty sleep. I have said
my companion began at first with low mutterings, but among them I could
distinguish sounds that reminded me too soon of all I wished to forget,
at least while we were together. He murmured, “An old man?--yes,--well,
the less blood in him. Grey hairs?--no matter, my crimes have helped to
turn them grey,--he ought to have rent them from the roots long ago.
They are white, you say?--well, to-night they shall be dyed in blood,
then they will be white no longer. Aye,--he will hold them up at the day
of judgment, like a banner of condemnation against me. He will stand at
the head of an army stronger than the army of martyrs,--the host of
those whose murderers have been their own children. What matter whether
they cut their parents’ hearts or their throats. I have cut _one_
through and through, to the very core,--now for the other, it will give
him less pain, I feel that,”--and he laughed, shuddered, and writhed on
his stony bed. Trembling with horror ineffable, I tried to awake him. I
shook his muscular arms, I rolled him on his back, on his face,--nothing
could awake him. It seemed as if I was only rocking him on his cradle of
stone. He went on, “Secure the purse, I know the drawer of the cabinet
where it lies, but secure him first. Well, then, you cannot,--you
shudder at his white hairs, at his calm sleep!--ha! ha! that villains
should be fools. Well, then, I must be the man, it is but a short
struggle with him or me,--he may be damned, and I must. Hush,--how the
stairs creak, they will not tell him it is his son’s foot that is
ascending?--They dare not, the stones of the wall would give them the
lie. Why did you not oil the hinges of the door?--now for it. He sleeps
intensely,--aye, how calm he looks!--the calmer the fitter for heaven.
Now,--now, my knee is on his breast,--where is the knife?--where is the
knife?--if he looks at me I am lost. The knife,--I am a coward; the
knife,--if he opens his eyes I am gone; the knife, ye cursed
cravens,--who dare shrink when I have griped my father’s throat?
There,--there,--there,--blood to the hilt,--the old man’s blood; look
for the money, while I wipe the blade. I cannot wipe it, the grey hairs
are mingled with the blood,--those hairs brushed my lips the last time
he kissed me. I was a child then. I would not have taken a world to
murder him then, now,--now, what am I? Ha! ha! ha! Let Judas shake his
bag of silver against mine,--he betrayed his Saviour, and I have
murdered my father. Silver against silver, and soul against soul. I have
got more for mine,--he was a fool to sell his for thirty. But for which
of us will the last fire burn hotter?--no matter, I am going to try.” At
these horrible expressions, repeated over and over, I called, I shrieked
to my companion to awake. He did so, with a laugh almost as wild as the
chattering of his dreams. “Well, what have you heard? I murdered
him,--you knew that long before. You trusted me in this cursed
adventure, which will risk the life of both, and can you not bear to
hear me speak to myself, though I am only telling what you knew
before?”--“No, I cannot bear it,” I answered, in an agony of horror;
“not even to effect my escape, could I undertake to sustain another hour
like the past,--the prospect of seclusion here for a whole day amid
famine, damps, and darkness, listening to the ravings of a ----. Look
not at me with that glare of mockery, I know it all, I shudder at your
sight. Nothing but the iron link of necessity could have bound me to you
even for a moment. I _am_ bound to you,--I must bear it while it
continues, but do not make those moments insupportable. My life and
liberty are in your hands,--I must add my reason, too, in the
circumstances in which we are plunged,--I cannot sustain your horrible
eloquence of sleep. If I am forced to listen to it again, you may bear
me alive from these walls, but you will bear me away an ideot, stupified
by terrors which my brain is unable to support. Do not sleep, I adjure
you. Let me watch beside you during this wretched day,--this day which
is to be measured by darkness and suffering, instead of light and
enjoyment. I am willing to famish with hunger, to shudder with cold, to
couch on these hard stones, but I cannot bear your dreams,--if you
sleep, I must rouse you in defence of my reason. All physical strength
is failing me fast, and I am become more jealous of the preservation of
my intellect. Do not cast at me those looks of defiance, I am your
inferior in strength, but despair makes us equal.” As I spoke, my voice
sounded like thunder in my own ears, my eyes flashed visibly to myself.
I felt the power that passion gives us, and I saw that my companion felt
it too. I went on, in a tone that made myself start, “If you dare to
sleep, I will wake you,--if you dose even, you shall not have a moment
undisturbed,--you shall wake with me. For this long day we must starve
and shiver together, I have wound myself up to it. I can bear every
thing,--every thing but the dreams of him whose sleep reveals to him the
vision of a murdered parent. Wake,--rave,--blaspheme,--but sleep you
shall not!”

“The man stared at me for some time, almost incredulous of my being
capable of such energy of passion and command. But when he had, by the
help of his dilated eyes, and gaping mouth, appeared to satisfy himself
fully of the fact, his expression suddenly changed. He appeared to feel
a community of nature with me for the first time. Any thing of ferocity
appeared congenial and balsamic to him; and, with oaths, that froze my
blood, swore he liked me the better for my resolution. “I _will_ keep
awake,” he added, with a yawn that distended like the jaws of an Ogre
preparing for his cannibal feast. Then suddenly relaxing, “But how shall
we keep awake? We have nothing to eat, nothing to drink, what shall we
do to keep awake?” And incontinently he uttered a volley of curses. Then
he began to sing. But what songs?--full of such ribaldry and looseness,
that, bred as I was first in domestic privacy, and then in the
strictness of a convent, made me believe it was an incarnate demon that
was howling beside me. I implored him to cease, but this man could pass
so instantaneously from the extremes of atrocity to those of
levity,--from the ravings of guilt and horror ineffable, to songs that
would insult a brothel, that I knew not what to make of him. This _union
of antipodes_, this unnatural alliance of the extremes of guilt and
light-mindedness, I had never met or imagined before. He started from
the visions of a parricide, and sung songs that would have made a harlot
blush. How ignorant of life I must have been, not to know that guilt and
insensibility often join to tenant and deface the same mansion, and that
there is not a more strong and indissoluble alliance on earth, than that
between the hand that dare do any thing, and the heart that can feel

“It was in the midst of one of his most licentious songs, that my
companion suddenly paused. He gazed about him for some time; and faint
and dismal as the light was by which we beheld each other, I thought I
could observe an extraordinary expression overshadow his countenance. I
did not venture to notice it. “Do you know where we are?” he whispered.
“Too well;--in the vault of a convent, beyond the help or reach of
man,--without food, without light, and almost without hope.”--“Aye, so
its last inhabitants might well say.”--“Its last inhabitants!--who were
they?”--“I can tell you, if you can bear it.”--“_I cannot bear it_,” I
cried, stopping my ears, “I will not listen to it. I feel by the
narrator it must be something horrid.”--“It was indeed a horrid night,”
said he, unconsciously adverting to some circumstance in the narrative;
and his voice sunk into mutterings, and he forbore to mention the
subject further. I retired as far from him as the limits of the vault
admitted; and, burying my head between my knees, tried to _forbear to
think_. What a state of mind must that be, in which we are driven to
wish we no longer had one!--when we would willingly become “as the
beasts that perish,” to forget that privilege of humanity, which only
seems an undisputed title to superlative misery! To sleep was
impossible. Though sleep seems to be only a necessity of nature, it
always requires an act of the mind to concur in it. And if I had been
willing to rest, the gnawings of hunger, which now began to be exchanged
for the most deadly sickness, would have rendered it impossible. Amid
this complication of physical and mental suffering, it is hardly
credible, Sir, but it is not the less true, that my principal one arose
from the inanity, the want of occupation, inevitably attached to my
dreary situation. To inflict a suspension of the action on a being
conscious of possessing the powers of action, and burning for their
employment,--to forbid all interchange of mutual ideas, or acquirement
of new ones to an intellectual being,--to do this, is to invent a
torture that might make Phalaris blush for his impotence of cruelty.

“I had felt other sufferings almost intolerable, but I felt this
impossible to sustain; and, will you believe it, Sir, after wrestling
with it during an hour (as I counted hours) of unimaginable misery, I
rose, and supplicated my companion to relate the circumstance he had
alluded to, as connected with our dreadful abode. His ferocious good
nature took part with this request in a moment; and though I could see
that his strong frame had suffered more than my comparatively feeble
one, from the struggles of the night and the privations of the day, he
prepared himself with a kind of grim alacrity for the effort. He was now
in his element. He was enabled to daunt a feeble mind by the narration
of horrors, and to amaze an ignorant one with a display of crimes;--and
he needed no more to make him commence. “I remember,” said he, “an
extraordinary circumstance connected with this vault. I wondered how I
felt so familiar with this door, this arch, at first.--I did not
recollect immediately, so many strange thoughts have crossed my mind
every day, that events which would make a life-lasting impression on
others, pass like shadows before me, while thoughts appear like
substances. _Emotions are my events_--you know what brought me to this
cursed convent--well, don’t shiver or look _paler_--you were pale
before. However it was, I found myself in the convent, and I was obliged
to subscribe to its discipline. A part of it was, that extraordinary
criminals should undergo what they called extraordinary penance; that
is, not only submit to every ignominy and rigour of conventual life,
(which, fortunately for its penitents, is never wanting in such amusing
resources), but act the part of executioner whenever any distinguished
punishment was to be inflicted or witnessed. They did me the honour to
believe me particularly qualified for this species of recreation, and
perhaps they did not flatter me. I had all the humility of a saint on
trial; but still I had a kind of confidence in my talents of this
description, provided they were put to a proper test; and the monks had
the goodness to assure me, that I never could long be without one in a
convent. This was a very tempting picture of my situation, but I found
these worthy people had not in the least exaggerated. An instance
occurred a few days after I had the happiness to become a member of this
amiable community, of whose merits you are doubtless sensible. I was
desired to attach myself to a young monk of distinguished family, who
had lately taken the vows, and who performed his duties with that
heartless punctuality that intimated to the community that his heart was
elsewhere. I was soon put in possession of the business; from their
ordering me to _attach_ myself to him, I instantly conceived I was bound
to the most deadly hostility against him. The friendship of convents is
always a treacherous league--we watch, suspect, and torment each other,
for the love of God. This young monk’s only crime was, that he was
suspected of cherishing an earthly passion. He was, in fact, as I have
stated, the son of a distinguished family, who (from the fear of his
contracting what is called a degrading marriage, _i. e._ of marrying a
woman of inferior rank whom he loved, and who would have made him happy,
as fools, that is, half mankind, estimate happiness) forced him to take
the vows. He appeared at times broken-hearted, but at times there was a
light of hope in his eye, that looked somewhat ominous in the eyes of
the community. It is certain, that hope not being an indigenous plant in
the parterre of a convent, must excite suspicion with regard both to its
origin and its growth.

“Some time after, a young novice entered the convent. From the moment he
did so, a change the most striking took place in the young monk. He and
the novice became inseparable companions--there was something suspicious
in that. My eyes were on the watch in a moment. Eyes are particularly
sharpened in discovering misery when they can hope to aggravate it. The
attachment between the young monk and the novice went on. They were for
ever in the garden together--they inhaled the odours of the
flowers--they cultivated the same cluster of carnations--they entwined
themselves as they walked together--when they were in the choir, their
voices were like mixed incense. Friendship is often carried to excess in
conventual life, but this friendship was too like love. For instance,
the psalms sung in the choir sometimes breathe a certain language; at
these words, the young monk and the novice would direct their voices to
each other in sounds that could not be misunderstood. If the least
correction was inflicted, one would intreat to undergo it for the other.
If a day of relaxation was allowed, whatever presents were sent to the
cell of one, were sure to be found in the cell of the other. This was
enough for me. I saw that secret of mysterious happiness, which is the
greatest misery to those who never can share it. My vigilance was
redoubled, and it was rewarded by the discovery of a secret--a secret
that I had to communicate and raise my consequence by. You cannot guess
the importance attached to the discovery of a secret in a convent,
(particularly when the remission of our own offences depends on the
discovery of those of others.)

“One evening as the young monk and his darling novice were in the
garden, the former plucked a peach, which he immediately offered to his
favourite; the latter accepted it with a movement I thought rather
awkward--it seemed like what I imagined would be the reverence of a
female. The young monk divided the peach with a knife; in doing so, the
knife grazed the finger of the novice, and the monk, in agitation
inexpressible, tore his habit to bind up the wound. I saw it all--my
mind was made up on the business--I went to the Superior that very
night. The result may be conceived. They were watched, but cautiously at
first. They were probably on their guard; for, for some time it defied
even my vigilance to make the slightest discovery. It is a situation
incomparably tantalizing, when suspicion is satisfied of her own
suggestions, as of the truth of the gospel, but still wants the _little
fact_ to make them credible to others. One night that I had, by
direction of the Superior, taken my station in the gallery, (where I was
contented to remain hour after hour, and night after night, amid
solitude, darkness, and cold, for the chance of the power of retaliating
on others the misery inflicted on myself)--One night, I thought I heard
a step in the gallery--I have told you that I was in the dark--a light
step passed me. I could hear the broken and palpitating respiration of
the person. A few moments after, I heard a door open, and knew it to be
the door of the young monk. I knew it; for by long watching in the dark,
and accustoming myself to number the cells, by the groan from one, the
prayer from another, the faint shriek of restless dreams from a third,
my ear had become so finely graduated, that I could instantly
distinguish the opening of _that door_, from which (to my sorrow) no
sound had ever before issued. I was provided with a small chain, by
which I fastened the handle of the door to a contiguous one, in such a
manner, that it was impossible to open either of them from the inside. I
then hastened to the Superior, with a pride of which none but the
successful tracer of a guilty secret in convents, can have any
conception. I believe the Superior was himself agitated by the luxury of
the same feelings, for he was awake and up in his apartment, attended by
_four monks_, whom you may remember.” I shuddered at the remembrance. “I
communicated my intelligence with a voluble eagerness, not only unsuited
to the respect I owed these persons, but which must have rendered me
almost unintelligible, yet they were good enough not only to overlook
this violation of decorum, which would in any other case have been
severely punished, but even to supply certain pauses in my narrative,
with a condescension and facility truly miraculous. I felt what it was
to acquire importance in the eyes of a Superior, and gloried in all the
dignified depravity of an informer. We set out without losing a
moment,--we arrived at the door of the cell, and I pointed out with
triumph the chain unremoved, though a slight vibration, perceptible at
our approach, showed the wretches within were already apprised of their
danger. I unfastened the door,--how they must have shuddered! The
Superior and his satellites burst into the cell, and _I_ held the light.
You tremble,--why? I was guilty, and I wished to witness guilt that
palliated mine, at least in the opinion of the convent. I had only
violated the laws of nature, but they had outraged the decorum of a
convent, and, of course, in the creed of a convent, there was no
proportion between our offences. Besides, I was anxious to witness
misery that might perhaps equal or exceed my own, and this is a
curiosity not easily satisfied. It is actually possible to become
_amateurs in suffering_. I have heard of men who have travelled into
countries where horrible executions were to be daily witnessed, for the
sake of that excitement which the sight of suffering never fails to
give, from the spectacle of a tragedy, or an _auto da fe_, down to the
writhings of the meanest reptile on whom you can inflict torture, and
feel that torture is the result of your own power. It is a species of
feeling of which we never can divest ourselves,--a triumph over those
whose sufferings have placed them below us, and no wonder,--suffering is
always an indication of weakness,--we glory in our impenetrability. _I_
did, as we burst into the cell. The wretched husband and wife were
locked in each others arms. You may imagine the scene that followed.
Here I must do the Superior reluctant justice. He was a man (of course
from his conventual feelings) who had no more idea of the intercourse
between the sexes, than between two beings of a different species. The
scene that he beheld could not have revolted him more, than if he had
seen the horrible loves of the baboons and the Hottentot women, at the
Cape of Good Hope; or those still more loathsome unions between the
serpents of South America and their human victims(7), when they can
catch them, and twine round them in folds of unnatural and ineffable
union. He really stood as much astonished and appalled, to see two human
beings of different sexes, who dared to love each other in spite of
monastic ties, as if he had witnessed the horrible conjunctions I have
alluded to. Had he seen vipers engendering in that frightful knot which
seems the pledge of mortal hostility, instead of love, he could not have
testified more horror,--and I do him the justice to believe he felt all
he testified. Whatever affectation he might employ on points of
conventual austerity, there was none here. Love was a thing he always
believed connected with sin, even though consecrated by the name of a
sacrament, and called marriage, as it is in our church. But, love in a
convent!--Oh, there is no conceiving his rage; still less is it possible
to conceive the majestic and overwhelming extent of that rage, when
strengthened by principle, and sanctified by religion. I enjoyed the
scene beyond all power of description. I saw those wretches, who had
triumphed over me, reduced to my level in a moment,--their passions all
displayed, and the display placing me a hero triumphant above all. I had
crawled to the shelter of their walls, a wretched degraded outcast, and
what was my crime? Well,--you shudder, I have done with that. I can only
say want drove me to it. And here were beings whom, a few months before,
I would have knelt to as to the images round the shrine,--to whom, in
the moments of my desperate penitence, I would have clung as to the
“horns of the altar,” all brought as low, and lower than myself. “Sons
of the morning,” as I deemed them in the agonies of my humiliation, “how
were they fallen!” I feasted on the degradation of the apostate monk and
novice,--I enjoyed, to the core of my ulcerated heart, the passion of
the Superior,--I felt that they were all men like myself. Angels, as I
had thought them, they had all proved themselves mortal; and, by
watching their motions, and flattering their passions, and promoting
their interest, or setting up my own in opposition to them all, while I
made them believe it was only theirs I was intent on, I might make shift
to contrive as much misery to others, and to carve out as much
occupation to myself, as if I were actually living in the world. Cutting
my father’s throat was a noble feat certainly, (I ask your pardon, I did
not mean to extort that groan from you), but here were hearts to be
cut,--and to the core, every day, and all day long, so I never could
want employment.”

  (7) Vide Charlevoix’s History of Paraguay.

“Here he wiped his hard brow, drew his breath for a moment, and then
said, “I do not quite like to go through the details by which this
wretched pair were deluded into the hope of effecting their escape from
the convent. It is enough that I was the principal agent,--that the
Superior connived at it,--that I led them through the very passages you
have traversed to-night, they trembling and blessing me at every
step,--that----” “Stop,” I cried; “wretch! you are tracing my course
this night step by step.”--“What?” he retorted, with a ferocious laugh,
“you think I am betraying you, then; and if it were true, what good
would your suspicions do you,--you are in my power? My voice might
summon half the convent to seize you this moment,--my arm might fasten
you to that wall, till those dogs of death, that wait but my whistle,
plunged their fangs into your very vitals. I fancy you would not find
their bite less keen, from their tusks being so long sharpened by an
immersion in holy water.” Another laugh, that seemed to issue from the
lungs of a demon, concluded this sentence. “I know I am in your power,”
I answered; “and were I to trust to that, or to your heart, I had better
dash out my brains at once against these walls of rock, which I believe
are not harder than the latter. But I know your interests to be some way
or other connected with my escape, and therefore I trust you,--because I
must. Though my blood, chilled as it is by famine and fatigue, seems
frozen in every drop while I listen to you, yet listen I must, and trust
my life and liberation to you. I speak to you with the horrid confidence
our situation has taught me,--I hate,--I dread you. If we were to meet
in life, I would shrink from you with loathings of unspeakable
abhorrence, but here mutual misery has mixed the most repugnant
substances in unnatural coalition. The force of that alchemy must cease
at the moment of my escape from the convent and from you; yet, for these
miserable hours, my life is as much dependent on your exertions and
presence, as my power of supporting them is on the continuance of your
horrible tale,--go on, then. Let us struggle through this dreadful day.
_Day!_ a name unknown _here_, where noon and night shake hands that
never unlock. Let us struggle through it, “hateful and hating one
another;” and when it has passed, let us curse and part.”

“As I uttered these words, Sir, I felt that terrible _confidence of
hostility_ which the worst beings are driven to in the worst of
circumstances, and I question whether there is a more horrible situation
than that in which we cling to each other’s hate, instead of each
other’s love,--in which, at every step of our progress, we hold a dagger
to our companion’s breast, and say, “If you faulter for a moment, this
is in your heart. I hate,--I fear, but I must bear with you.” It was
singular to me, though it would not be so to those who investigate human
nature, that, in proportion as my situation inspired me with a ferocity
quite unsuited to our comparative situations, and which must have been
the result of the madness of despair and famine, my companion’s respect
for me appeared to increase. After a long pause, he asked, might he
continue his story? I could not speak, for, after the slightest
exertion, the sickness of deadly hunger returned on me, and I could only
signify, by a feeble motion of my hand, that he might go on.

“They were conducted here,” he continued; “I had suggested the plan, and
the Superior consented to it. He would not be present, but his dumb nod
was enough. I was the conductor of their (intended) escape; they
believed they were departing with the connivance of the Superior. I led
them through those very passages that you and I have trod. I had a map
of this subterranean region, but my blood ran cold as I traversed it;
and it was not at all inclined to resume its usual temperament, as I
felt what was to be the destination of my attendants. Once I turned the
lamp, on pretence of trimming it, to catch a glimpse of the devoted
wretches. They were embracing each other,--the light of joy trembled in
their eyes. They were whispering to each other hopes of liberation and
happiness, and blending my name in the interval they could spare from
their prayers for each other. That sight extinguished the last remains
of compunction with which my horrible task had inspired me. They dared
to be happy in the sight of one who must be for ever miserable,--could
there be a greater insult? I resolved to punish it on the spot. This
very apartment was near,--I knew it, and the map of their wanderings no
longer trembled in my hand. I urged them to enter this recess, (the door
was then entire), while I went to examine the passage. They entered it,
thanking me for my precaution,--they knew not they were never to quit it
alive. But what were their lives for the agony their happiness cost me?
The moment they were inclosed, and clasping each other, (a sight that
made me grind my teeth), I closed and locked the door. This movement
gave them no immediate uneasiness,--they thought it a friendly
precaution. The moment they were secured, I hastened to the Superior,
who was on fire at the insult offered to the sanctity of his convent,
and still more to the purity of his penetration, on which the worthy
Superior piqued himself as much as if it had ever been possible for him
to acquire the smallest share of it. He descended with me to the
passage,--the monks followed with eyes on fire. In the agitation of
their rage, it was with difficulty they could discover the door after I
had repeatedly pointed it out to them. The Superior, with his own hands,
drove several nails, which the monks eagerly supplied, into the door,
that effectually joined it to the staple, _never to be disjoined_; and
every blow he gave, doubtless he felt as if it was a reminiscence to the
accusing angel, to strike out a sin from the catalogue of his
accusations. The work was soon done,--the work never to be undone. At
the first sound of steps in the passage, and blows on the door, the
victims uttered a shriek of terror. They imagined they were detected,
and that an incensed party of monks were breaking open the door. These
terrors were soon exchanged for others,--and worse,--as they heard the
door nailed up, and listened to our departing steps. They uttered
another shriek, but O how different was the accent of its despair!--they
knew their doom. * * * * * It was my penance (no,--my delight) to watch
at the door, under the pretence of precluding the possibility of their
escape, (of which they knew there was no possibility); but, in reality,
not only to inflict on me the indignity of being the convent gaoler, but
of teaching me that callosity of heart, and induration of nerve, and
stubbornness of eye, and apathy of ear, that were best suited to my
office. But they might have saved themselves the trouble,--I had them
all before ever I entered the convent. Had I been the Superior of the
community, I should have undertaken the office of watching the door. You
will call this cruelty, I call it curiosity,--that curiosity that brings
thousands to witness a tragedy, and makes the most delicate female feast
on groans and agonies. I had an advantage over them,--the groan, the
agony I feasted on, were real. I took my station at _the door_--that
door which, like that of Dante’s hell, might have borne the inscription,
“Here is no hope,”--with a face of mock penitence, and genuine--cordial
delectation. I could hear every word that transpired. For the first
hours they tried to comfort each other,--they suggested to each other
hopes of liberation,--and as my shadow, crossing the threshold, darkened
or restored the light, they said, “That is he;”--then, when this
occurred repeatedly, without any effect, they said, “No,--no, it is not
he,” and swallowed down the sick sob of despair, to hide it from each
other. Towards night a monk came to take my place, and to offer me food.
I would not have quitted my place for worlds; but I talked to the monk
in his own language, and told him I would make a merit with God of my
sacrifices, and was resolved to remain there all night, with the
permission of the Superior. The monk was glad of having a substitute on
such easy terms, and I was glad of the food he left me, for I was hungry
now, but I reserved the appetite of my soul for richer luxuries. I heard
them talking within. While I was eating, I actually lived on the famine
that was devouring them, but of which they did not dare to say a word to
each other. They debated, deliberated, and, as misery grows ingenious in
its own defence, they at last assured each other that it was impossible
the Superior had locked them in there to perish by hunger. At these
words I could not help laughing. This laugh reached their ears, and they
became silent in a moment. All that night, however, I heard their
groans,--those groans of physical suffering, that laugh to scorn all the
sentimental sighs that are exhaled from the hearts of the most
intoxicated lovers that ever breathed. I heard them all that night. I
had read French romances, and all their unimaginable nonsense. Madame
Sevignè herself says she would have been tired of her daughter in a long
tete-a-tete journey, but clap me two lovers into a dungeon, without
food, light, or hope, and I will be damned (that I am already, by the
bye) if they do not grow sick of each other within the first twelve
hours. The second day hunger and darkness had their usual influence.
They shrieked for liberation, and knocked loud and long at their dungeon
door. They exclaimed they were ready to submit to any punishment; and
the approach of the monks, which they would have dreaded so much the
preceding night, they now solicited on their knees. What a jest, after
all, are the most awful vicissitudes of human life!--they supplicated
now for what they would have sacrificed their souls to avert
four-and-twenty hours before. Then the agony of hunger increased, they
shrunk from the door, and grovelled apart from each other. _Apart!_--how
I watched that. They were rapidly becoming objects of hostility to each
other,--oh what a feast to me! They could not disguise from each other
the revolting circumstances of their mutual sufferings. It is one thing
for lovers to sit down to a feast magnificently spread, and another for
lovers to couch in darkness and famine,--to exchange that appetite which
cannot be supported without dainties and flattery, for that which would
barter a descended Venus for a morsel of food. The second night they
raved and groaned, (as occurred); and, amid their agonies, (I must do
justice to women, whom I hate as well as men), the man often accused the
female as the cause of all his sufferings, but the woman never,--never
reproached him. Her groans might indeed have reproached him bitterly,
but she never uttered a word that could have caused him pain. There was
a change which I well could mark, however, in their physical feelings.
The first day they clung together, and every movement I felt was like
that of one person. The next the man alone struggled, and the woman
moaned in helplessness. The third night,--how shall I tell it?--but you
have bid me go on. All the horrible and loathsome excruciations of
famine had been undergone; the disunion of every tie of the heart, of
passion, of nature, had commenced. In the agonies of their famished
sickness they loathed each other,--they could have cursed each other, if
they had had breath to curse. It was on the fourth night that I heard
the shriek of the wretched female,--her lover, in the agony of hunger,
had fastened his teeth in her shoulder;--that bosom on which he had so
often luxuriated, became a meal to him now.” * * * * * “Monster! and you
laugh?”--“Yes, I laugh at all mankind, and the imposition they dare to
practise when they talk of hearts. I laugh at human passions and human
cares,--vice and virtue, religion and impiety; they are all the result
of petty localities, and artificial situation. One physical want, one
severe and abrupt lesson from the tintless and shrivelled lip of
necessity, is worth all the logic of the empty wretches who have
presumed to prate it, from Zeno down to Burgersdicius. Oh! it silences
in a second all the feeble sophistry of _conventional_ life, and
ascetitious passion. Here were a pair who would not have believed all
the world on their knees, even though angels had descended to join in
the attestation, that it was possible for them to exist without each
other. They had risked every thing, trampled on every thing human and
divine, to be in each others sight and arms. One hour of hunger
undeceived them. A trivial and ordinary want, whose claims at another
time they would have regarded as a vulgar interruption of their
spiritualised intercourse, not only, by its natural operation, sundered
it for ever, but, before it ceased, converted that intercourse into a
source of torment and hostility inconceivable, except among cannibals.
The bitterest enemies on earth could not have regarded each other with
more abhorrence than _these lovers_. Deluded wretches! you boasted of
having hearts, I boast I have none, and which of us gained most by the
vaunt, let life decide. My story is nearly finished, and so I hope is
the day. When I was last here I had something to excite me;--talking of
those things is poor employment to one who has been a witness to them.
On the _sixth_ day all was still. The door was unnailed, we
entered,--they were no more. They lay far from each other, farther than
on that voluptuous couch into which their passion had converted the mat
of a convent bed. She lay contracted in a heap, a lock of her long hair
in her mouth. There was a slight scar on her shoulder,--the rabid
despair of famine had produced no farther outrage. He lay extended at
his length,--his hand was between his lips; it seemed as if he had not
strength to execute the purpose for which he had brought it there. The
bodies were brought out for interment. As we removed them into the
light, the long hair of the female, falling over a face no longer
disguised by the novice’s dress, recalled a likeness I thought I could
remember. I looked closer, she was my own sister,--my only one,----and I
had heard her voice grow fainter and fainter. I had heard----” and his
own voice grew fainter--it ceased.

“Trembling for a life with which my own was linked, I staggered towards
him. I raised him half up in my arms, and recollecting there must be a
current of air through the trap-door, I attempted to trail him along
thither. I succeeded, and, as the breeze played over him, I saw with
delight unutterable the diminution of the light that streamed through
it. It was _evening_,--there was no longer any necessity, no longer any
time for delay. He recovered, for his swoon arose not from exhausted
sensibility, but from mere inanition. However it was, I found my
interest in watching his recovery; and, had I been adequate to the task
of observing extraordinary vicissitudes of the human mind, I would have
been indeed amazed at the change that he manifested on his recovery.
Without the least reference to his late story, or late feelings, he
started from my arms at the discovery that the light had diminished, and
prepared for our escape through the trap-door, with a restored energy of
strength, and sanity of intellect, that might have been deemed
miraculous if it had occurred in a convent:--Happening to occur full
thirty feet below the proper surface for a miracle, it must be put to
the account of strong excitement merely. I could not indeed dare to
believe a miracle was wrought in favour of my profane attempt, and so I
was glad to put up with second causes. With incredible dexterity he
climbed up the wall, with the help of the rugged stones and my
shoulders,--threw open the trap-door, pronounced that all was safe,
assisted me to ascend after him,--and, with gasping delight, I once more
breathed the breath of heaven. The night was perfectly dark. I could not
distinguish the buildings from the trees, except when a faint breeze
gave motion to the latter. To this darkness, I am convinced, I owe the
preservation of my reason under such vicissitudes,--the glory of a
resplendent night would have driven me mad, emerging from darkness,
famine, and cold. I would have wept, and laughed, and knelt, and turned
idolater. I would have “worshipped the host of heaven, and the moon
walking in her brightness.” Darkness was my best security, in every
sense of the word. We traversed the garden, without feeling the ground
under our feet. As we approached the wall, I became again deadly
sick,--my senses grew giddy, I reeled. I whispered to my companion, “Are
there not lights gleaming from the convent windows?”--“No, the lights
are flashing from your own eyes,--it is only the effect of darkness,
famine, and fear,--come on.”--“But I hear a sound of bells.”--“The bells
are ringing only in your ears,--an empty stomach is your sexton, and you
fancy you hear bells. Is this a time to faulter?--come on, come on.
Don’t hang such a dead weight on my arm,--don’t fall, if you can help
it. Oh God, he has swooned!”

“These were the last words I heard. I had fallen, I believe, into his
arms. With that instinct that acts most auspiciously in the absence of
both thought and feeling, he dragged me in his brawny arms to the wall,
_and twisted my cold fingers_ in the ropes of the ladder. The touch
restored me in a moment; and, almost before my hand had touched the
ropes, my feet began to ascend them. My companion followed extempore. We
reached the summit,--I tottered from weakness and terror. I felt a
sickly dread, that, though the ladder was there, Juan was not. A moment
after a lanthorn flashed in my eyes,--I saw a figure below. I sprung
down, careless, in that wild moment, whether I met the dagger of an
assassin, or the embrace of a brother. “Alonzo, dear Alonzo,” murmured a
voice. “Juan, dear Juan,” was all I could utter, as I felt my shivering
breast held close to that of the most generous and affectionate of
brothers. “How much you must have suffered,--how much I have suffered,”
he whispered; “during the last horrible twenty-four hours, I almost gave
you up. Make haste, the carriage is not twenty paces off.” And, as he
spoke, the shifting of a lanthorn shewed me those imperious and
beautiful features, which I had once dreaded as the pledge of eternal
emulation, but which I now regarded as the smile of the proud but
benignant god of my liberation. I pointed to my companion, I could not
speak,--hunger was consuming my vitals. Juan supported me, consoled me,
encouraged me; did all, and more, than man ever did for man,--than man
ever did, perhaps, for the most shrinking and delicate of the other sex
under his protection. Oh, with what agony of heart I retrace his manly
tenderness! We waited for my companion,--he descended the wall. “Make
haste, make haste,” Juan whispered; “I am famishing too. I have not
tasted food for four-and-twenty hours, watching for you.” We hurried on.
It was a waste place,--I could only distinguish a carriage by the light
of a dim lanthorn, but that was enough for me. I sprung lightly into it.
“_He is safe_,” cried Juan, following me. “_But are you?_” answered a
voice of thunder. Juan staggered back from the step of the carriage,--he
fell. I sprung out, I fell too--on his body. I was bathed in his
blood,----he was no more.”


    Men who with mankind were foes.
     * * * *
    Or who, in desperate doubt of grace.--
     * * * *


“One wild moment of yelling agony,--one flash of a fierce and fiery
light, that seemed to envelope and wither me soul and body,--one sound,
that swept through my ears and brain like the last trumpet, as it will
thrill on the senses of those who slept in guilt, and awake in
despair,--one such moment, that condenses and crowds all imaginable
sufferings in one brief and intense pang, and appears exhausted itself
by the blow it has struck,--one such moment I remember, and no more.
Many a month of gloomy unconsciousness rolled over me, without date or
notice. One thousand waves may welter over a sunk wreck, and be felt as
_one_. I have a dim recollection of refusing food, of resisting change
of place, &c. but they were like the faint and successless attempts we
make under the burden of the night-mare; and those with whom I had to
do, probably regarded any opposition I could make no more than the
tossings of a restless sleeper.

“From dates that I have since been enabled to collect, I must have been
four months at least in this state; and ordinary persecutors would have
given me up as a hopeless subject for any further sufferings; but
religious malignity is too industrious, and too ingenious, to resign the
hope of a victim but with life. If the fire is extinguished, it sits and
watches the embers. If the strings of the heart crack in its hearing, it
listens if it be the _last_ that has broken. It is a spirit that
delights to ride on the _tenth wave_, and view it whelm and bury the
sufferer for ever. * * * * * * *

“Many changes had taken place, without any consciousness on my part of
them. Perhaps the profound tranquillity of my _last_ abode contributed
more than any thing else to the recovery of my reason. I distinctly
remember awaking at once to the full exercise of my senses and reason,
and finding myself in a place which I examined with the most amazed and
jealous curiosity. My memory did not molest me in the least. Why I was
there? or what I had suffered before I was brought there? it never
occurred to me to inquire. The return of the intellectual powers came
slowly in, like the waves of an advancing tide, and happily for me
memory was the last,--the occupation of my senses was at first quite
enough for me. You must expect no romance-horrors, Sir, from my
narrative. Perhaps a life like mine may revolt the taste that has
feasted to fastidiousness; but truth sometimes gives full and dreadful
compensation, in presenting us facts instead of images.

“I found myself lying on a bed, not very different from that in my cell,
but the apartment was wholly unlike the latter. It was somewhat larger,
and covered with matting. There was neither crucifix, painting, or
vessel for holy water;--the bed, a coarse table which supported a
lighted lamp, and a vessel containing water for the purpose, were all
the furniture. There was no window; and some iron knobs in the door, to
which the light of the lamp gave a kind of dismal distinctness and
prominence, proved that it was strongly secured. I raised myself on my
arm, and gazed round me with the apprehensiveness of one who fears that
the slightest motion may dissolve the spell, and plunge him again in
darkness. At that moment the recollection of all the past struck me like
a thunder-bolt. I uttered a cry, that seemed to drain me of breath and
being at once, and fell back on the bed, not senseless but exhausted. I
remembered every event in a moment, with an intenseness that could only
be equalled by actual and present agency in them,--my escape,--my
safety,--my despair. I felt Juan’s embrace,--then I felt his blood
stream over me. I saw his eyes turn in despair, before they closed for
ever, and I uttered another cry, such as had never before been heard
within those walls. At the repetition of this sound the door opened, and
a person, in a habit I had never seen before, approached, and signified
to me by signs, that I must observe the most profound silence. Nothing,
indeed, could be more expressive of this meaning, than his denying
himself the use of his voice to convey it. I gazed on this apparition in
silence,--my amazement had all the effect of an apparent submission to
his injunctions. He retired, and I began to wonder where I was. Was it
among the dead? or some subterranean world of the mute and voiceless,
where there was no air to convey sounds, and no echo to repeat them, and
the famished ear waited in vain for its sweetest banquet,--the voice of
man? These wanderings were dispelled by the re-entrance of the person.
He placed bread, water, and a small portion of meat on the table,
motioned me to approach, (which I did mechanically), and, when I was
seated, _whispered_ me, That my unhappy situation having hitherto
rendered me incapable of understanding the regulations of the place
where I was, he had been compelled to postpone acquainting me with them;
but _now_ he was obliged to warn me, that my voice must never be raised
beyond the key in which he addressed me, and which was sufficient for
all proper purposes of communication; finally, he assured me that cries,
exclamations of any kind, or even _coughing too loud_(8), (which might
be interpreted as a signal), would be considered as an attempt on the
inviolable habits of the place, and punished with the utmost severity.
To my repeated questions of “Where am I? what is this place, with its
mysterious regulations?” he replied in a whisper, that his business was
to issue orders, not to answer questions; and so saying he departed.
However extraordinary these injunctions appeared, the manner in which
they were issued was so imposing, peremptory, and _habitual_,--it seemed
so little a thing of local contrivance and temporary display,--so much
like the established language of an absolute and long-fixed system, that
obedience to it seemed inevitable. I threw myself on the bed, and
murmured to myself, “Where am I?” till sleep overcame me.

  (8) This is a fact well established.

“I have heard that the first sleep of a recovered maniac is intensely
profound. Mine was not so, it was broken by many troubled dreams. One,
in particular, brought me back to the convent. I thought I was a boarder
in it, and studying Virgil. I was reading that passage in the second
book, where the vision of Hector appears to Æneas in his dream, and his
ghastly and dishonoured form suggests the mournful exclamation,

    “----Heu quantum mutatus ab illo,--
    ----Quibus ab oris, Hector expectate venis?”

Then I thought Juan was Hector,--that the same pale and bloody phantom
stood calling me to fly--“Heu fuge,” while I vainly tried to obey him.
Oh that dreary mixture of truth and delirium, of the real and visionary,
of the conscious and unconscious parts of existence, that visits the
dreams of the unhappy! He was Pantheus, and murmured,

    “Venit summa dies, et ineluctabile tempus.”

I appeared to weep and struggle in my dream. I addressed the figure that
stood before me sometimes as Juan, and sometimes as the image of the
Trojan vision. At last the figure uttered, with a kind of querulous
shriek,--that _vox stridula_ which we hear only in dreams,

    “Proximus ardet Ucalegon,”

and I started up fully awake, in all the horrors of an expected

“It is incredible, Sir, how the senses and the mind can operate thus,
during the apparent suspension of both; how sound can affect organs that
seem to be shut, and objects affect the sight, while its sense appears
to be closed,--can impress on its dreaming consciousness, images more
horribly vivid than even reality ever presented. I awoke with the idea
that flames were raging in contact with my eye-balls, and I saw only a
pale light, held by a paler hand--close to my eyes indeed, but withdrawn
the moment I awoke. The person who held it shrouded it for a moment, and
then advanced and flashed its full light on me, and along with it--the
person of my companion. The associations of our last meeting rushed on
me. I started up, and said, “Are we free, then?”--“Hush,--one of us is
free; but you must not speak so loud.”--“Well, I have heard that before,
but I cannot comprehend the necessity of this whispering secrecy. If I
am free, tell me so, and tell me whether Juan has survived that last
horrible moment,--my intellect is but just respiring. Tell me how Juan
fares.”--“Oh, sumptuously. No prince in all the land reposes under a
more gorgeous canopy,--marble pillars, waving banners, and nodding
plumes. He had music too, but he did not seem to heed it. He lay
stretched on velvet and gold, but he appeared insensible of all these
luxuries. There was a curl on his cold white lip, too, that seemed to
breathe ineffable scorn on all that was going on,--but he was proud
enough even in his life-time.”--“His life-time!” I shrieked; “then he
_is_ dead?”--“Can you doubt that, when you know who struck the blow?
None of my victims ever gave me the trouble of a second.”--“You,--you?”
I swam for some moments in a sea of flames and blood. My frenzy
returned, and I remember only uttering curses that would have exhausted
divine vengeance in all its plenitude to fulfil. I might have continued
to rave till my reason was totally lost, but I was silenced and stunned
by his laugh bursting out amid my curses, and overwhelming them.

“That laugh made me cease, and lift up my eyes to him, as if I expected
to see another being,--it was still the same. “And you dreamt,” he
cried, “in your temerity, you dreamt of setting the vigilance of a
convent at defiance? Two boys, one the fool of fear, and the other of
temerity, were fit antagonists for that stupendous system, whose roots
are in the bowels of the earth, and whose head is among the
stars,--_you_ escape from a convent! _you_ defy a power that has defied
sovereigns! A power whose influence is unlimited, indefinable, and
unknown, even to those who exercise it, as there are mansions so vast,
that their inmates, to their last hour, have never visited all the
apartments;--a power whose operation is like its motto,--one and
indivisible. The soul of the Vatican breathes in the humblest convent in
Spain,--and you, an insect perched on a wheel of this vast machine,
imagined you were able to arrest its progress, while its rotation was
hurrying on to crush you to atoms.” While he was uttering these words,
with a rapidity and energy inconceivable, (a rapidity that literally
made one word seem to devour another), I tried, with that effort of
intellect which seems like the gasping respiration of one whose breath
has long been forcibly suppressed or suspended, to comprehend and follow
him. The first thought that struck me was one not very improbable in my
situation, that he was not the person he appeared to be,--that it was
not the companion of my escape who now addressed me; and I summoned all
the remains of my intellect to ascertain this. A few questions must
determine this point, if I had breath to utter them. “Were you not the
agent in my escape? Were you not the man who---- What tempted you to
this step, in the defeat of which you appear to rejoice?”--“A
bribe.”--“And you have betrayed me, you say, and boast of your
treachery,--what tempted you to this?”--“A higher bribe. Your brother
gave gold, but the convent promised me salvation,--a business I was very
willing to commit to their hands, as I was totally incompetent to manage
it myself.”--“Salvation, for treachery and murder?”--“Treachery and
murder,--hard words. Now, to talk sense, was not yours the vilest
treachery? You reclaimed your vows,--you declared before God and man,
that the words you uttered before both were the babble of an infant;
then you seduced your brother from his duty to his and your
parents,--you connived at his intriguing against the peace and sanctity
of a monastic institution, and dare _you_ talk of treachery? And did you
not, with a callosity of conscience unexampled in one so young, accept,
nay, cling to an associate in your escape whom you knew you were
seducing from his vows,--from all that man reveres as holy, and all that
God (if there be a God) must regard as binding on man? You knew my
crime, you knew my atrocity, yet you brandished me as your banner of
defiance against the Almighty, though its inscription was, in glaring
characters,--impiety--parricide--irreligion. Torn as the banner was, it
still hung near the altar, till you dragged it away, to wrap yourself
from detection in its folds,--and _you_ talk of treachery?--there is not
a more traitorous wretch on earth than yourself. Suppose that I was all
that is vile and culpable, was it for you to double-dye the hue of my
crime in the crimson of your sacrilege and apostacy? And for murder, I
know I am a parricide. I cut my father’s throat, but he never felt the
blow,--nor did I,--I was intoxicated with wine, with passion, with
blood,--no matter which; but you, with cold deliberate blows, struck at
the hearts of father and mother. You killed by inches,--I murdered at a
blow,--which of us is the murderer?--And _you_ prate of treachery and
murder? I am as innocent as the child that is born this hour, compared
to you. Your father and mother have separated,--she is gone into a
convent, to hide her despair and shame at your unnatural conduct,--your
father is plunging successively into the abysses of voluptuousness and
penitence, wretched in both; your brother, in his desperate attempt to
liberate you, has perished,--you have scattered desolation over a whole
family,--you have stabbed the peace and heart of each of them, with a
hand that deliberated and paused on its blow, and then struck it
calmly,--and you dare to talk of treachery and murder? You are a
thousand times more culpable than I am, guilty as you think me. I stand
a blasted tree,--I am struck to the heart, to the root,--I wither
alone,--but you are the Upas, under whose poisonous droppings all things
living have perished,--father--mother--brother, and last yourself;--the
erosions of the poison, having nothing left to consume, strike inward,
and prey on your own heart. Wretch, condemned beyond the sympathy of
man, beyond the redemption of the Saviour, what can you say to this?”--I
answered only, “Is Juan dead, and were you his murderer,--were you
indeed? I believe all you say, I must be very guilty, but is Juan dead?”
As I spoke, I lifted up to him eyes that no longer seemed to see,--a
countenance that bore no expression but that of the stupefaction of
intense grief. I could neither utter nor feel reproaches,--I had
suffered beyond the power of complaint. I awaited his answer; he was
silent, but his diabolical silence spoke. “And my mother retired to a
convent?” he nodded. “And my father?” he smiled, and I closed my eyes. I
could bear any thing but his smile. I raised my head a few moments
after, and saw him, with an habitual motion, (it could not have been
more), make the sign of the cross, as a clock in some distant passage
struck. This sight reminded me of the play so often acted in Madrid, and
which I had seen in my few days of liberation,--El diablo Predicador.
You smile, Sir, at such a recollection operating at such a moment, but
it is a fact; and had you witnessed that play under the singular
circumstances I did, you would not wonder at my being struck with the
coincidence. In this performance the infernal spirit is the hero, and in
the disguise of a monk he appears in a convent, where he torments and
persecutes the community with a mixture of malignity and mirth truly
Satanic. One night that I saw it performed, a groupe of monks were
carrying the Host to a dying person; the walls of the theatre were so
slight, that we could distinctly hear the sound of the bell which they
ring on that occasion. In an instant, actors, audience, and all, were on
their knees, and the devil, who happened to be on the stage, knelt among
the rest, and crossed himself with visible marks of a devotion equally
singular and edifying. You will allow the coincidence to be irresistibly

“When he had finished his monstrous profanation of the holy sign, I
fixed my eyes on him with an expression not to be mistaken. He saw it.
There is not so bitter a reproach on earth as silence, for it always
seems to refer the guilty to their own hearts, whose eloquence seldom
fails to fill up the pause very little to the satisfaction of the
accused. My look threw him into a rage, that I am now convinced not the
most bitter upbraidings could have caused. The utmost fury of
imprecation would have fallen on his ear like the most lulling
harmony;--it would have convinced him that his victim was suffering all
he could possibly inflict. He betrayed this in the violence of his
exclamations. “What, wretch!” he cried;--“Do you think it was for your
masses and your mummeries, your vigils, and fasts, and mumbling over
senseless unconsoling beads, and losing my rest all night watching for
the matins, and then quitting my frozen mat to nail my knees to stone
till they grew there,--till I thought the whole pavement would rise with
me when I rose,--do you think it was for the sake of listening to
sermons that the preachers did not believe,--and prayers that the lips
that uttered them yawned at in the listlessness of their
infidelity,--and penances that might be hired out to a lay-brother to
undergo for a pound of coffee or of snuff,--and the vilest
subserviencies to the caprice and passion of a Superior,--and the
listening to men with God for ever in their mouths, and the world for
ever in their hearts,--men who think of nothing but the aggrandizement
of their temporal distinction, and screen, under the most revolting
affectation of a concern in spiritualities, their ravening cupidity
after earthly eminence:--Wretch! do you dream that it was for
this?--that this _atheism of bigotry_,--this creed of all the priests
that ever have existed in connexion with the state, and in hope of
extending their interest by that connexion,--could have any influence
over _me_? I had sounded every depth in the mine of depravity before
them. I knew them,--I despised them. I crouched before them in body, I
spurned them in my soul. With all their sanctimony, they had hearts so
worldly, that it was scarce worth while to watch their hypocrisy, the
secret developed itself so soon. There was no discovery to be made, no
place for detection. I have seen them on their high festivals, prelates,
and abbots, and priests, in all their pomp of office, appearing to the
laity like descended gods, blazing in gems and gold, amid the lustre of
tapers and the floating splendour of an irradiated atmosphere alive with
light, and all soft and delicate harmonies and delicious odours, till,
as they disappeared amid the clouds of incense so gracefully tossed from
the gilded censers, the intoxicated eye dreamed it saw them ascending to
Paradise. Such was the _scene_, but what was _behind the scene_?--_I saw
it all._ Two or three of them would rush from service into the vestry
together, under the pretence of changing their vestments. One would
imagine that these men would have at least the decency to refrain, while
in the intervals of the holy mass. No, I overheard them. While shifting
their robes, they talked incessantly of promotions and appointments,--of
this or that prelate, dying or dead,--of a wealthy benefice being
vacant,--of one dignitary having bargained hard with the state for the
promotion of a relative,--of another who had well-founded hopes of
obtaining a bishoprick, for what? neither for learning or piety, or one
feature of the pastoral character, but because he had valuable benefices
to resign in exchange, that might be divided among numerous candidates.
Such was their conversation,--such and such only were their thoughts,
till the last thunders of the allelujah from the church made them start,
and hurry to resume their places at the altar. Oh what a compound of
meanness and pride, of imbecillity and pretension, of sanctimony so
transparently and awkwardly worn, that the naked frame of the natural
mind was visible to every eye beneath it,--that mind which is “earthly,
sensual, devilish.” Was it to live among such wretches, who, all-villain
as I was, made me hug myself with the thought that at least I was not
like them, a passionless prone reptile,--a thing made of forms and
dressings, half satin and shreds, half ave’s and credo’s,--bloated and
abject,--creeping and aspiring,--winding up and up the pedestal of power
at the rate of an inch a day, and tracking its advance to eminence by
the flexibility of its writhings, the obliquity of its course, and the
filth of its slime,--was it for this?”--he paused, half-choaked with his

“This man might have been a better being under better circumstances; he
had at least a disdain of all that was mean in vice, with a wild avidity
for all that was atrocious. “Was it for this,” he continued, “that I
have sold myself to work their works of darkness,--that I have become in
this life as it were an apprentice to Satan, to take anticipated lessons
of torture,--that I have sealed those indentures here, which must be
fulfilled below? No, I despise--I loathe it all, the agents and the
system,--the men and their matters. But it is the creed of that system,
(and true or false it avails not,--some kind of creed is necessary, and
the falser perhaps the better, for falsehood at least flatters), that
the greatest criminal may expiate his offences, by vigilantly watching,
and severely punishing, those of the enemies of heaven. Every offender
may purchase his immunity, by consenting to become the executioner of
the offender whom he betrays and denounces. In the language of the laws
of another country, they may turn “king’s evidence,” and buy their own
lives at the price of another’s,--a bargain which every man is very
ready to make. But, in religious life, this kind of transfer, this
substitutional suffering, is adopted with an avidity indescribable. How
we love to punish those whom the church calls the enemies of God, while
conscious that, though our enmity against him is infinitely greater, we
become acceptable in his sight by tormenting those who may be less
guilty, but who are in our power! I hate you, not because I have any
natural or social cause to do so, but because the exhaustion of my
resentment on you, may diminish that of the Deity towards me. If I
persecute and torment the enemies of God, must I not be the friend of
God? Must not every pang I inflict on another, be recorded in the book
of the All-remembering, as an expurgation of at least one of the pangs
that await me hereafter? I have no religion, I believe in no God, I
repeat no creed, but I have that superstition of fear and of futurity,
that seeks its wild and hopeless mitigation in the sufferings of others
when our own are exhausted, or when (a much more common case) we are
unwilling to undergo them. I am convinced that my own crimes will be
obliterated, by whatever crimes of others I can promote or punish. Had I
not, then, every motive to urge you to crime? Had I not every motive to
watch and aggravate your punishment? Every coal of fire that I heaped on
your head, was removing one from that fire that burns for ever and ever
for mine. Every drop of water that I withheld from your burning tongue,
I expect will be repaid to me in slaking the fire and brimstone into
which I must one day be hurled. Every tear that I draw, every groan that
I extort, will, I am convinced, be repaid me in the remission of my
own!--guess what a price I set on yours, or those of any other victim.
The man in ancient story trembled and paused over the scattered limbs of
his child, and failed in the pursuit,--the true penitent rushes over the
mangled members of nature and passion, collects them with a hand in
which there is no pulse, and a heart in which there is no feeling, and
holds them up them in the face of the Divinity as a peace-offering. Mine
is the best theology,--the theology of utter hostility to all beings
whose sufferings may mitigate mine. In this flattering theory, your
crimes become my virtues,--I need not any of my own. Guilty as I am of
the crime that outrages nature, your crimes (the crimes of those who
offend against the church) are of a much more heinous order. But your
guilt is my exculpation, your sufferings are my triumph. I need not
repent, I need not believe; if you suffer, I am saved,--that is enough
for me. How glorious and easy it is to erect at once the trophy of our
salvation, on the trampled and buried hopes of another’s! How subtle and
sublime that alchemy, that can convert the iron of another’s contumacy
and impenitence into the precious gold of your own redemption! I have
literally worked out _my_ salvation by _your_ fear and trembling. With
this hope I appeared to concur in the plan laid by your brother, every
feature of which was in its progress disclosed to the Superior. With
this hope I passed that wretched night and day in the dungeon with you,
for, to have effected our escape by day-light, would have startled
credulity as gross as even yours. But all the time I was feeling the
dagger I bore in my breast, and which I had received for a purpose amply
accomplished. As for you,--the Superior consented to your attempt to
escape, merely that he might have you more in his power. He and the
community were tired of you, they saw you would never make a monk,--your
appeal had brought disgrace on them, your presence was a reproach and a
burden to them. The sight of you was as thorns in their eyes,--they
judged you would make a better victim than a proselyte, and they judged
well. You are a much fitter inmate for your present abode than your
last, and from hence there is no danger of your escaping.”--“And where,
then, am I?”--“_You are in the prison of the Inquisition._”


    Oh! torture me no more, I will confess.


    You have betrayed her to her own reproof.


“And it was true,--I was a prisoner in the Inquisition. Great
emergencies certainly inspire us with the feelings they demand; and many
a man has braved a storm on the wide wild ocean, who would have shrunk
from its voice as it pealed down his chimney. I believe so it fared with
me,--the storm had risen, and I braced myself to meet it. I was in the
Inquisition, but I knew that my crime, heinous as it was, was not one
that came properly under the cognizance of the Inquisition. It was a
conventual fault of the highest class, but liable only to be punished by
the ecclesiastical power. The punishment of a monk who had dared to
escape from his convent, might be dreadful enough,--immurement, or death
perhaps, but still I was not legitimately a prisoner of the Inquisition.
I had never, under all my trials, spoken a disrespectful word of the
holy Catholic church, or a doubtful one of our most holy faith,--I had
not dropped one heretical, obnoxious, or equivocal expression, relative
to a single point of duty, or article of faith. The preposterous charges
of sorcery and possession, brought against me in the convent, had been
completely disproved at the visitation of the Bishop. My aversion to the
monastic state was indeed sufficiently known and fatally proved, but
that was no subject for the investigation or penalties of the
Inquisition. I had nothing to fear from the Inquisition,--at least so I
said to myself in my prison, and I believed myself. The seventh day
after the recovery of my reason was fixed on for my examination, and of
this I received due notice, though I believe it is contrary to the usual
forms of the Inquisition to give this notice; and the examination took
place on the day and hour appointed.

“You are aware, Sir, that the tales related in general of the interior
discipline of the Inquisition, must be in nine out of ten mere fables,
as the prisoners are bound by an oath never to disclose what happens
within its walls; and they who could violate this oath, would certainly
not scruple to violate truth in the details with which their
emancipation from it indulges them. I am forbidden, by an oath which I
shall never break, to disclose the circumstances of my imprisonment or
examination. I am at liberty to mention some general features of both,
as they are connected with my extraordinary narrative. My first
examination terminated rather favourably; my contumacy and aversion to
monasticism were indeed deplored and reprobated, but there was no
ulterior hint,--nothing to alarm the peculiar fears of an inmate of the
Inquisition. So I was as happy as solitude, darkness, straw, bread, and
water, could make me, or any one, till, on the fourth night after my
first examination, I was awoke by a light gleaming so strongly on my
eyes, that I started up. The person then retired with his light, and I
discovered a figure sitting in the farthest corner of my cell. Delighted
at the sight of a human form, I yet had acquired so much of the habit of
the Inquisition, that I demanded, in a cold and peremptory voice, who
had ventured to intrude on the cell of a prisoner? The person answered
in the blandest tones that ever soothed the human ear, that he was, like
myself, a prisoner in the Inquisition;--that, by its indulgence, he had
been permitted to visit me, and hoped----“And is _hope_ to be named
here?” I could not help exclaiming. He answered in the same soft and
deprecatory tone; and, without adverting to our peculiar circumstances,
suggested the consolation that might be derived from the society of two
sufferers who were indulged with the power of meeting and communicating
with each other.

“This man visited me for several successive nights; and I could not help
noticing three extraordinary circumstances in his visits and his
appearance. The first was, that he always (when he could) concealed his
eyes from me; he sat sideways and backways, shifted his position,
changed his seat, held up his hand before his eyes; but when at times he
was compelled or _surprised_ to turn their light on me, I felt that I
had never beheld such eyes blazing in a mortal face,--in the darkness of
my prison, I held up my hand to shield myself from their preternatural
glare. The second was, that he came and retired apparently without help
or hindrance,--that he came, like one who had a key to the door of my
dungeon, at all hours, without leave or forbiddance,--that he traversed
the prisons of the Inquisition, like one who had a master-key to its
deepest recesses. Lastly, he spoke not only in a tone of voice clear and
audible, totally unlike the whispered communications of the Inquisition,
but spoke his abhorrence of the whole system,--his indignation against
the Inquisition, Inquisitors, and all their aiders and abettors, from St
Dominic down to the lowest official,--with such unqualified rage of
vituperation, such caustic inveteracy of satire, such unbounded license
of ludicrous and yet withering severity, that I trembled.

“You know, Sir, or perhaps have yet to know, that there are persons
_accredited_ in the Inquisition, who are permitted to solace the
solitude of the prisoners, on the condition of obtaining, under the
pretence of friendly communication, those secrets which even torture has
failed to extort. I discovered in a moment that my visitor was not one
of these,--his abuse of the system was too gross, his indignation too
unfeigned. Yet, in his continued visits, there was one circumstance
more, which struck me with a feeling of terror that actually paralyzed
and annihilated all the terrors of the Inquisition.

“He constantly alluded to events and personages beyond his _possible
memory_,--then he checked himself,--then he appeared to go on, with a
kind of wild and derisive sneer at his own _absence_. But this perpetual
reference to events long past, and men long buried, made an impression
on me I cannot describe. His conversation was rich, various, and
intelligent, but it was interspersed with such reiterated mention of the
dead, that I might be pardoned for feeling as if the speaker was one of
them. He dealt much in anecdotical history, and I, who was very ignorant
of it, was delighted to listen to him, for he told every thing with the
fidelity of an eye-witness. He spoke of the _Restoration_ in England,
and repeated the well-remembered observation of the queen-mother,
Henriette of France,--that, had she known as much of the English on her
first arrival, as she did on her second, she never would have been
driven from the throne; then he added, to my astonishment, I was beside
her carriage(9), _it was the only one then in London_. He afterwards
spoke of the superb fetes given by Louis Quatorze, and described, with
an accuracy that made me start, the magnificent chariot in which that
monarch personated the god of day, while all the titled pimps and
harlots of the court followed as the rabble of Olympus. Then he reverted
to the death of the Duchesse d’Orleans, sister to Charles II.--to Pere
Bourdalone’s awful sermon, preached at the death-bed of the royal
beauty, dying of poison, (as suspected); and added, I saw the roses
heaped on her toilette, to array her for a fete that very night, and
near them stood the pix, and tapers, and oil, shrouded with the lace of
that very toilette. Then he passed to England; he spoke of the wretched
and well-rebuked pride of the wife of James II. who “thought it scorn”
to sit at the same table with an Irish officer who informed her husband
(then Duke of York) that _he_ had sat at table, as an officer in the
Austrian service, where the Duchess’s father (Duke of Modena) had stood
behind a chair, as a vassal to the Emperor of Germany.

  (9) I have read this somewhere, but cannot believe it. Coaches are
  mentioned by Beaumont and Fletcher, and even glass-coaches by Butler,
  in his “Remains.”

“These circumstances were trifling, and might be told by any one, but
there was a minuteness and circumstantiality in his details, that
perpetually forced on the mind the idea that he had himself seen what he
described, and been conversant with the personages he spoke of. I
listened to him with an indefinable mixture of curiosity and terror. At
last, while relating a trifling but characteristic circumstance that
occurred in the reign of Louis the Thirteenth, he used the following
expressions(10): “One night that the king was at an entertainment, where
Cardinal Richelieu also was present, the Cardinal had the insolence to
rush out of the apartment before his Majesty, just as the coach of the
latter was announced. The King, without any indignant notice of the
arrogance of the minister, said, with much _bon hommie_, “His Eminence
the Cardinal will always be first.”--“The first to attend your Majesty,”
answered the Cardinal, with admirable polite presence of mind; and,
snatching a flambeau from a page who _stood near me_, he lighted the
King to his carriage.” I could not help catching at the extraordinary
words that had escaped him; and I asked him, “Were you there?” He gave
some indirect answer; and, avoiding the subject, went on to amuse me
with some other curious circumstances of the private history of that
age, of which he spoke with a minute fidelity somewhat _alarming_. I
confess my pleasure in listening to them was greatly diminished by the
singular sensation with which this man’s presence and conversation
inspired me. He departed, and I regretted his absence, though I could
not account for the extraordinary feeling which I experienced during his

  (10) This circumstance is related, I believe, in the Jewish Spy.

“A few days after I was to encounter my second examination. The night
before it one of the _officials_ visited me. These are men who are not
the common officers of a prison, but accredited in some degree by the
higher powers of the Inquisition, and I paid due respect to his
communications, particularly as they were delivered more in detail, and
with more emphasis and energy than I could have expected from an inmate
of that speechless mansion. This circumstance made me expect something
extraordinary, and his discourse verified all, and more than I expected.
He told me in plain terms, that there had been lately a cause of
disturbance and inquietude, which had never before occurred in the
Inquisition. That it was reported a human figure had appeared in the
cells of some of the prisoners, uttering words not only hostile to the
Catholic religion, and the discipline of the most holy Inquisition, but
to religion in general, to the belief of a God and a future state. He
added, that the utmost vigilance of the officials, on the rack for
discovery, had never been able to trace this being in his visits to the
cells of the prisoners; that the guards had been doubled, and every
precaution that the circumspection of the Inquisition could employ, was
had recourse to, hitherto without success; and that the only intimation
they had of this singular visitor, was from some of the prisoners whose
cells he had entered, and whom he had addressed in language that seemed
lent him by the enemy of mankind, to accomplish the perdition of these
unhappy beings. He himself had hitherto eluded all discovery; but he
trusted, that, with the means lately adopted, it was impossible for this
agent of the evil one to insult and baffle the holy tribunal much
longer. He advised me to be prepared on this point, as it would
undoubtedly be touched on at my next examination, and perhaps more
urgently than I might otherwise imagine; and so, commending me to the
holy keeping of God, he departed.

“Not wholly unconscious of the subject alluded to in this extraordinary
communication, but perfectly innocent of any ulterior signification, as
far as related to myself, I awaited my next examination rather with hope
than fear. After the usual questions of--Why I was there? who had
accused me? for what offence? whether I could recollect any expression
that had ever intimated a disregard for the tenets of the holy church?
&c. &c. &c.--after all this had been gone through, in a detail that may
be spared the hearer, certain extraordinary questions were proposed to
me, that appeared to relate indirectly to the appearance of my late
visitor. I answered them with a sincerity that seemed to make a
frightful impression on my judges. I stated plainly, in answer to their
questions, that a person had appeared in my dungeon. “You must call it
cell,” said the Supreme. “In my cell, then. He spoke with the utmost
severity of the holy office,--he uttered words that it would not be
respectful for me to repeat. I could scarcely believe that such a person
would be permitted to visit the dungeons (cells, I should say) of the
holy Inquisition.” As I uttered these words, one of the judges,
trembling on his seat, (while his shadow, magnified by the imperfect
light, pictured the figure of a paralytic giant on the wall opposite to
me), attempted to address some question to me. As he spoke, there came a
hollow sound from his throat, his eyes were rolled upwards in their
sockets,--he was in an apoplectic paroxysm, and died before he could be
removed to another apartment. The examination terminated suddenly, and
in some confusion; but, as I was remanded back to my cell, I could
perceive, to my consternation, that I had left an impression the most
unfavourable on the minds of the judges. They interpreted this
accidental circumstance in a manner the most extraordinary and unjust,
and I felt the consequences of it at my next examination.

“That night I received a visit in my cell from one of the judges of the
Inquisition, who conversed with me a considerable time, and in an
earnest and dispassionate manner. He stated the atrocious and revolting
character under which I appeared from the first before the
Inquisition,--that of a monk who had apostatized, had been accused of
the crime of sorcery in his convent, and, in his impious attempt at
escape, had caused the death of his brother, whom he had seduced to join
in it, and had overwhelmed one of the first families with despair and
disgrace. Here I was going to reply, but he stopped me, and observed,
that he came not to listen, but to speak; and went on to inform me, that
though I had been acquitted of the charge of communication with the evil
spirit at the visitation of the Bishop, certain suspicions attached to
me had been fearfully strengthened, by the fact that the visits of the
extraordinary being, of whom I had heard enough to assure me of his
actuality, had never been known in the prison of the Inquisition till my
entrance into it. That the fair and probable conclusion was, that I was
really the victim of the enemy of mankind, whose power (through the
reluctant permission of God and St Dominic, and he crossed himself as he
spoke) had been suffered to range even through the walls of the holy
office. He cautioned me, in severe but plain terms, against the danger
of the situation in which I was placed, by the suspicions universally
and (he feared) too justly attached to me; and, finally, adjured me, as
I valued my salvation, to place my entire confidence in the mercy of the
holy office, and, if _the figure_ should visit me again, to watch what
its impure lips might suggest, and faithfully report it to the holy

“When the Inquisitor had departed, I reflected on what he had said. I
conceived it was something like the conspiracies so often occurring in
the convent. I conceived that this might be an attempt to involve me in
some plot against myself, something in which I might be led to be active
in my own condemnation,--I felt the necessity of vigilant and breathless
caution. I knew myself innocent, and this is a consciousness that defies
even the Inquisition itself; but, within the walls of the Inquisition,
the consciousness, and the defiance it inspires, are alike vain. I
finally resolved, however, to watch every circumstance that might occur
within the walls of my cell very closely, threatened as I was at once by
the powers of the Inquisition, and those of the infernal demon, and I
had not long to watch. It was on the second night after my examination,
that I saw this person enter my cell. My first impulse was to call aloud
for the officials of the Inquisition. I felt a kind of vacillation I
cannot describe, between throwing myself into the power of the
Inquisition, or the power of this extraordinary being, more formidable
perhaps than all the Inquisitors on earth, from Madrid to Goa. I dreaded
imposition on both sides. I believed that they were playing off terror
against terror; I knew not what to believe or think. I felt myself
surrounded by enemies on every side, and would have given my heart to
those who would first throw off the mask, and announce themselves as my
decided and avowed enemy. After some reflection, I judged it best _to
distrust the Inquisition_, and to hear all that this extraordinary
visitor had to say. In my secret soul I believed him their secret
agent,--I did them great injustice. His conversation on this second
visit was more than usually amusing, but it was certainly such as might
justify all the suspicions of the Inquisitors. At every sentence he
uttered, I was disposed to start up and call for the officials. Then I
represented to myself his turning accuser, and pointing _me_ out as the
victim of their condemnation. I trembled at the idea of committing
myself by a word, while in the power of that dreadful body that might
condemn me to expire under the torture,--or, worse, to die the long and
lingering death of inanity,--the mind famished, the body scarcely
fed,--the annihilation of hopeless and interminable solitude,--the
terrible inversion of natural feeling, that makes life the object of
deprecation, and death of indulgence.

“The result was, that I sat and listened to the conversation (if it may
be called so) of this extraordinary visitor, who appeared to regard the
walls of the Inquisition no more than those of a domestic apartment, and
who seated himself beside me as quietly as if he had been reposing on
the most luxurious sofa that ever was arrayed by the fingers of
voluptuousness. My senses were so bewildered, my mind so disarranged,
that I can hardly remember his conversation. Part of it ran thus: “You
are a prisoner of the Inquisition. The holy office, no doubt, is
instituted for wise purposes, beyond the cognizance of sinful beings
like us; but, as far as we can judge, its prisoners are not only
insensible of, but shamefully ungrateful for, the benefits they might
derive from its provident vigilance. For instance, you, who are accused
of sorcery, fratricide, and plunging an illustrious and affectionate
family in despair, by your atrocious misconduct, and who are now
fortunately restrained from farther outrages against nature, religion,
and society, by your salutary confinement here;--you, I venture to say,
are so unconscious of these blessings, that it is your earnest desire to
escape from the further enjoyment of them. In a word, I am convinced
that the secret wish of your heart (unconverted by all the profusion of
charity which has been heaped on you by the holy office) is not on any
account to increase the burden of your obligation to them, but, on the
contrary, to diminish as much as possible the grief these worthy persons
must feel, as long as your residence pollutes their holy walls, by
abridging its period, even long before they intend you should do so.
Your wish is to escape from the prison of the holy office, if
possible,--you know it is.” I did not answer a word. I felt a terror at
this wild and fierce irony,--I felt a terror at the mention of escape,
(I had fatal reasons for this feeling),--a terror of every thing, and
every one near me, indescribable. I believed myself tottering on a
narrow ridge,--an Al-araf, between the alternate gulphs which the
infernal spirit and the Inquisition (not less dreaded) disclosed on each
side of my trembling march. I compressed my lips,--I hardly suffered my
breath to escape.

“The speaker went on. “With regard to your escape, though I can promise
that to you, (and that is what no _human power_ can promise you), you
must be aware of the difficulty which will attend it,--and, should that
difficulty terrify you, will you hesitate?” Still I was silent;--my
visitor perhaps took this for the silence of doubt. He went on. “Perhaps
you think that your lingering here, amid the dungeons of the
Inquisition, will infallibly secure your salvation. There is no error
more absurd, and yet more rooted in the heart of man, than the belief
that his sufferings will promote his spiritual safety.” Here I thought
myself safe in rejoining, that I felt,--I trusted, my sufferings here
would indeed be accepted as a partial mitigation of my well-merited
punishment hereafter. I acknowledged my many errors,--I professed myself
as penitent for my misfortunes as if they had been crimes; and the
energy of my grief combining with the innocence of my heart, I commended
myself to the Almighty with an unction I really felt,--I called on the
names of God, the Saviour, and the Virgin, with the earnest supplication
of sincere devoutness. When I had risen from my knees, my visitor had
retired. * * * * * * *

“Examination followed examination before the judges, with a rapidity
unexampled in the annals of the Inquisition. Alas! that they should be
_annals_,--that they should be more than records of _one day_ of abuse,
oppression, falsehood, and torture. At my next examination before the
judges, I was interrogated according to the usual forms, and afterwards
was led, by questions as artfully constructed, as if there was any
necessity for art to lead me, to speak to the question on which I longed
to disburden myself. The moment the subject was mentioned, I entered on
my narrative with an eagerness of sincerity that would have undeceived
any but Inquisitors. I announced that I had received another visit from
this unknown being. I repeated, with breathless and trembling eagerness,
every word of our late conference. I did not suppress a syllable of the
insults on the holy office, the wild and fiend-like acrimony of his
satire, the avowed atheism, the diabolism of his conversation,--I dwelt
on every particular. I hoped to _make merit_ with the Inquisition, by
accusing their enemy, and that of mankind. Oh! there is no telling the
agony of zeal with which we work between two mortal adversaries, hoping
to make a friend of one of them! I had suffered enough already from the
Inquisition, but at this moment I would have crouched at the knees of
the Inquisitors,--I would have pleaded for the place of the meanest
official in their prison,--I would have supplicated for the loathsome
office of their executioner,--I would have encountered any thing that
the Inquisition could inflict, to be spared the horror of being imagined
the ally of the enemy of souls. To my distraction, I perceived that
every word I uttered, in all the agony of truth,--in all the hopeless
eloquence of a soul struggling with the fiends who are bearing it beyond
the reach of mercy, was disregarded. The judges appeared struck, indeed,
by the earnestness with which I spoke. They gave, for a moment, a kind
of instinctive credit to my words, extorted by terror; but, a moment
after, I could perceive that _I_, and not my communication, was the
object of that terror. They seemed to view me through a distorting
atmosphere of mystery and suspicion. They urged me, over and over again,
for further particulars,--for ulterior circumstances,--for something
that was in _their_ minds, but not in mine. The more pains they took to
construct their questions skilfully, the more unintelligible they became
to me. I had told all I knew, I was anxious to tell all, but I could not
tell more than I knew, and the agony of my solicitude to meet the object
of the judges, was aggravated in proportion to my ignorance of it. On
being remanded to my cell, I was warned, in the most solemn manner, that
if I neglected to watch, remember, and report every word uttered by the
extraordinary being, whose visits they tacitly acknowledged they could
neither prevent or detect, I might expect the utmost severity of the
holy office. I promised all this,--all that could be demanded, and,
finally, as the last proof I could give of my sincerity, I implored that
some one might be allowed to pass the night in my cell,--or, if that was
contrary to the rules of the Inquisition, that one of the guard might be
stationed in the passage communicating with my cell, to whom I could, by
a signal agreed on, intimate when this nameless being burst on me, and
his impious intrusion might be at once detected and punished. In
speaking thus, I was indulged with a privilege very unusual in the
Inquisition, where the prisoner is only to answer questions, but never
to speak unless when called on. My proposal, however, caused some
consultation; and it was with horror I found, on its termination, that
not one of the officials, even under the discipline of the Inquisition,
would undertake the task of watching at the door of _my_ cell.

“I went back to it in an agony inexpressible. The more I had laboured to
clear myself, the more I had become involved. My only resource and
consolation was in a determination to obey, to the strictest letter, the
injunctions of the Inquisition. I kept myself studiously awake,--_he_
came not all that night. Towards the morning I slept,--Oh what a sleep
was mine!--the genii, or the demons of the place, seemed busy in the
dream that haunted me. I am convinced that a real victim of an _auto da
fe_ (so called) never suffered more during his horrible procession to
flames temporal and eternal, than I did during that dream. I dreamed
that the judgement had passed,--the bell had tolled,--and we marched out
from the prison of the Inquisition;--my crime was proved, and my
sentence determined, as an apostate monk and a _diabolical_ heretic. The
procession commenced,--the Dominicans went first, then followed the
penitents, arms and feet bare, each hand holding a wax taper, some with
_san benitos_, some without, all pale, haggard, and breathless, the hue
of their faces frightfully resembling that of their clay-coloured arms
and feet. Then followed those who had on their black dresses the _fuego
revolto_(11). Then followed--I saw _myself_; and this horrid tracing of
yourself in a dream,--this haunting of yourself by your own spectre,
while you still live, is perhaps a curse almost equal to your crimes
visiting you in the punishments of eternity. I saw myself in the garment
of condemnation, _the flames pointing upwards_, while the demons painted
on my dress were mocked by the demons who beset my feet, and hovered
round my temples. The Jesuits on each side of me, urged me to consider
the difference between these painted fires, and those which were about
to enwrap my writhing soul for an eternity of ages. All the bells of
Madrid seemed to be ringing in my ears. There was no light but a dull
twilight, such as one always sees in his sleep, (no man ever dreamed of
sun-light);--there was a dim and smoky blaze of torches in my eyes,
whose flames were soon to _be in my eyes_. I saw the stage before me,--I
was chained to the chair, amid the ringing of bells, the preaching of
the Jesuits, and the shouts of the multitude. A splendid amphitheatre
stood opposite,--the king and queen of Spain, and all the nobility and
hierarchy of the land, were there to see us burn. Our thoughts in dreams
wander; I had heard a story of an _auto da fe_, where a young Jewess,
not sixteen, doomed to be burnt alive, had prostrated herself before the
queen, and exclaimed, “Save me,--save me, do not let me burn, my only
crime is believing in the God of my fathers;”--the queen (I believe
Elizabeth of France, wife of Philip) wept, but the procession went on.
Something like this crossed my dream. I saw the supplicant rejected; the
next moment the figure was that of my brother Juan, who clung to me,
shrieking, “Save me, save me.” The next moment I was chained to my chair
again,--the fires were lit, the bells rang out, the litanies were
sung;--my feet were scorched to a cinder,--my muscles cracked, my blood
and marrow hissed, my flesh consumed like shrinking leather,--the bones
of my legs hung two black withering and moveless sticks in the ascending
blaze;--it ascended, caught my hair,--I was crowned with fire,--my head
was a ball of molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their
sockets;--I opened my mouth, it drank fire,--I closed it, the fire was
within,--and still the bells rung on, and the crowd shouted, and the
king and queen, and all the nobility and priesthood, looked on, and we
burned, and burned!--I was a cinder body and soul in my dream.

  (11) _Flames reversed_, intimating that the criminal is not to be

“I awoke from it with the horrible exclamation--ever shrieked, never
heard--of those wretches, when the fires are climbing fast and
fell,--_Misericordia por amor di Dios!_ My own screams awoke me,--I was
in my prison, and beside me stood the tempter. With an impulse I could
not resist,--an impulse borrowed from the horrors of my dream, I flung
myself at his feet, and called on him to “save me.”

“I know not, Sir, nor is it a problem to be solved by human intellect,
whether this inscrutable being had not the power to influence my dreams,
and dictate to a tempting demon the images which had driven me to fling
myself at his feet for hope and safety. However it was, he certainly
took advantage of my agony, half-visionary, half-real as it was, and,
while proving to me that he had the power of effecting my escape from
the Inquisition, proposed to me that incommunicable condition which I am
forbid to reveal, except in the act of confession.”

Here Melmoth could not forbear remembering the _incommunicable
condition_ proposed to Stanton in the mad-house,--he shuddered, and was
silent. The Spaniard went on.

“At my next examination, the questions were more eager and earnest than
ever, and I was more anxious to be heard than questioned; so, in spite
of the eternal circumspection and formality of an inquisitorial
examination, we soon came to understand each other. I had an object to
gain, and they had nothing to lose by my gaining that object. I
confessed, without hesitation, that I had received another visit from
that most mysterious being, who could penetrate the recesses of the
Inquisition, without either its leave or prevention, (the judges
trembled on their seats, as I uttered these words);--that I was most
willing to disclose all that had transpired at our last conference, but
that I required to first confess to a priest, and receive absolution.
This, though quite contrary to the rules of the Inquisition, was, on
this extraordinary occasion, complied with. A black curtain was dropt
before one of the recesses; I knelt down before a priest, and confided
to him that tremendous secret, which, according to the rules of the
Catholic church, can never be disclosed by the confessor but to the
Pope. I do not understand how the business was managed, but I was called
on to repeat the same confession before the Inquisitors. I repeated it
word for word, saving only the words that my oath, and my consciousness
of the holy secret of confession, forbade me to disclose. The sincerity
of this confession, I thought, would have worked a miracle for me,--and
so it did, but not the miracle that I expected. They required from me
that incommunicable secret; I announced it was in the bosom of the
priest to whom I had confessed. They whispered, and seemed to debate
about the torture.

“At this time, as may be supposed, I cast an anxious and miserable look
round the apartment, where the large crucifix, thirteen feet high, stood
bending above the seat of the Supreme. At this moment I saw a person
seated at the table covered with black cloth, intensely busy as a
secretary, or person employed in taking down the depositions of the
accused. As I was led near the table, this person flashed a look of
recognition on me,--he was my dreaded companion,--he was an official now
of the Inquisition. I gave all up the moment I saw his ferocious and
lurking scowl, like that of the tiger before he springs from his jungle,
or the wolf from his den. This person threw on me looks, from time to
time, which I could not mistake, and I dared not interpret;--and I had
reason to believe that the tremendous sentence pronounced against me,
issued, if not from his lips, at least from his dictation.--“You, Alonzo
di Monçada, monk, professed of the order of ----, accused of the crimes
of heresy, apostacy, fratricide, (“Oh no,--no!” I shrieked, but no one
heeded me), and conspiracy with the enemy of mankind against the peace
of the community in which you professed yourself a votary of God, and
against the authority of the holy office; accused, moreover, of
intercourse in your cell, the prison of the holy office, with an
infernal messenger of the foe of God, man, and your own apostatized
soul; condemned on your own confession of the infernal spirit having had
access to your cell,--are hereby delivered to----”

“I heard no more. I exclaimed, but my voice was drowned in the murmur of
the officials. The crucifix suspended behind the chair of the judge,
rocked and reeled before my eyes; the lamp that hung from the ceiling,
seemed to send forth twenty lights. I held up my hands in
abjuration--they were held down by stronger hands. I tried to speak--my
mouth was stopped. I sunk on my knees--on my knees I was about to be
dragged away, when an aged Inquisitor giving a sign to the officials, I
was released for a few moments, and he addressed me in these
words--words rendered terrible by the sincerity of the speaker. From his
age, from his sudden interposition, I had expected mercy. He was a very
old man--he had been blind for twenty years; and as he rose to speak my
malediction, my thoughts wandered from Appius Claudius of
Rome,--blessing the loss of sight, that saved him from beholding the
disgrace of his country,--to that blind chief Inquisitor of Spain, who
assured Philip, that in sacrificing his son, he imitated the Almighty,
who had sacrificed his Son also for the salvation of mankind.--Horrid
profanation! yet striking application to the bosom of a Catholic. The
words of the Inquisitor were these: “Wretch, apostate, and
excommunicate, I bless God that these withered balls can no longer
behold you. The demon has haunted you from your birth--you were born in
sin--fiends rocked your cradle, and dipt their talons in the holy font,
while they mocked the sponsors of your unsanctified baptism.
Illegitimate and accursed, you were always the burden of the holy
church; and now, the infernal spirit comes to claim his own, and you
acknowledge him as your lord and master. He has sought and sealed you as
his own, even amid the prison of the Inquisition. Begone, accursed, we
deliver you over to the secular arm, praying that it may deal with you
not too severely.” At these terrible words, whose meaning I understood
but too well, I uttered one shriek of agony--the only _human_ sound ever
heard within the walls of the Inquisition. But I was borne away; and
that cry into which I had thrown the whole strength of nature, was
heeded no more than a cry from the torture room. On my return to my
cell, I felt convinced the whole was a scheme of inquisitorial art, to
involve me in self-accusation, (their constant object when they can
effect it), and punish me for a crime, while I was guilty only of an
extorted confession.

“With compunction and anguish unutterable, I execrated my own beast-like
and credulous stupidity. Could any but an idiot, a driveller, have been
the victim of such a plot? Was it in nature to believe that the prisons
of the Inquisition could be traversed at will by a stranger whom no one
could discover or apprehend? That such a being could enter cells
impervious to human power, and hold conversation with the prisoners at
his pleasure--appear and disappear--insult, ridicule, and
blaspheme--propose escape, and point out the means with a precision and
facility, that must be the result of calm and profound calculation--and
this within the walls of the Inquisition, almost in the hearing of the
judges--actually in the hearing of the guards, who night and day paced
the passages with sleepless and inquisitorial vigilance?--ridiculous,
monstrous, impossible! it was all a plot to betray me to
self-condemnation. My visitor was an agent and accomplice of the
Inquisition, and I was my own betrayer and executioner. Such was my
conclusion; and, hopeless as it was, it certainly seemed probable.

“I had now nothing to await but the most dreadful of all destinations,
amid the darkness and silence of my cell, where the total suspension of
the stranger’s visits confirmed me every hour in my conviction of their
nature and purport, when an event occurred, whose consequences alike
defeated fear, hope, and calculation. This was the great fire that broke
out within the walls of the Inquisition, about the close of the last

“It was on the night of the 29th November 17--, that this extraordinary
circumstance took place--extraordinary from the well-known precautions
adopted by the vigilance of the holy office against such an accident,
and also from the very small quantity of fuel consumed within its walls.
On the first intimation that the fire was spreading rapidly, and
threatened danger, the prisoners were ordered to be brought from their
cells, and guarded in a court of the prison. I must acknowledge we were
treated with great humanity and consideration. We were conducted
deliberately from our cells, placed each of us between two guards, who
did us no violence, nor used harsh language, but assured us, from time
to time, that if the danger became imminent, we would be permitted every
fair opportunity to effect our escape. It was a subject worthy of the
pencil of Salvator Rosa, or of Murillo, to sketch us as we stood. Our
dismal garbs and squalid looks, contrasted with the equally dark, but
imposing and authoritative looks of the guards and officials, all
displayed by the light of torches, which burned, or appeared to burn,
fainter and fainter, as the flames rose and roared in triumph above the
towers of the Inquisition. The heavens were all on fire--and the
torches, held no longer in firm hands, gave a tremulous and pallid
light. It seemed to me like a wildly painted picture of the last day.
God appeared descending in the light that enveloped the skies--and we
stood pale and shuddering in the light below.

“Among the groupe of prisoners, there were fathers and sons, who perhaps
had been inmates of adjacent cells for years, without being conscious of
each others vicinity or existence--but they did not dare to recognize
each other. Was not this like the day of judgement, where similar mortal
relations may meet under different classes of the sheep and goats,
without presuming to acknowledge the strayed one amid the flock of a
different shepherd? There were also parents and children who _did_
recognize and stretch out their wasted arms to each other, though
feeling they must never meet,--some of them condemned to the flames,
some to imprisonment, and some to the official duties of the
Inquisition, as a mitigation of their sentence,--and was not this like
the day of judgement, where parent and child may be allotted different
destinations, and the arms that would attest the last proof of mortal
affection, are expanded in vain over the gulph of eternity. Behind and
around us stood the officials and guards of the Inquisition, all
watching and intent on the progress of the flames, but fearless of the
result with regard to themselves. Such may be the feeling of those
spirits who watch the doom of the Almighty, and know the destination of
those they are appointed to watch. And is not this like the day of
judgement? Far, far, above us, the flames burst out in volumes, in solid
masses of fire, spiring up to the burning heavens. The towers of the
Inquisition shrunk into cinders--that tremendous monument of the power,
and crime, and gloom of the human mind, was wasting like a scroll in the
fire. Will it not be thus also at the day of judgement? Assistance was
slowly brought--Spaniards are very indolent--the engines played
imperfectly--the danger increased--the fire blazed higher and
higher--the persons employed to work the engines, paralyzed by terror,
fell to the ground, and called on every saint they could think of, to
arrest the progress of the flames. Their exclamations were so loud and
earnest, that really the saints must have been deaf, or must have felt a
particular predilection for a conflagration, not to attend to them.
However it was, the fire went on. Every bell in Madrid rang out.--Orders
were issued to every Alcalde to be had.--The king of Spain himself,
((12)after a hard day’s shooting), attended in person. The churches were
all lit up, and thousands of the devout supplicated on their knees by
torchlight, or whatever light they could get, that the reprobate souls
confined in the Inquisition might feel the fires that were consuming its
walls, as merely a slight foretaste of the fires that glowed for them
for ever and ever. The fire went on, doing its dreadful work, and
heeding kings and priests no more than if they were firemen. I am
convinced twenty able men, accustomed to such business, could have
quenched the fire; but when our workmen should have played their
engines, they were all on their knees.

  (12) The passion of the late king of Spain for field sports was well

“The flames at last began to descend into the court. Then commenced a
scene of horror indescribable. The wretches who had been doomed to the
flames, imagined their hour was come. Idiots from long confinement, and
submissive as the holy office could require, they became delirious as
they saw the flames approaching, and shrieked audibly, “Spare me--spare
me--put me to as little torture as you can.” Others, kneeling to the
approaching flames, invoked them as saints. They dreamt they saw the
visions they had worshipped,--the holy angels, and even the blessed
virgin, descending in flames to receive their souls as parting from the
stake; and they howled out their allelujahs half in horror, half in
hope. Amid this scene of distraction, the Inquisitors stood their
ground. It was admirable to see their firm and solemn array. As the
flames prevailed, they never faultered with foot, or gave a sign with
hand, or winked with eye;--their duty, their stern and heartless duty,
seemed to be the only principle and motive of their existence. They
seemed a phalanx clad in iron impenetrable. When the fires roared, they
crossed themselves calmly;--when the prisoners shrieked, they gave a
signal for silence;--when they dared to pray, they tore them from their
knees, and hinted the inutility of prayer at such a juncture, when they
might be sure that the flames they were deprecating would burn hotter in
a region from which there was neither escape or hope of departure. At
this moment, while standing amid the groupe of prisoners, my eyes were
struck by an extraordinary spectacle. Perhaps it is amid the moments of
despair, that imagination has most power, and they who have suffered,
can best describe and feel. In the burning light, the steeple of the
Dominican church was as visible as at noon-day. It was close to the
prison of the Inquisition. The night was intensely dark, but so strong
was the light of the conflagration, that I could see the spire blazing,
from the reflected lustre, like a meteor. The hands of the clock were as
visible as if a torch was held before them; and this calm and silent
progress of time, amid the tumultuous confusion of midnight
horrors,--this scene of the physical and mental world in an agony of
fruitless and incessant motion, might have suggested a profound and
singular image, had not my whole attention been rivetted to a human
figure placed on a pinnacle of the spire, and surveying the scene in
perfect tranquillity. It was a figure not to be mistaken--it was the
figure of him who had visited me in the cells of the Inquisition. The
hopes of my justification made me forget every thing. I called aloud on
the guard, and pointed out the figure, visible as it was in that strong
light to every eye. No one had time, however, to give a glance towards
it. At that very moment, the archway of the court opposite to us gave
way, and sunk in ruins at our feet, dashing, as it fell, an ocean of
flame against us. One wild shriek burst from every lip at that moment.
Prisoners, guards, and Inquisitors, all shrunk together, mingled in one
groupe of terror.

“The next instant, the flames being suppressed by the fall of such a
mass of stone, there arose such a blinding cloud of smoke and dust, that
it was impossible to distinguish the face or figure of those who were
next you. The confusion was increased by the contrast of this sudden
darkness, to the intolerable light that had been drying up our sight for
the last hour, and by the cries of those who, being near the arch, lay
maimed and writhing under its fragments. Amid shrieks, and darkness, and
flames, a space lay open before me. The thought, the motion, were
simultaneous--no one saw--no one pursued;--and hours before my absence
could be discovered, or an inquiry be made after me, I had struggled
safe and secret through the ruins, and was in the streets of Madrid.

“To those who have escaped present and extreme peril, all other peril
seems trifling. The wretch who has swum from a wreck cares not on what
shore he is cast; and though Madrid was in fact only a wider prison of
the Inquisition to me, in knowing that I was no longer in the hands of
the officials, I felt a delirious and indefinite consciousness of
safety. Had I reflected for a moment, I must have known, that my
peculiar dress and _bare feet_ must betray me wherever I went. The
conjuncture, however, was very favourable to me--the streets were
totally deserted;--every inhabitant who was not in bed, or bed-rid, was
in the churches, deprecating the wrath of heaven, and praying for the
extinction of the flames.

“I ran on, I know not where, till I could run no longer. The pure air,
which I had been so long unaccustomed to breathe, acted like the most
torturing spicula on my throat and lungs as I flew along, and utterly
deprived me of the power of respiration, which at first it appeared to
restore. I saw a building near me, whose large doors were open. I rushed
in--it was a church. I fell on the pavement panting. It was the aisle
into which I had burst--it was separated from the chancel by large
grated railings. Within I could see the priests at the altar, by the
lamps recently and rarely lighted, and a few trembling devotees on their
knees, in the body of the chancel. There was a strong contrast between
the glare of the lamps within the chancel, and the faint light that
trembled through the windows of the aisle, scarcely showing me the
monuments, on one of which I leaned to rest my throbbing temples for a
moment. I could not rest--I dared not--and rising, I cast an involuntary
glance on the inscription which the monument bore. The light appeared to
increase maliciously, to aid my powers of vision. I read, “Orate pro
anima.” I at last came to the name--“Juan di Monçada.” I flew from the
spot as if pursued by demons--my brother’s early grave had been my
resting place.


    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.

  escaped damnation to all eternity. I tried to pacify him, to assure him
  escaped damnation to all eternity.” I tried to pacify him, to assure him

  I have never felt any fear so horrible. “I walked up and down, I repeated
  I have never felt any fear so horrible. I walked up and down, I repeated

  It was noon before I could work myself up to execute this resolution. I
  “It was noon before I could work myself up to execute this resolution. I


  my late tremendous visitation, as he called it. Satan hath desired to
  my late tremendous visitation, as he called it. “Satan hath desired to

  have you, he said, because you have put yourself within his power, by
  have you,” he said, “because you have put yourself within his power, by

  The Superior all this time walked impatiently up and down his
  “The Superior all this time walked impatiently up and down his

  natural malignity of wretchedness, “If they tremble, I may exult. When
  natural malignity of wretchedness, “If they tremble, I may exult.” When

  Bishop paused. An appeal to his fealings would have been vain, but this
  Bishop paused. An appeal to his feelings would have been vain, but this

  the assistance of the lamp in my ce , and went to watch again at the
  the assistance of the lamp in my cell, and went to watch again at the

  they cut their parents hearts or their throats. I have cut _one_
  they cut their parents’ hearts or their throats. I have cut _one_

  criminals should undergo what they called extraorordinary penance; that
  criminals should undergo what they called extraordinary penance; that

  were issued to every Alcaide to be had.--The king of Spain himself,
  were issued to every Alcalde to be had.--The king of Spain himself,

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