It chanced, that I visited the hill on Michaelmas-day, and a curious proof was afforded me, that, at however low an ebb religion may be in France, enthusiastic fanaticism is far from extinct. A man of the lower classes of society was praying before a broken cross, near St. Michael’s Chapel, where, before the revolution, the monks of St. Ouen used annually on this day to perform mass, and many persons of extraordinary piety were wont to assemble the first Wednesday of every month to pray and to preach, in honor of the guardian angels. His manner was earnest in the extreme; his eyes wandered strangely; his gestures were extravagant, and tears rolled in profusion down a face, whose every feature bore the strongest marks of a decided devotee. A shower which came at the moment compelled us both to seek shelter within the walls of the chapel, and we soon became social and entered into conversation. The ruined state of the building was his first and favorite topic: he lamented its destruction; he mourned over the state of the times which could countenance such impiety; and gradually, while he turned over the leaves of the prayer-book in his hand, he was led to read aloud the hundred and thirty-sixth psalm, commenting upon every verse as he proceeded, and weeping more and more bitterly, when he came to the part commemorating the ruin of Jerusalem, which he applied, naturally enough, to the captive state of France, smarting as she then was under the iron rod of Prussia. Of the other allies, including even the Russians, he owned that there was no complaint to be made: “they conduct themselves,” said he, “agreeably to the maxim of warfare, which says ’battez-vous contre ceux qui vous opposent; mais ayez pitie des vaincus.’ Not so the Prussians: with them it is ’frappez-ca, frappez-la, et quand ils entrent dans quelque endroit, ils disent, il nous faut ca, il nous faut la, et ils le prennent d’autorite.’ Cruel Babylon!”—“Yet, even admitting all this,” we asked, “how can you reconcile with the spirit of christianity the permission given to the Jews by the psalmist, to ’take up her little ones and dash them against the stones.’”—“Ah! you misunderstand the sense, the psalm does not authorize cruelty;—mais, attendez! ce n’est pas ainsi: ces pierres la sont Saint Pierre; et heureux celui qui les attachera a Saint Pierre; qui montrera de l’attachement, de l’intrepidite pour sa religion.”—Then again, looking at the chapel, with tears and sobs, “how can we expect to prosper, how to escape these miseries, after having committed such enormities?”—His name, he told us, was Jacquemet, and my companion kindly made a sketch of his face, while I noted down his words.
This specimen will give you some idea of the extraordinary influence of the Roman catholic faith over the mind, and of the curious perversions under which it does not scruple to take refuge.