“She was sitting on a small blue cloud, a little above the topsail yard. ‘Fear not, Francois,’ said she, motioning with her hand, ’to throw the image overboard.’” The inquisitors were astonished at my boldness: a consultation was held, as to whether I should be treated as a blasphemer, or the circumstance blazoned into a miracle. But it unfortunately happened for me that a miracle had occurred very lately; and there were very few people to be burnt at the auto da fe of the ensuing month.
It was therefore decided against me. I was reviled, abused, and sentenced to the flames; but I determined, as my only chance, to put a good face upon the matter to the very last. Looking up, as if to a point in the ceiling of the dark hall of judgment, and holding my hands before, as if in amazement—“Holy Virgin,” cried I, bending on my knee, “I thank thee for the sign. My Lord,” continued I fiercely, “I fear you not; you have sentenced me to perish by the flames; I tell you that I shall leave my dungeon with honour, and be as much courted as I have been now reviled.”
The inquisitors were for a moment staggered, but their surprise gave place to their cruelty, when they considered how long they had tortured thousands for doubting points to which they themselves had never for a moment given credence. I was remanded to my dungeon; and the gaoler, who had never before witnessed such boldness in the hall of justice, and was impressed with the conviction that I was supported as I had affirmed, treated me with kindness, affording me comforts, which, had it been known, would have cost him his situation.
In the meantime the cargo of the vessel was landed at the Custom House, and she was hauled on shore to have her bottom caulked and pitched, when, to the astonishment of the captain and crew, the hole which had occasioned the leak was discovered with the head of the figure of the saint, which I had thrown overboard, so firmly wedged in, that it required some force to pull it out. “A miracle! a miracle!” was cried from the quays, and proclaimed through every part of the town. It was evident that the Virgin had instigated me to throw over the image, as the only means of stopping the leak. The friars of the nearest convent claimed the image from their propinquity, and came down to the ship in grand procession to carry it to their church. The grand inquisitor, hearing the circumstance, acknowledged to the bishop and heads of the clergy my intrepid behaviour in the hall of judgment; and not three hours after the ship had been hauled on shore, I was visited in my dungeon by the grand inquisitor, the bishop, and a long procession, my pardon requested, and the kiss of peace demanded and given. I was taken away with every mark of respect, and looked upon as one under special favour of the Virgin. “Did I not say, my lord, that I should leave my dungeon in honour?”
“You did, my friend,” answered the inquisitor; and I heard him mutter, “either there is such a person as the Virgin Mary, or you are a most ready-witted scoundrel.”