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The following sections, if they exist, are offprint from Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults: "About the Author", "Overview", "Setting", "Literary Qualities", "Social Sensitivity", "Topics for Discussion", "Ideas for Reports and Papers". (c)1994-2005, by Walton Beacham.
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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|(TESTIMONY OF EDWARD P. HOOD.)||97|
|(TESTIMONY OF EZRA GODDARD.)||97|
|(TESTIMONY OF LUCY GODDARD.)||98|
|(TESTIMONY OF JOSIAH GODDARD.)||98|
|(TESTIMONY OF EBEN JEWETT.)||98|
|(TESTIMONY OF CHARLES CHAFFIN.)||98|
|(TESTIMONY OF Z. K. PANGBORN.)||98|
|A POPISH BULL OK CURSE.||143|
|DESTRUCTION OF THE INQUISITION IN SPAIN.||171|
|ROMANISM IN AMERICA.||185|
|CONVENT OF THE. CAPUCHINS IN SANTIAGO||187|
I was born at St. John’s, New Brunswick, in the year 1835. My father was from the city of Dublin, Ireland, where he spent his youth, and received an education in accordance with the strictest rules of Roman Catholic faith and practice. Early manhood, however, found him dissatisfied with his native country, longing for other scenes and distant climes. He therefore left Ireland, and came to Quebec.
Here he soon became acquainted with Capt. Willard, a wealthy English gentleman, who, finding him a stranger in a strange land, kindly opened his door, and gave him employment and a home. Little did he think that in so doing he was warming in his bosom a viper whose poisonous fangs would, ere long, fasten on his very heart-strings, and bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. His only child was a lovely daughter of fourteen. From what I have heard of her, I think she must have been very beautiful in person, quiet, gentle and unassuming in her deportment, and her disposition amiable and affectionate. She was exceedingly romantic, and her mental powers were almost, if not entirely uncultivated; still, she possessed sufficient strength of character to enable her to form a deep, ardent, and permanent attachment.
The young stranger gazed upon her with admiring eyes, and soon began to whisper in her ear the flattering tale of love. This, of course, her parents could not approve. What! give their darling to a stranger? Never, no, never. What could they do without her? Grieved that their kindness should have been thus returned, they bade him go his way, and leave their child in peace. He did go, but like a thief he returned. In the darkness of midnight he stole to her chamber, and bore away from the home of her childhood, “a father’s joy, a mother’s pride.”
Who can tell the anguish of their souls when they entered that deserted chamber? How desolate their lonely hearthstone! How dark the home where her presence had scattered rainbow hues! A terrible blow it was to Capt. Willard; a very bitter thing thus to have his cherished plans frustrated, his brightest hopes destroyed; to see the very sun of his existence go down at midday in clouds and darkness. Yes, to the stern father this sad event brought bitter, bitter grief. But to the mother—that tender, affectionate mother, it was death. Yea, more than death, for reason, at the first shock, reeled and tottered on its throne; then, as days and weeks passed by, and still the loved one did not return, when every effort to find her had been made in vain, then, the dread certainty settled down upon her soul that her child was lost to her forever. Hope, gave place to despair, and she became, from that time, a raving maniac. At length death came to her relief, and her husband was left alone.
Six weary years passed over the lonely man, and then he rejoiced in the intelligence that his child was still living with her husband at St. John’s. He immediately wrote to her imploring her to return to her old home, and with the light of her presence dispel the gloom of his dwelling. Accordingly she left St. John’s, and in company with her husband returned to her father. I was then about a year and a half old, but I have so often heard these facts related by my father and grandfather, they are indelibly impressed on my mind, and will never be erased from my memory.
My mother now thought her trouble at an end, that in future she should enjoy the happiness she once anticipated. But, alas for all human prospects! Ere one short month had passed, difficulties arose in consequence of the difference in their religious opinions. Capt. Willard was a firm Protestant, while my father was quite as firm in his belief of the principles of the Roman Catholics. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” They parted in anger, and my father again became a wanderer, leaving his wife and child with his father-in-law. But my mother was a faithful, devoted wife. Her husband was her heart’s chosen idol whom she loved too well to think of being separated from. She therefore left her father’s house, with all its luxuries and enjoyments, to follow the fortunes of one, who was certainly unworthy of the pure affection thus lavished upon him. As her health had been delicate for the last two years, she concluded to leave me with her father for a short time, intending to send for me, as soon as she was in a situation to take care of me. But this was not to be. Death called her away, and I saw my mother no more till her corpse was brought back, and buried in her father’s garden.
Two years I remained with my grandfather, and from him, I received the most affectionate and devoted attention. My father at length opened a saloon, for the sale of porter, and hired a black woman to do his work. He then came for me. My grandfather entreated that I might be allowed to remain. Well he knew that my father was not the man to be entrusted with the care of a child—that a Porter House was no place for me, for he was quite sure that stronger liquors than porter were there drank and sold. In fact, it was said, that my father was himself a living evidence of this. But it is of a parent I am speaking, and, whatever failings the world may have seen in him, to me he was a kind and tender father. The years I spent with him were the happiest of my life. On memory’s page they stand out in bold relief, strikingly contrasting with the wretchedness of my after life. And though I cannot forget that his own rash act brought this wretchedness upon me, still, I believe his motives were good. I know that he loved me, and every remembrance of his kindness, and those few bright days of childhood, I have carefully cherished as a sacred thing. He did not, however, succeed in the business he had undertaken, but lost his property and was at length compelled to give up his saloon.
I was then placed in a Roman Catholic family, where he often visited, and ever appeared to feel for me the most devoted attachment. One day he came to see me in a state of partial intoxication. I did not then know why his face was so red, and his breath so offensive, but I now know that he was under the influence of ardent spirits. The woman with whom I boarded seeing his condition, and being a good Catholic, resolved to make the most of the occasion for the benefit of the nunnery. She therefore said to him, “You are not capable of bringing up that child; why don’t you give her to Priest Dow?”—“Will he take her?” asked my father. “Yes,” she replied, “he will put her into the nunnery, and the nuns will take better care of her than you can.” “On what condition will they take her?” he asked. “Give the priest one hundred dollars,” replied the artful woman, “and he will take good care of her as long as she lives.”
This seemed a very plausible story; but I am sure my father did not realize what he was doing. Had he waited for a little reflection, he would never have consented to such an arrangement, and my fate would have been quite different. But as it was, he immediately sent for the priest, and gave me to him, to be provided for, as his own child, until I was of age. I was then to be allowed to go out into the world if I chose. To this, Priest Dow consented, in consideration of one hundred dollars, which he received, together with a good bed and bedding. My mother’s gold ear-rings were also entrusted to his care, until I should be old enough to wear them. But I never saw them again. Though I was at that time but six years old, I remember perfectly, all that passed upon that memorable occasion. I did not then comprehend the full meaning of what was said, but I understood enough to fill my heart with sorrow and apprehension.
When their bargain was completed, Priest Dow called me to him, saying, with a smile, “You are a stubborn little girl, I guess, a little naughty, sometimes, are you not?” Surprised and alarmed, I replied, “No, sir.” He then took hold of my hair, which was rather short, drew it back from my forehead with a force that brought the tears to my eyes, and pressing his hand heavily on my head, he again asked if I was not sometimes a little wilful and disobedient. I was so much frightened at this, I turned to my father, and with tears and sobs entreated him not to send me away with that man, but allow me to stay at home with him. He drew me to his bosom, wiped away my tears, and sought to quiet my fears by assuring me that I would have a good and pleasant home; that the nuns would take better care of me than he could; and that he would often come to see me. Thus, by the aid of flattery on one side, and sugarplums on the other, they persuaded me at last to accompany the priest to the White Nunnery, St. Paul’s street, Quebec.
I was too young to realize the sad change in my situation, or to anticipate the trials and privations that awaited me. But I was deeply grieved thus to leave my father, my only real friend, my mother being dead, and my grandfather a heretic, whom I had been taught to regard with the utmost abhorrence. Little, however, did I think that this was a last farewell. But such it was. Though he had promised to come often to see me, I never saw my father again; never even heard from him; and now, I do not know whether he is dead or alive.
The white nunnery.
On my arrival at the nunnery, I was placed under the care of a lady whom they called a Superior. She took me into a room alone, and told me that the priest would come to me in the morning to hear confession, and I must confess to him all my sins. “What are sins?” I asked, and, “How shall I confess? I don’t know what it means.” “Don’t know what sins are!” she exclaimed in great astonishment “Why, child, I am surprised that you should be so ignorant! Where have you lived all your days?” With all the simplicity of childhood, I replied, “With my father; and once I lived with my grandfather; but they didn’t tell me how to confess.” “Well,” said she, “you must tell the priest all your wicked thoughts, words, and actions.” “What is wicked?” I innocently asked. “If you have ever told an untruth;” she replied, “or taken what did not belong to you, or been in any way naughty, disobedient, or unkind; if you have been angry, or quarrelled with your playmates, that was wicked, and you must tell the priest all about it If you try to conceal, or keep back anything, the priest will know it and punish you. You cannot deceive him if you try, for he knows all you do, or say, or even think; and if you attempt it, you’ll only get yourself into trouble. But if you are resolved to be a good girl, kind, gentle, frank, sincere, and obedient, the priest will love you, and be kind to you.”
When I was conducted to my room, at bedtime, I rejoiced to find in it several little cot beds, occupied by little girls about my own age, who had been, like myself, consigned to the tender mercies of priests and nuns. I thought if we must live in that great gloomy house, which even to my childish imagination seemed so much like a prison, we could in some degree dispel our loneliness and mitigate our sorrows, by companionship and sympathy. But I was soon made to know that even this small comfort would not be allowed us, for the Superior, as she assisted me to bed, told me that I must not speak, or groan, or turn upon my side, or move in any way; for if I made the least noise or disturbance, I would be severely punished. She assured me that if we disobeyed in the least particular, she would know it, even if she was not present, and deal with us accordingly. She said that when the clock struck twelve, the bell would ring for prayers; that we must then rise, and kneel with our heads bowed upon the bed, and repeat the prayer she taught us. When, at length, she left us, locking the door after her, I was so frightened, I did not dare to sleep, lest I should move, or fail to awake at the proper time.
Slowly passed the hours of that long and weary night, while I lay, waiting the ringing of the bell, or thinking upon the past with deep regret. The most fearful visions haunted my brain, and fears of future punishment filled my mind. How could I hope to escape it, when they were so very strict, and able to read my most secret thoughts? What would I not have given could I have been again restored to my father? True he was intemperate, but at that time I thought not of this; I only knew that he was always kind to me, that he never refused what I asked of him. I sometimes think, even now, that if he had not so cruelly thrust me from him, I might have been able to win him from his cups and evil course of life. But this was not to be. Having given himself up to the demon of intemperance, it is not surprising that he should have given away his only child; that he should have placed her in the hands of those who proved utterly unworthy of the trust. But however indignant I may at times have felt towards him, for the one great wrong he committed against me, still I do not believe he would ever have done it but for the influence of ardent spirits. Moreover, I do not suppose that he had the least idea what kind of a place it was. He wished, doubtless, that his child might be well educated; that she might be shielded from the many trials and temptations that cluster around the footsteps of the young and inexperienced, in the midst of a cold and heartless world. From these evils the nunnery, he thought, would be a secure retreat, for there science, religion, and philanthropy, professedly, go hand in hand. Like many other deluded parents, he thought that “Holiness to the Lord” was inscribed upon those walls, and that nothing which could pervert or defile the youthful mind, was permitted to enter there. With these views and feelings, he was undoubtedly sincere when he told me, “I would have a good home, and the nuns would take better care of me than he could.” Rash his decision certainly was, cruel it proved to be; but I shall ever give him credit for good intentions.
At length the bell rang, and all the girls immediately left their beds, and placed themselves upon their knees. I followed their example, but I had scarcely time to kneel by my bed, when the Superior came into the room with a light in her hand, and attended by a priest. He came to me, opened a book, and told me to cross myself. This ceremony he instructed me to perform in the following manner: the right hand is placed upon the forehead, and drawn down to the breast; then across the breast from left to right. The Superior then told me to say the prayer called “Hail Mary!” I attempted to do so, but failed, for, though I had often repeated it after my father, I could not say it correctly alone. She then bade me join my hands, and repeat it after her. “Hail Mary! Full of grace! The Lord be with thee! Blessed art thou among women! Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Mother of God! Pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death, Amen.”
“Now,” said the Superior, as I rose from my knees, “you must learn every word of that prayer before to-morrow night, or go without your supper.” I tried my best to remember it, but with so little instruction, for she repeated it to me but once, I found it quite impossible the next night to say it correctly. Of course, I was compelled to go without my supper. This may seem a light punishment to those who have enough to eat—who sit down to a full table, and satisfy their appetite three times per day, but to a nun, who is allowed only enough to sustain life, it is quite a different thing. And especially to a child, this mode of punishment is more severe, and harder to bear than almost any other. I thought I would take good care not to be punished in that way again; but I little knew what was before me.
Before the Superior left us she assisted me into bed, and bade me be very still until the second bell in the morning. Then, I must rise and dress as quickly as possible, and go to her room. Quietness, she enjoined upon me as a virtue, while the least noise, or disturbance of any kind, would be punished as a crime. She said I must walk very softly indeed along the halls, and close the doors so carefully that not a sound could be heard. After giving me these first instructions in convent life, she left me, and I was allowed to sleep the rest of the night.
The next morning, I awoke at the ringing of the first bell, but I did not dare to stir until the second bell, when the other little girls arose in great haste. I then dressed as quickly as possible, but not a word was spoken —not a thought, and scarcely a look exchanged. I was truly “alone amid a crowd,” and I felt the utter loneliness of my situation most keenly. Yet I saw very clearly that there was but one course for me to pursue, and that was, to obey in all things; to have no will of my own, and thus, if possible, escape punishment. But it was hard, very hard for me to bring my mind to this. I had been the idolized child of affection too long to submit readily and patiently to the privations I was now forced to endure. Hitherto my will had been law. I had naturally an imperious, violent temper, which I had never been taught to govern. Instead of this, my appetites were pampered, my passions indulged, and every desire gratified as far as possible. Until that last sad parting, I hardly knew what it was to have a request refused; and now, to experience such a change—such a sudden transition from the most liberal indulgence to the most cruel and rigorous self-denial—Oh, it was a severe trial to my independent spirit to submit to it. Yet, submit I must, for I had learned, even then, that my newly appointed guardians were not to be trifled with. Henceforth, obedience must be my motto. To every command, however cruel and unjust, I must yield a blind, passive, and unquestioning obedience.
I dressed as quickly as possible, and hastened down to the Superior. As I passed through the hall, I thought I would be very careful to step softly, but in my haste I forgot what she said about closing the door, and it came together with a loud crash. On entering the room, I found the Superior waiting for me; in her hand she held a stick about a foot long, to the end of which was attached nine leather strings, some twelve or fifteen inches long, and about the size of a man’s little finger. She bade me come to her, in a voice so cold and stern it sent a thrill of terror through my frame, and I trembled with the apprehension of some impending evil. I had no idea that she was about to punish me, for I was not aware that I had done anything to deserve it; but her looks frightened me, and I feared,—I know not what. She took hold of my arm, and without saying a word, gave me ten or twelve strokes over the head and shoulders with this miniature cat-o’-nine-tails. Truly, with her, it was “a word and a blow, and the blow came first.” Wherever the strings chanced to fall upon the bare flesh, they raised the skin, as though a hot iron had been applied to it. In some places they took off the skin entirely, and left the flesh raw, and quivering with the stinging pain. I could not think at first what I had done to deserve this severe punishment, nor did she condescend to enlighten me. But when I began to cry, and beg to go to my father, she sternly bade me stop crying at once, for I could not go to my father. I must stay there, she said, and learn to remember all her commands and obey then. She then taught me the following verse:
I am a little nun,
The sisters I will mind;
When I am pretty and learn,
Then they will use me kind.
I must not be so noisy
When I go about the house,
I’ll close the doors so softly
They’ll think I am a mouse.
This verse I repeated until I could say it correctly. I was then taken to the breakfast-room, where I was directed to kneel before the crucifix, and say my prayers, which I repeated after the Superior. I was then seated at the table, and directed to hold my head down, and fix my eyes upon my plate. I must not look at any one, or gaze about the room; but sit still, and quietly eat what was given me. I had upon my plate, one thin slice of wheat bread, a bit of potato, and a very small cup of milk. This was my stated allowance, and I could have no more, however hungry I might be. The same quantity was given me every meal, when in usual health, until I was ten years of age. On fast days, no food whatever was allowed; and we always fasted for three meals before receiving the sacrament. This ceremony was observed every third day, therefore we were obliged to fast about one-third of the time. Yet, however long the fast might be, my allowance of food was never increased.
After breakfast the Superior took me to Priest Dow for confession. He kept me with him all day, allowing me neither food nor drink; nor did he permit me to break my fast until four o’clock the next day. I then received what they call the sacrament, for the first time.
To prepare for this, I was clad in a white dress and cape, and a white cap on my head. I was then led to the chapel, and passing up the aisle, knelt before the altar. Priest Dow then came and stood before me, and taking from a wine-glass a small thin wafer, he placed it upon my tongue, at the same time repeating some Latin words, which, the Superior afterwards told me, mean in English, “The body and blood of Christ.” I was taught to believe that I held in my mouth the real body and blood of Christ. I was also told that if I swallowed the wafer before it had melted on my tongue, it would choke me to death; and if I indulged an evil thought while I held it in my mouth I should fall into A Pool of blood.
While in the White Nunnery, I spent the most of my time in the nursery. But the name gives one no idea of the place. The freedom and careless gayety, so characteristic of other nurseries, had no place in this. No cheerful conversation, no juvenile merriment, or pleasureable excitement of any kind, were ever allowed. A merry laugh, on the contrary, a witty jest, or a sly practical joke, would have been punished as the most heinous offence. Here as elsewhere in the establishment, the strictest rules of silence and obedience were rigidly enforced. There were twenty little girls in the room with me, but we were never permitted to speak to each other, nor to any one except a priest or a Superior. When directly addressed by either of them we were allowed to answer; but we might never ask a question, or make a remark, or in any way, either by looks, words, or signs, hold communication with each other. Whenever we did so, it was at the risk of being discovered and severely punished. Yet this did not repress the desire for conversation; it only made us more cautious, artful, and deceptive. The only recreation allowed us was fifteen minutes’ exercise in the yard every morning and evening. We might then amuse ourselves as we chose, but were required to spend the whole time in some kind of active exercise; if one of our number ventured to sit still, we were all punished the next day by being kept in the house.
It was my business, while in the nursery, to dust all the furniture and the floor, with a flannel mop, made and kept for this purpose. The floors were all painted and varnished, and very easily kept clean.
Two hours and a half each day we spent with a priest, whom we were taught to call Father Darity (I do not know as I spell this and other names correctly, but I give it to the reader as it sounded to my ear). He appeared to take great pleasure in learning us to repeat the prayers and catechism required by Priest Dow. He also gave us a variety of instructions in other things, enjoining in particular the most absolute obedience and perfect silence. He assured us that if we dared to disobey him in the least particular, he should know it, even if he was not present with us at the time. He said he knew all our thoughts, words, and actions; and if we did not obey, he should “Eat us with A Grain of salt.”
I presume my reader will smile at this, and exclaim, “How absurd!” Yes, to you it is absurd; but to the mind of a child who placed the utmost confidence in his veracity, it was an evidence that he was invested with supernatural powers. For myself I believed every word he said, and nothing would have tempted me to disobey him. Perfect obedience he considered the highest attainment, and, to secure this, the greatest of all virtues, no means were thought too severe. We were frightened and punished in every possible way.
But, though Father Darity acted on the one great principle with the Romanists, that the “end sanctifies the means,” he was in general a much kinder man than Priest Dow. He urged us on with our catechism as fast as possible, telling us, as a motive to greater diligence, that the bishop was soon to visit us, and that we could not be admitted to his presence until we had our prayers and catechism perfectly.
One day, when we were in the yard at play, I told one of the little girls that I did not like to live there; that I did not like one of the people in the house; that I wished to return to my father, and I should tell him so the first time he came to see me.
“Then you like to live with your father?” said she. I told her I did, for then I could do as I pleased, without the fear of punishment. She said that she did not like to live there any better than I did. I asked her why she did not go away, if she disliked to stay. She replied, “I should like to go away well enough, if I had any friends to go to; but my father and mother are both dead, and I have no home but this; so you see I must stay here if they wish me to; but there is one consolation; if we are good girls, and try to do right, they will be kind to us.” I made no further remark; but the moment we returned to the house she told the Superior what I said, taking good care not to repeat her own expressions, and leaving the Superior to infer that she had made no reply.
I saw at once by the stern look that came over the lady’s face that she was very angry; and I would gladly have recalled those few hasty words had it been in my power to have done so. She immediately left the room, but soon returned with Priest Dow. His countenance also indicated anger, as he took hold of my arm and led me to a darkened room, in which several candles were burning.
Here I saw three scenes, which I think must have been composed of images, pictures, and curtains. I do not pretend to describe them correctly, I can only tell how they appeared to me.
The first was an image of Christ on the cross, with his arms extended as we usually see them in pictures. On his right hand was a representation of heaven, and on the left, of hell. Heaven was made to appear like a bright, beautiful, and glorious place. A wall of pink color surrounded it, and in the center was a spring of clear water. In the midst of this spring stood a tree, bearing on every limb a lighted candle, and on the top, the image of Christ and a dove.
Hell was surrounded by a black wall, within which, there was also a spring; but the water was very black, and beside it stood a large black image, with horns on its head, a long tail, and a large cloven foot. The place where it stood was in deep shadow, made to resemble, as neatly as possible, clouds and darkness. The priest led me up to this fearful object, and placed me on one side of it, while he stood on the other; but it would turn away from him towards me, roll up its great eyes, open its mouth and show its long white tusks. The priest said it turned from him, because he was a good man, and I was very wicked. He said that it was the devil, come up from the bottomless pit to devour me; and if I said such wicked words again, it would carry me off. I was very much frightened, for I then thought that all he said was true; that those images, which I now know were strung on wires were really what they were made to represent.
In fact, until I was fifteen years old, I really believed that the image I then saw was an evil spirit. But since that time, I have been made to know that the priests themselves are the only evil spirits about the place.
Priest Dow then led me back to the nursery, and left me with the Superior. But he soon came, back, saying he “knew what I was thinking about; that I had wicked thoughts about him; thought he was a bad man, and that I wished to leave him and go to my father;” Now this was all true, and the fact that he knew it, frightened me accordingly. It was a sure proof that what Father Darity said was true. But how could I ever be safe, if they could thus read the inmost secrets of my soul? I did dislike them all very much indeed and I could not help it. How then could I avert the consequences of this deep aversion to convent life, since it could not be concealed? Was it possible for me so far to conquer myself, as to love the persons with whom I lived? How many nights did I lie awake pondering this question, and resolving to make the effort. I was, of course, too young to know that it was only by shrewd guessing, and a general knowledge of human nature, that he was enabled to tell my thoughts so correctly.
“Now,” said he, “for indulging these dreadful thoughts, I shall take you back to the devil, and give you up to him.” I was frightened before; but I have no words to describe my feelings when he again led me back, and left me beside the image, saying, as he closed the door, “If the devil groans three times, and the Lord does not speak, you must stay here until to-morrow at this time.” I trembled so that I could hardly stand, and when, after a few moments, a sound like a groan fell upon my ears, I shrieked in the extremity of terror.
[Footnote: Cioui, formerly a Benedictine Monk, giving an account of his imprisonment at Rome, after his conversion says:—
“One evening, after listening to a discourse filled with dark images of death, I returned to my room, and found the light set upon the ground. I took it up and approached the table to place it there, but what was my horror and consternation at beholding spread out upon it, a whitened skeleton! Before the reader can comprehend my dismay, it is necessary he should reflect for a moment on the peculiarities of childhood, especially in a Romish country, where children are seldom spoken to except in superstitious language, whether by their parents or teachers: and domestics adopt the same style to answer their own purposes, menacing their disobedient charges with hobgoblins, phantoms and witches. Such images as these make a profound impression on tender minds, leaving a panic terror which the reasoning of after years is often unable entirely to efface. There can be no doubt but that this pernicious habit, is the fruit of the noxious plant fostered in the Vatican. Rising generations must be brought up in superstitious terror, in order to render them susceptible to every kind of absurdity; for this terror is the powerful spring, employed by the priests and friars, to move at their pleasure families, cities, provinces, nations. Although in families of the higher order, this method of alarming infancy is much discountenanced, nevertheless, it is impossible but that it should in some degree prevail in the nursery. Nor was it probable that I should escape this infections malady, having passed my whole days in an atmosphere, charged more than any other with that impure miasma priest-craft.”]
Then immediately I heard the question, and it seemed to come from the figure of Christ, “Will you obey? Will you leave off sin?” I answered in the affirmative as well as I could, for the convulsive sobs that shook my frame almost stopped my utterance. I now know that when the priest left me, he placed himself, or an assistant, behind a curtain close to the images, and it was his voice that I heard. But I was then too young to detect their treacherous practices and deceitful ways.
On being taken back to the Superior, I was immediately attacked with severe illness, and had fits all night. It seemed to me that I could see that image of the devil everywhere. If I closed my eyes, I thought I could feel him on my bed, pressing on my breast, and he was so heavy I could scarcely breathe. I was very sick, and suffered much bodily pain, but the tortures of an excited imagination were greater by far, and harder to bear than any physical suffering. For long years after, that image haunted my dreams, and even now I often, in sleep, live over again the terrors of that fearful scene. I was sick a long time; how long I do not know; but I became so weak I could not raise myself in bed, and they had an apparatus affixed to the wall to raise me with. For several days I took no nourishment, except a teaspoonful of brandy and water which was given me as often as I could take it I continued to have fits every day for more than two years, nor did I ever entirely recover from the effects of that fright. Even now, though years have passed away, a little excitement or a sudden shock, will sometimes throw me into one of those fits.
A slave for life.
During this illness I was placed under the care of an Abbess whom they called St. Bridget. There were many other Abbesses in the convent, but she was the principal one, and had the care of all the clothing. If the others wished for clean clothes, they were obliged to go to her for them. In that way I saw them all, but did not learn their names. They approached me and looked at me, but seldom spoke. This I thought very strange, but I now know they dared not speak. One day an Abbess came to my bed, and after standing a few moments with the tears silently flowing down her cheeks, asked me if I had a mother. I told her I had not, and I began to weep most bitterly. I was very weak, and the question recalled to my mind the time when I shared a father’s love, and enjoyed my liberty. Then, I could go and come as I chose, but now, a slave for life, I could have no will of my own, I must go at bidding, and come at command. This, I am well aware, may seem to some extravagant language; but I use the right word. I was, literally, a slave; and of all kinds of slavery, that which exists in a convent is the worst. I say, the worst, because the story of wrong and outrage which occasionally finds its way to the public ear, is not generally believed. You pity the poor black man who bends beneath the scourge of southern bondage, for the tale comes to you from those who have seen his tears and heard his groans. But you have no tears, no prayers, no efforts for the poor helpless nun who toils and dies beneath the heartless cruelty of an equally oppressive task-master. No; for her you have no sympathy, for you do not believe her word. Within those precincts of cruelty, no visitor is ever admitted. No curious eye may witness the secrets of their prison-house. Consequently, there is no one to bear direct testimony to the truth of her statements. Even now, methinks, I see your haughty brow contract, and your lip curl with scorn, as with supreme contempt you throw down these pages and exclaim, “’Tis all a fiction. Just got up to make money. No proof that it is true.” No proof do you say? O, that the strong arm of the law would interpose in our behalf!—that some American Napoleon would come forth, and break open those prison doors, and drag forth to the light of day those hidden instruments of torture! There would then be proof enough to satisfy the most incredulous, that, so far from being exaggerated, the half has not been told. Sons of America! Will you not arise in your might, and demand that these convent doors be opened, and “the oppressed” allowed to “go free”? Or if this be denied, sweep from the fair earth, the black-hearted wretches who dare, in the very face of heaven, to commit such fearful outrages upon helpless, suffering humanity? How long—O how long will you suffer these dens of iniquity to remain unopened? How long permit this system of priestly cruelty to continue?
But I am wandering from my story. Would that I might forever wander from it—that I might at once blot from memory’s page, the fearful recollection that must follow me to my grave! Yet, painful as it is to rehearse the past, if I can but awaken your sympathy for other sufferers, if I can but excite you to efforts for their deliverance, it is all I ask. I shall have my reward. But to return to my story.
The Abbess saw how deeply I was grieved, and immediately left the room. St. Bridget told me not to cry, for she would be a mother to me as long as I remained with her, and she was true to her promise. Another sister, who sometimes came to my room, I believe was crazy. She would run up to my bed, put her hand on me, and burst into a loud and hearty laugh. This she repeated as often as she came, and I told the Abbess one day, I did wish that sister would not come to see me, for she acted so strange, I was afraid of her. She replied, “do not care for her; she always does just so, but we do not mind her; you must be careful what you say,” she continued, “for if you speak of her before any of the sisters, they may get you into trouble.”
When I began to get better, I had a sharp appetite for food, and was hungry a great part of the time. One of the sisters used to bring me a piece of bread concealed under her cape and hide it under my pillow. How she obtained it, I do not know, unless she saved it from her own allowance. It was very easy for her to hide it in this way, for the nuns always walk with one hand under their cape and the other by the side. Truly, in this instance, “bread eaten in secret” was “pleasant.” Of all the luxuries I ever tasted, those stolen bits of bread were the sweetest.
During my illness I thought a great deal about my father, and wondered why he did not come to see me, as he had promised. I used to cry for him in my sleep, and very often awoke in tears. St. Bridget sought in every possible way to make me forget him, and the priest would tell me that I need not think so much about him, for he no longer cared for me. He said the devil had got him, and I would never see him again. These cruel words, so far from making me forget, served to awaken a still greater desire to see him, and increased my grief because I was denied the privilege.
In the room with me, were six other little girls, who were all sick at the same time, and St. Bridget took care of us all For two of the little girls, I felt the greatest sympathy. They were quite young, I think not more than three years of age, and they grieved continually. They made no complaint, did not even shed a tear, but they sobbed all the time, whether asleep or awake. Of their history, I could learn nothing at that time, except the fact, that they were taken from their parents for the good of their souls. I afterwards overheard a conversation that led me to think that they were heirs to a large property, which, if they were out of the way, would
O, how little do Protestants know the sufferings of a nun! and truly no one can know them except by personal experience. One may imagine the most aggravated form of cruelty, the most heart-rending agonies, yet I do believe the conception of the most active imagination would fall far short of the horrible reality. I do not believe there was one happy individual in that convent, or that any one there, if I except the lady Superior, knew anything of enjoyment. Life with them was a continual round of ceaseless toil and bitter self-denial; while each one had some secret grief slowly but surely gnawing away the heart-strings. I have sometimes seen the Abbess sitting by the bedside of the sick, with her eyes closed, while the big tears fell unchecked over her pale cheeks. When I asked her why she wept, she would shake her head, but never speak. I now know that she dare not speak for fear of punishment.
The abbesses in the various parts of this convent are punished as much as the nuns, if they dare to disobey the rules of the priests; and if the least of these are broken in the presence of any one in the house, they will surely tell of it at confession. In fact, they are required to do this; and if it is known that one has seen a rule broken, or a command disobeyed, without reporting it, a severe punishment is sure to follow. Thus every individual is a spy upon the rest; and while every failure is visited with condign punishment, the one who makes the most reports is so warmly approved, that poor human nature can hardly resist the temptation to play the traitor. Friendship cannot exist within the walls of a convent, for no one can be trusted, even with the most trifling secret. Whoever ventures to try it is sure to be betrayed.
While I was sick Father Darity came often to see me, and by his kindness succeeded in gaining my affections. I was a great favorite with him; he always called me his little girl, and tried in every way to make me contented. He wished to make me say that I was happy there, that I liked to live with them as well as with my father. But I could never be persuaded to say this, for it was not the truth, and I would not tell a falsehood unless forced to do so. He said I must be a good girl, and he hoped I would sometime see better times, but I could never see my father again, and I must not desire it. He advised me, however hard it might be, to try and love all who came into the nunnery, even those who were unkind, who wished to injure me or wound my feelings. He told me how Jesus Christ loved his enemies; how he died for them a cruel death on the cross; how, amid his bitter agonies, he prayed for them, and with his expiring breath he cried, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” “And now,” said he, “can you do as Jesus Christ did? He has set you an example, can you not follow it?” “No, sir,” I replied, “I cannot love those who punish me so cruelly, so unjustly. I cannot love the little girl who reported what I said in the yard, when she said as bad things as I did.” “But you forget,” said he, “that in doing this she only obeyed the rules of the house. She only did her duty; if you had done yours, you would have reported her.” “I’ll never do that,” I exclaimed, emboldened by his kindness. “It is a bad rule, and—” “Hush, hush, child!” he cried, interrupting me. “Do you know to whom you are speaking? and do you forget that you are a little girl? Are you wiser than your teachers? I must give you a penance for those naughty words, and you will pray for a better spirit.” He said much more to me, and gave me good advice that I remember much better than I followed. He enjoined if upon me to keep up good courage, as I would gain my health faster. He then bade me farewell, telling me not to forget, to repeat certain prayers as a penance for my sin in speaking so boldly. O, did he think when he talked to me so kindly, so faithfully, that it was his last opportunity to give me good advice? Did he know that he left me to return no more? I saw nothing unusual in his appearance, and I did not suspect that it was the last time I should see his pleasant face and listen to his kindly voice. I loved that man, and bitter were the tears I shed when I learned that I should never see him again. The Abbess informed me that he was sent away for something he had done, she did not know what. O that something! I knew well enough what it was. He had a kind heart; he could feel for the unfortunate, and that, with the Roman Catholics, is an “unpardonable sin.”
Ceremony of confirmation.
I continued to regain my health slowly, and the Abbess said they would soon send me back to the nursery. I could not endure the thought of this, for I had the greatest fear of the Abbess who had the charge of that department. She was very cruel, while St. Bridget was as kind as she dare to be. She knew full well that if she allowed herself to exhibit the least feeling of affection for those children, she would be instantly removed, and some one placed over them who would not give way to such weakness. We all saw how it was, and loved her all the more for the severity of her reproofs when any one was near. With tears, therefore, I begged to be allowed to stay with her; and when the priest came for me, she told him that she thought I had better remain with her till I gained a little more strength.
To this he consented, and I was very grateful indeed for the kindness. Wishing in some way to express my gratitude, as soon as I was able I assisted in taking care of the other little girls as much as possible. St. Bridget, in turn, taught me to read a little, so that I could learn my prayers when away from her. She also gave me a few easy lessons in arithmetic, and instructed me to speak the Celt language. She always spoke in that, or the French, which I could speak before, having learned it from the family where I lived after my father gave up his saloon. They were French Catholics and spoke no other language.
As soon as I was sufficiently recovered to leave my room, I was taken to the chapel to be confirmed. Before they came for me, the abbess told me what questions would be asked, and the answers I should be required to give. She said they would ask me if I wished to see my father; if I should like to go back to the world, etc. To these and similar questions she said I must give a negative answer. “But,” said I, “that will be a falsehood, and I will not say so for any of them.” “Hush, hush, child!” she exclaimed, with a frightened look. “You must not talk so. From my heart I pity you; but it will be better for you to answer as I tell you, for if you refuse they will punish you till you do. Remember,” she added, emphatically, “remember what I say: it will be better for you to do as I tell you.” And she made me promise that I would. “But why do they wish me to tell a lie?” I asked. “They do not wish you to tell a lie,” she replied; “they wish you to do right, and feel right; to be contented and willing to forget the world.” “But I do not wish to forget the world,” I said. “I am not contented, and saying that I am will not make me feel so. Is it right to tell a lie?” “It is right for you to obey,” she replied, with more severity in her tone than I ever heard before. “Do you know,” she continued,” that it is a great sin for you to talk so?” “A sin!” I exclaimed, in astonishment; “why is it a sin?” “Because,” she replied, “you have no right to inquire why a command is given. Whatever the church commands, we must
The great day at length came for which the Abbess had been so long preparing me. I say great, for in our monotonous life, the smallest circumstance seemed important. Moreover, I was assured that my future happiness depended very much upon the answers, I that day gave to the various questions put to me. When about to be taken to the chapel, St. Bridget begged the priest to be careful and not frighten me, lest it should bring on my fits again. I was led into the chapel and made to kneel before the altar. The bishop and five priests were present, and also, a man whom I had never seen before, but I was told he was the Pope’s Nuncio, and that he came a long way to visit them. I think this was true, for they all seemed to regard him as a superior. I shall never forget my feelings when he asked me the following questions, which I answered as I had been directed. “Who do you believe in?” “God.” “How many persons are there in God?” “Three; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” “What world have you lately left?” “The world of sin and Satan.” “Do you wish to go back and live with your father?” “No Sir.” “Do you think you can live all your life with us.” “I think I can, sir.” He then said, “You will not fare any better than you have hitherto, and perhaps not as well.” It was with the greatest difficulty that I could control my feelings sufficiently to answer this last question. But remembering what the Abbess had told me, I suppressed my tears, and choked down the rising sob. Surely those men must have known that I was telling a falsehood—that the profession I made was not in accordance with my real sentiments. For myself, I then felt, and still feel that the guilt was not mine. The sin did not rest with me.
The Bishop was then told to hear my confession, after which, a priest took some ointment from a small box, and rubbed it on my forehead, and another priest came with a towel and wiped it off. I was then taken back to St. Bridget, with whom I remained, as long as I was in the White Nunnery.
On my tenth birthday, the Bishop came to the Abbess very early in the morning, and informed her that I was to take the White Veil that day, and immediately after the ceremony, I would leave for the Grey Nunnery in Montreal. He desired her to make all the necessary preparation, and take her leave of me, as she would not see me again. This was sad news for us both, for I felt that she was my only friend, and I knew that she felt for me, the most sincere affection. She gave me much good advice in reference to my future conduct, and with tears exhorted me to be kind, cheerful, and obedient. I was going to a new place, she said, and if I was a good girl, and sought to please my superiors, I would find some one to be kind to me. She advised me to try and appear contented in whatever situation I might be placed, and above all other considerations, never disobey the least command. “Obedience,” she again repeated, “is the rule in all convents, and it will be better for you to obey at once, and cheerfully, and willingly comply with every request, than to incur displeasure and perhaps punishment, by any appearance of reluctance or hesitation. If there is any one thing that you dislike to do, be sure that you do not betray your feelings, for if you do, that will be the very thing they will require of you; and I assure you, if you once become the object of suspicion or dislike, your condition will be anything but agreeable. You will be marked and watched, and required to do many unpleasant things, to say the least. Therefore I hope you will perform all your duties with a cheerful and willing spirit.” Bitterly did I grieve at the thought of being separated from the only being on earth who seemed to care for me. In the anguish of the moment, I wished I might die. St. Bridget reproved me, saying encouragingly that death was the coward’s refuge, sought only by those who had not the resolution to meet, endure, or overcome the trials of life. She exhorted me to courage, perseverance and self denial, saying that if I fought life’s battle bravely, I would have my reward.
She changed all my clothes, and assisted me to put on a white dress and cape, and a white cap and veil. She then gave me a card of good behavior, embraced me for the last time, and led me out to the Bishop, who was waiting to conduct me to the chapel where the ceremony was to be performed.
I there met ten other little girls, who, like myself, were compelled to take upon themselves vows they did not understand, and thus, by an apparently voluntary act, consign themselves to slavery for life. They were all strangers to me, sent here, as I afterwards learned, from some nunnery in Ireland, where they had friends who were too solicitous for their welfare. The priests do not wish the nuns to see friends from the world, and they will frame almost any plausible excuse to prevent it. But when the friends become too urgent, as they sometimes do, and their inventive powers are taxed too severely, or if the task of furnishing
The Bishop led me up to the altar, and put a lighted candle into my hand. He then went under the altar, on which a lighted candle was placed, and soon returned followed by two little boys whom they called apostles. They held, each, a lighted torch with which they proceeded to light two more candles. On a table near the altar, stood a coffin, and soon two priests entered, bearing another coffin, which they placed beside the other. A white cloth was spread over them, and burning candles placed at the head and foot. These movements frightened me exceedingly, for I thought they were going to kill me.
Forgetting in my terror that I was not allowed to speak, I asked the Bishop if he was going to kill me. “Kill you!” he exclaimed, “O no; don’t be frightened; I shall not hurt you in the least. But it is our custom, when a nun takes the veil, to lay her in a coffin to show that she is dead to the world. Did not St. Bridget tell you this?” I told him she did not, but I did not dare to tell him that I supposed she felt so bad when she found I must leave her, that she entirely forgot it. He then asked very pleasantly, which of the two coffins I liked the best, saying I could have my choice. I replied, “I have no choice.” This was true, for although he assured me to the contrary, I still believed he was about to kill me, and I cared very little about my coffin. They were both large enough for a grown person, and beautifully finished, with a large silver plate on the lid. The Bishop took me up in his arms, and laid me in one of them, and bade me close my eyes.
I lay in that coffin a long time, as it seemed to me, without the least motion. I was so much alarmed, I felt as though I could not even lift a finger. Meantime the Bishop and priests read alternately from a book, but in a language I could not understand. Occasionally they would come and feel my hands and feet, and say to each other, “She is very cold.” I believe they were afraid I should die in their hands, of fear. When at last they took me up, they told me that I would carry that coffin to Montreal with me—that I would be laid in it when robed for the grave—and that my bones would moulder to dust in it. I shall never forget the impression these words made on my mind. There was something so horrible in the thought of carrying a coffin about with me all my life, constantly reminding me of the shortness of time, and the sure approach of death, I could not endure it. Gladly would I have left it, costly and elegant as it was, choosing rather to run the risk of being buried without one, but this was not allowed. I could have no choice in the matter.
These ceremonies concluded. I was taken to a small room, and a woman assisted me to change my clothes again, and put on the Grey Nunnery suit. This consisted of a grey dress and shoes, and a black cap. Each nunnery has a peculiar dress which every nun is required to wear. Thus, on meeting one of them, it is very easy to tell what establishment she belongs to, and a run-away is easily detected. On leaving the chapel, I was taken to the steamboat, with the other ten girls, accompanied by a priest. Our coffins were packed in cotton, and placed on the boat with us. On our arrival at Montreal, we found a priest and two nuns waiting for us to conduct us to the nunnery.
The grey nunnery.
The Grey Nunnery is situated on St. Paul Street, Montreal. It is four stories high, besides the basement. It occupies a large space of ground, I do not know how much, but it is a very extensive building. The roof is covered with tin, with a railing around it, finished at the top with sharp points that look like silver, about a foot in length, and three feet apart. Over the front door there is a porch covered with a profusion of climbing plants, which give it a beautiful appearance. The building stands in a large yard, surrounded on all sides by a high fence, so high indeed, that people who pass along the street can see no part of the nunnery except the silver points on the roof. The top of this fence is also finished with long iron spikes. Every thing around the building seems expressly arranged to keep the inmates in, and intruders out. In fact it would be nearly impossible for any one to gain a forcible or clandestine admittance to any part of the establishment. There are several gates in the fence, how many I do not know, but the front gate opens on St. Ann Street. Over each of the gates hangs a bell, connected with the bells in the rooms of the Superior and Abbesses, which ring whenever the gate is opened. There is always a guard of two men at each gate, who walk up and down with guns upon their shoulders. While attempting to give a brief description of this building, I may as well say that it is constructed with non-conductors between the walls, so that the ringing of a bell, or the loudest shriek, could not be heard from one room to the other. The reader will please bear this in mind, as the reason for the precaution will appear in the course of my narrative.
The priest, who met us as we left the boat, conducted us to the front door and rang the bell. Soon a lady appeared, who drew a slide in the middle of the door, exposing one pane of glass. Through this she looked, to see who was there, and when satisfied on this point, opened the door. Here let me remark, that since I left the nunnery, I have heard of another class of people who find it convenient to have a slide in their door; and if I am not very much mistaken,
In the hall opposite the front door were two other doors, with a considerable space between them. The right hand door was opened by the door-tender, and we entered a room furnished in the plainest manner, but every thing was neat, and in perfect order. Instead of chairs, on two sides of the room a long bench was fastened to the sides of the house. They were neither painted, nor cushioned, but were very white, as was also the floor, on which there was no carpet. Beside the door stood a basin of holy water, and directly opposite, an image of the Saviour extended on the cross which they call a crucifix.
Here we were left a few moments, then the door-keeper came back, and asked us if we would like to see the Black Cloisters; and if so, to follow her. She led us back into the hall, and in the space between the two doors that I mentioned, she unlocked a bar, and pulling it down, touched a spring, and immediately a little square door slid back into the ceiling. Across this door, or window or whatever they called it, were strong bars of iron about one inch apart. Through this aperture we were allowed to look, and a sad sight met my eyes. As many as fifty disconsolate looking ladies were sitting there, who were called Black Nuns, because they were preparing to take the Black Veil. They were all dressed in black, a black cap on the head, and a white bandage drawn across the forehead, to which another was attached, that passed under the chin. These bandages they always wore, and were not allowed to lay aside. They sat, each one with a book in her hand, motionless as so many statues. Not a finger did they move, not an eye was raised, but they sat gazing upon the page before them as intently as though life itself depended upon it. Our guide informed us that they were studying the [footnote] Black Book preparatory to taking the Black Veil and entering the Cloister. This book was quite a curiosity. It was very large, with a white cover, and around the edge a black border about an inch wide.
[Footnote: “The Black Book, or Praxis Sacra Romance Inquisitionis, is always the model for that which is to succeed it. This book is a large manuscript volume, in folio, and is carefully preserved by the head of the Inquisition. It is called Libro Nero, the Black Book, because it has a cover of that color; or, as an inquisitor explained to me, Libro Necro, which, in the Greek language, signifies ‘The book of the dead.’
“In this book is the criminal code, with all the punishments for every supposed crime; also the mode of conducting the trial, so as to elicit the guilt of the accused; and the manner of receiving accusations. I had this book in my hand on one occasion, and read therein the proceedings relative to my own case; and I moreover saw in this same volume some very astounding particulars; for example, in the list of punishments I read concerning the bit, or as it is called by us the mordacchia, which is a very simple contrivance to confine the tongue, and compress it between two cylinders composed of iron and wood and furnished with spikes. This horrible instrument not only wounds the tongue and occasions excessive pain, but also, from the swelling it produces; frequently places the sufferer in danger of suffocation. This torture is generally had recourse to in cases considered as blasphemy against God, the Virgin, the Saints, or the Pope. So that according to the Inquisition, it is as great a crime to speak disparagingly of a pope, who may be a very detestable character, as to blaspheme the holy name of God. Be that as it may, this torture has been in use till the present period; and, to say nothing of the exhibitions of this nature which were displayed in Romanga, in the time of Gregory 16th., by the Inquisitor Ancarani—in Umbria by Stefanelli, Salva, and others, we may admire the inquisitorial seal of Cardinal Feretti, the cousin of his present holiness, who condescended more than once to employ these means when he was bishop of Rieti and Fermo.” Dealings with the Inquisition, by the Rev. Giacinto Achilli D. D., late Prior and Visitor of the Dominican Order, Head Professor of Theology and Vicar of the master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace, etc., etc., page 81.]
Our curiosity being satisfied as far as possible, we returned to the side room, where we waited long for the lady Superior. When at length she came, she turned to me first, as I sat next the door, and asked me if I had anything to show in proof of my former good character. I gave her my card; she looked at it, and led me to the other side of the room. The same question was asked of every girl in turn, when it was found that only four beside myself had cards of good behavior. The other six presented cards which she said were for bad behavior. They were all placed together on the other side of the room; and as the Superior was about to lead them away, one of them came towards us saying that she did not wish to stay with those girls, she would rather go with us. The Superior drew her back, and replied, “No, child; you cannot go with those good girls; you would soon learn them some of your naughty ways. If you will do wrong, you must take the consequences.” Then, seeing that the child really felt very bad, she said, in a kinder tone, “When you learn to do right, you shall be allowed to go with good girls, but not before.” I pitied the poor child, and for a long time I hoped to see her come to our room; but she never came. They were all led off together, and that was the last I ever saw of any of them.
I was taken, with the other four girls, to a room on the second floor. Here we found five cribs, one for each of us, in which we slept. Our food was brought to us regularly, consisting of one thin slice of fine wheat bread for each of us, and a small cup of milk. It was only in the morning, however, that the milk was allowed us, and for dinner and supper we had a slice of bread and a cup of water. This was not half enough to satisfy our hunger; but we could have no more. For myself I can say that I was hungry all the time, and I know the others were also; but we could not say so to each other. We were in that room together five weeks, yet not one word passed between us. We did sometimes smile, or shake our heads, or make some little sign, though even this was prohibited, but we never ventured to speak. We were forbidden to do so, on pain of severe punishment; and I believe we were watched all the time, and kept there, for a trial of our obedience. We were employed in peeling a soft kind of wood for beds, and filling the ticks with it. We were directed to make our own beds, keep our room in the most perfect order, and all our work in the middle of the floor. The Superior came up every morning to see that we were thoroughly washed, and every Saturday she was very particular to have our clothes and bed linen all changed. As every convenience was provided in our rooms or the closets adjoining, we were not obliged to go out for anything, and for five weeks I did not go out of that room.
My bed was then brought from Quebec, and we were moved to a large square room, with four beds in it, only two of which were occupied. We were then sent to the kitchen, where in future, we were to be employed in cleaning sauce, scouring knives and forks, and such work as we were able to do. As we grew older, our tasks were increased with our strength. I had no regular employment, but was called upon to do any of the drudgery that was to be done about the house. The Superior came to the kitchen every morning after prayers and told us what to do through the day. Then, in her presence we were allowed five minutes conversation, a priest also being present. For the rest of the day we kept a profound silence, not a word being spoken by any of us unless in answer to a question from some of our superiors.
In one part of the building there was a school for young ladies, who were instructed in the various branches of education usually taught in Catholic schools. Many of the scholars boarded at the nunnery, and all the cooking and washing was done in the kitchen. We also did the cooking for the saloons in Montreal. If this did not keep us employed, there were corn brooms and brushes to make, and thus every moment was fully occupied. Not a moment of leisure, no rest, no recreation, but hard labor, and the still more laborious religious exercises, filled up the time. It was sometimes very annoying to me to devote so many hours to mere external forms; for I
The Grey Nunnery is said to be an orphan’s home, and no effort is spared to make visitors believe that this is the real character of the house. I suppose it is true that one part of it is devoted to this purpose; at least my Superior informed me that many children were kept there; and to those apartments visitors are freely admitted, but never to that part occupied by the nuns. We were never allowed to communicate with people from the world, nor with the children. In fact, during all the time I was there, I never saw one of them, nor did I ever enter the rooms where they were.
In the ladies’ school there were three hundred scholars, and in our part of the house two hundred and fifty nuns, besides the children who belonged to the nunnery. Add to these the abbesses, superiors, priests, and bishop, and one will readily imagine that the work for such a family was no trifling affair.
In this nunnery the Bishop was the highest authority, and everything was under his direction, unless the Pope’s Nuncio, or some other high church functionary was present. I sometimes saw one whom they called the Archbishop, who was treated with great deference by the priests, and even by the Bishop himself.
The Holy Mother, or Lady Superior, has power over all who have taken or are preparing to take the veil. Under her other superiors or abbesses are appointed over the various departments, whose duty it is to look after the nuns and novices, and the children in training for nuns. The most rigid espionage is kept up throughout the whole establishment; and if any of these superiors or abbesses fail to do the duty assigned them, they are more severely punished than the nuns. Whenever the Lady Superior is absent the punishments are assigned by one of the priests. Of these there were a large number in the nunnery; and whenever we chanced to meet one of them, as we sometimes did when going about the house, or whenever one of them entered the kitchen, we must immediately fall upon our knees. No matter what we were doing, however busily employed, or however inconvenient it might be, every thing must be left or set aside, that this senseless ceremony might be performed. The
While the nuns are thus severely treated, the priests, and the Holy Mother live a very easy life, and have all the privileges they wish. So far as the things of this world are concerned, they seem to enjoy themselves very well. But I have sometimes wondered if conscience did not give them occasionally, an unpleasant twinge; and from some things I have seen, I believe, that with many of them, this is the fact. They may try to put far from them all thoughts of a judgment to come, yet I do believe that their slumbers are sometimes disturbed by fearful forebodings of a just retribution which may, after all, be in store for them. But whatever trouble of mind they may have, they do not allow it to interfere with their worldly pleasures, and expensive luxuries. They have money enough, go when, and where they please, eat the richest food and drink the choicest wines. In short, if sensual enjoyment was the chief end of their existence, I do not know how they could act otherwise. The Abbesses are sometimes allowed to go out, but not unless they have a pass from one of the priests, and if, at any time, they have reason to suspect that some one is discontented, they will not allow any one to go out of the building without a careful attendant.
My Superior here, as in the White Nunnery, was very kind to me. I sometimes feared she would share the fate of Father Darity, for she had a kind heart, and was guilty of many benevolent acts, which, if known, would have subjected her to very serious consequences. I became so much attached to her, that my fears for her were always alarmed when she called me her good little girl, or used any such endearing expression. The sequel of my story will show that my fears were not unfounded; but let me not anticipate. Sorrows will thicken fast enough, if we do not hasten them.
I lived with this Superior one year before I was consecrated, and it was, comparatively, a happy season. I was never punished unless it was to save me from less merciful hands; and then I would be shut up in a closet, or some such simple thing. The other four girls who occupied the room with me, were consecrated at the same time.
The Bishop came to our room early one morning, and took us to the chapel. At the door we were made to kneel, and then crawl on our hands and knees to the altar, where sat a man, who we were told, was the Archbishop. Two little boys came up from under the altar, with the vesper lamp to burn incense. I suppose they were young Apostles, for they looked very much like those we had seen at the White Nunnery, and were dressed in the same manner. The Bishop turned his back, and they threw incense on his head and shoulders, until he was surrounded by a cloud of smoke. He bowed his head, smote upon his breast, and repeated something in latin, or some other language, that we did not understand. We were told to follow his example, and did so, as nearly as possible. This ceremony over, the Bishop told us to go up on to the altar on our knees, and when this feat was performed to his satisfaction, he placed a crown of thorns upon each of our heads. These crowns were made of bands of some firm material, which passed over the head and around the forehead. On the inside thorns were fastened, with the points downward, so that a very slight pressure would cause them to pierce the skin. This I suppose is intended to imitate the crown of thorns which our Saviour wore upon the cross. But what will it avail them to imitate the crucifixion and the crown of thorns, while justice and mercy are so entirely neglected? What will it avail to place a crown of thorns upon a child’s head, or to bid her kneel before the image of the Saviour, or travel up stairs on her knees, while the way of salvation by Christ is never explained to her; while of real religion, holiness of heart, and purity of life she is as ignorant as the most benighted, degraded heathen? Is it rational to suppose that the mere act of repeating a prayer can heal the wounded spirit, or give peace to a troubled conscience? Can the most cruel penance remove the sense of guilt, or whisper hope to the desponding soul? Ah, no! I have tried it long enough to speak with absolute certainty. For years I practiced these senseless mummeries, and if there were any virtue, in them, I should, most certainly have discovered it. But I know full well, and my reader knows that they cannot satisfy the restless yearnings of the immortal mind. They may delude the vulgar, but they cannot dispel the darkness of the tomb, they cannot lead a soul to Christ.
On leaving the chapel after the ceremony, I found a new Superior, waiting for us at the door to conduct us to our rooms. We were all very much surprised at this, but she informed us that our old Superior died that morning, that she was already buried, and she had come to take her place. I could not believe this story, for she came to us as usual that morning, appeared in usual health, though always very pale, and made no complaint, or exhibited any signs of illness. She told us in her kind and pleasant way that we were to be consecrated, gave us a few words of advice,
After the consecration we were separated, and only one of the girls remained with me. The others I never saw again. We were put into a large room, where were three beds, one large and two small ones. In the large bed the Superior slept, while I occupied one of the small beds and the other little nun the other. Our new Superior was very strict, and we were severely punished for the least trifle—such, for instance, as making a noise, either in our own room or in the kitchen. We might not even smile, or make motions to each other, or look in each other’s face. We must keep our eyes on our work or on the floor, in token of humility. To look a person full in the face was considered an unpardonable act of boldness. On retiring for the night we were required to lie perfectly motionless. We might not move a hand or foot, or even a finger. At twelve the bell rang for prayers, when we must rise, kneel by our beds, and repeat prayers until the second bell, when we again retired to rest. On cold winter nights these midnight prayers were a most cruel penance. It did seem as though I should freeze to death. But live or die, the prayers must be said, and the Superior was always there to see that we were not remiss in duty. If she slept at all I am sure it must have been with one eye open, for she saw everything. But if I obeyed in this thing, I found it impossible to lie as still as they required; I would move when I was asleep without knowing it. This of course could not be allowed, and for many weeks I was strapped down to my bed every night, until I could sleep without the movement of a muscle. I was very anxious to do as nearly right as possible, for I thought if they saw that I strove with all my might to obey,
I neglected at the proper time to state what name was given me when I took the veil; I may therefore as well say in this place that my convent name was Sister Agnes.
Confession and sorrow of no avail.
It was a part of my business to wait upon the priests in their rooms, carry them water, clean towels, wine-glasses, or anything they needed. When entering a priest’s room it was customary for a child to knock twice, an adult four times, and a priest three times. This rule I was very careful to observe. Whenever a priest opened the door I was required to courtesy, and fall upon my knees; but if it was opened by one of the waiters this ceremony was omitted. These waiters were the boys I have before mentioned, called apostles. It was also a part of my business to wait upon them, carry them clean frocks, etc.
One day I was carrying a pitcher of water to one of the priests, and it being very heavy, it required both my hands and nearly all my strength to keep it upright. On reaching the door, however, I attempted to hold it with one hand (as I dare not set it down), while I rapped with the other. In so doing I chanced to spill a little water on the floor. Just at that moment the door was opened by the priest himself, and when he saw the water he was very angry. He caught me by the arm and asked what punishment he should inflict upon me for being so careless. I attempted to explain how it happened, told him it was an accident, that I was very sorry, and would try to be more careful in future. But I might as well have said that I was glad, and would do so again, for my confession, sorrow, and promises of future obedience were entirely thrown away, and might as well have been kept for some one who could appreciate the feeling that prompted them.
He immediately led me out of his room, it being on the second floor, and down into the back yard. Here, in the centre of the gravel walk, was a grate where they put down coal. This grate he raised and bade me go down. I obeyed, and descending a few steps found myself in a coal cellar, the floor being covered with it for some feet in depth. On this we walked some two rods, perhaps, when the priest stopped, and with a shovel that stood near cleared away the coal and lifted a trap door. Through this we descended four or five steps, and proceeded along a dark, narrow passage, so low we
For twenty-four hours I was left to bear as I best could the pains and terrors of cold, hunger, darkness, and fatigue. I could neither sit or lie down, and every one knows how very painful it is to stand upon the feet a long time, even when the position can be slightly changed; how much more so when no change can be effected, but the same set of muscles kept continually on the stretch for the space of twenty-four hours! Moreover, I knew not how long I should be kept there. The other prisoners, whose agonizing cries fell upon my ears, were evidently suffering all the horrors of starvation. Was I to meet a fate like this? Were those terrible sufferings in reserve for me? How could I endure them? And then came the thought so often present with me while in the convent, “If there is a God in heaven, why does He permit such things? What have I done that I should become the victim of such cruelty? God of mercy!” I involuntarily exclaimed, “save me from this terrible death.”
My prayer was heard, my petition granted. At the close of twenty-four hours, the Lady Superior came and released me from my prison, told me to go to the priest and ask his forgiveness, and then go to my work in the kitchen. I was very faint and weak from my long fast, and I resolved never to offend again. I verily thought I could be careful enough to escape another such punishment. But I had not been in the kitchen one hour, when I chanced to let a plate fall upon the floor. It was in no way injured, but I had broken the rules by making a noise, and the Superior immediately reported me to the priest. He soon appeared with his bunch of keys and a dark lantern in his hand. He took me by the ear which he pinched till he brought tears to my eyes, saying, “You don’t try to do well, and I’ll make you suffer the consequences.” I did not reply, for I had learned that to answer a priest, or seek to vindicate myself, or even to explain how things came to be so, was in itself a crime, to be severely punished. However unjust their treatment, or whatever my feelings might be, I knew it was better to suffer in silence.
Unlocking a door that opened out of the kitchen, and still keeping hold of my ear, he led me into a dark, gloomy hall, with black walls, and opening a door on the right, he bade me enter. This room was lighted by a candle, and around the sides, large iron hooks with heavy chains attached to them, were driven into the wall. At the back part of the room, he opened the door, and bade me enter a small closet. He then put a large iron ring over my head, and pressed it down upon my shoulders. Heavy weights were placed in my hands, and I was told to stand up straight, and hold them fifteen minutes. This I could not do. Had my life depended upon the effort, I could not have stood erect, with those weights in my hands. The priest, however, did not reprove me. Perhaps he saw that I exerted all my strength to obey, for he took out his watch, and slowly counted the minutes as they passed. Ere a third part of the time expired, he was obliged to release me, for the blood gushed from my nose and mouth, and I began to feel faint and dizzy. The irons were removed, and the blood ceased to flow.
I was then taken to another room, lighted like the other, but it was damp and cold, and pervaded by a strong, fetid, and very offensive odor. The floor was of wood, and badly stained with blood. At least, I thought it was blood, but there was not light enough to enable me to say positively what it was. In the middle of the room, stood two long tables, on each of which, lay a corpse, covered with a white cloth. The priest led me to these tables, removed the cloth and bade me look upon the face of the dead. They were very much emaciated, and the features, even in death, bore the impress of terrible suffering. We stood there a few moments, when he again led me back to his own room. He then asked me what I thought of what I had seen. Having taken no food for more than twenty-four hours, I replied, “I am so hungry, I can think of nothing else.” “How would you. like to eat those dead bodies?” he asked. “I would starve, Sir, before I would do it,” I replied. “Would you?” said he, with a slight sneer. “Yes indeed,” I exclaimed, striving to suppress my indignant feelings. “What! eat the flesh of a corpse? You do not mean it. I would starve to death first!” Frightened at my own temerity in speaking so boldly, I involuntarily raised my eye. The peculiar smile upon his face actually chilled my blood with terror. He did not, however, seem to notice me, but said, “Do not be too sure; I have seen others quite as sure as you are, yet they were glad to do it to save their lives; and remember,” he added significantly, “you will do it too if you are not careful.” He then ordered me to return to the kitchen.
At ten o’clock in the morning, the nuns had a slice of bread and cup of water; but, as I had been fasting, they gave me a bowl of gruel, composed of indian meal and water, with a little salt. A poor dinner this, for a hungry person, but I could have no more. At eleven, we went to mass in the chapel as usual. It was our custom to have mass every day, and I have been told that this is true of all Romish establishments. Returning to my work in the kitchen, I again resolved that I would be so careful, that, in future they should have no cause for complaint For two days I succeeded. Yes, for two whole days, I escaped punishment. This I notice as somewhat remarkable, because I was generally punished every day, and sometimes two or three times in a day.
On the third morning, I was dusting the furniture in the room occupied by the priest above mentioned, who treated me so cruelly. The floor being uncarpeted, in moving the chairs I chanced to make a slight noise, although I did my best to avoid it. He immediately sprang to his feet, exclaiming, “You careless dog! What did you do that for?” Then taking me by the arms, he gave me a hard shake, saying, “Have I not told you that you would be punished, if you made a noise? But I see how it is with you; your mind is on the world, and you think more of that, than you do of the convent. But I shall punish you until you do your duty better.” He concluded this choice speech by telling me to “march down stairs.” Of course, I obeyed, and he followed me, striking me on the head at every step, with a book he held in his hand. I thought to escape some of the blows, and hastened along, but all in vain; he kept near me and drove me before him into the priests sitting-room. He then sent for three more priests, to decide upon my punishment. A long consultation they held upon “this serious business,” as I sneeringly thought it, but the result was serious in good earnest, I assure you. For the heinous offence of making a slight noise I was to have dry peas bound upon my knees, and then be made to crawl to St. Patrick’s church, through an underground passage, and back again. This church was situated on a hill, a little more than a quarter of a mile from the convent. Between the two buildings, an under-ground passage had been constructed, just large enough to allow a person to crawl through it on the hands and knees. It was so low, and narrow, that it was impossible either to rise, or turn around; once within that passage there was no escape, but to go on to the end. They allowed me five hours to go and return; and to prove that I had really been there, I was to make a cross, and two straight lines, with a bit of chalk, upon a black-board that I should find at the end.
O, the intolerable agonies I endured on that terrible pathway! Any description that I can give, will fail to convey the least idea of the misery of those long five hours. It may, perchance, seem a very simple mode of punishment, but let any one just try it, and they will be convinced that it was no trifling thing. At the end, I found myself in a cellar under the church, where there was light enough to enable me to find the board and the chalk. I made the mark according to orders, and then looked around for some means of escape. Alas! There was none to be found. Strong iron bars firmly secured the only door, and a very slight examination convinced me that my case was utterly hopeless. I then tried to remove the peas from my swollen, bleeding limbs, but this, too, I found impossible. They were evidently fastened by a practised hand; and I was, at length, compelled to believe that I must return as I came. I did return; but O, how, many times I gave up in despair, and thought I could go no further! How many times did I stretch myself on the cold stones, in such bitter agony, that I could have welcomed death as a friend and deliverer! What would I not have given for one glass of cold water, or even for a breath of fresh air! My limbs seemed on fire, and while great drops of perspiration fell from my face, my throat and tongue were literally parched with thirst. But the end came at last, and I found the priest waiting for me at the entrance. He seemed very angry, and said, “You have been gone over your time. There was no need of it; you could have returned sooner if you had chosen to do so, and now, I shall punish you again, for being gone so long.” At first, his reproaches grieved me, for I had done my best to please him, and I did so long for one word of sympathy, it seemed for a moment, as though my heart would break. Had he then spoken one kind word to me, or manifested the least compassion for my sufferings, I could have forgiven the past, and obeyed him with feelings of love and gratitude for the future. Yes, I would have done anything for that man, if I could have felt that he had the least pity for me; but when he said he should punish me again, my heart turned to stone. Every tender emotion vanished, and a fierce hatred, a burning indignation, and thirst for revenge, took possession of my soul.
Alone with the dead.
The priest removed the peas from my limbs, and led me to a tomb under the chapel, where he left me, with the consoling assurance that “The dead would rise and eat me!” This tomb was a large rectangular room, with shelves on three sides of it, on which were the coffins of priests and Superiors who had died in the nunnery. On the floor under the shelves, were large piles of human bones, dry and white, and some of them crumbling into dust. In the center of the room was a large
O, how my heart thrilled with superstitious terror when I heard the key turn in the lock, and realized that I was alone with the dead! And that was not the worst of it. They would rise and eat me! For a few hours I stood as though paralyzed with fear. A cold perspiration covered my trembling limbs, as I watched those coffins with the most painful and serious apprehension. Every moment I expected the fearful catastrophe, and even wondered which part they would devour first—whether one would come alone and thus kill me by inches, or whether they would all rise at once, and quickly make an end of me. I even imagined I could see the coffins move—that I heard the dead groan and sigh and even the sound of my own chattering teeth, I fancied to be a movement among the dry bones that lay at my feet. In the extremity of terror I shrieked aloud. But this I knew was utterly useless. Who would hear me? Or who would care if they did hear? I was surrounded by walls that no sound could penetrate, and if it could, it would fall upon ears deaf to the agonizing cry for mercy,—upon hearts that feel no sympathy for human woe.
Some persons may be disposed to smile at this record of absurd and superstitions fear. But to me it was no laughing affair. Had not the priest said that the dead would rise and eat me? And did I not firmly believe that what he said was true? What! A priest tell a falsehood? Impossible. I thought it could not be; yet as hour after hour passed away, and no harm came to me, I began to exercise my reason a little, and very soon came to the conclusion that the priests are not the immaculate, infallible beings I had been taught to believe. Cruel and hard hearted, I knew them to be, but I did not suspect them of falsehood. Hitherto I had supposed it was impossible for them to do wrong, or to err in judgement; all their cruel acts being done for the benefit of the soul, which in some inexplicable way was to be benefited by the sufferings of the body. Now, however, I began to question the truth of many things I had seen and heard, and ere long I lost all faith in them, or in the terrible system of bigotry, cruelty and fraud, which they call religion.
As the hours passed by and my fears vanished before the calm light of reason, I gradually gained sufficient courage to enable me to examine the tomb, thinking that I might perchance discover the body of my old Superior. For this purpose I accordingly commenced the circuit of the room, holding on by the shelves, and making my way slowly onward. One coffin I succeeded in opening, but the sight of the corpse so frightened me, I did not dare to open another. The room being brilliantly lighted with two large spermaceti candles at one end, and a gas burner at the other, I was enabled to see every feature distinctly.
One of the nuns informed me that none but priests and Superiors are laid in that tomb. When these die in full communion with the church, the body is embalmed, and placed here, but it sometimes happens that a priest or Superior is found in the convent who does not believe all that is taught by the church of Rome. They desire to investigate the subject—to seek for more light—more knowledge of the way of salvation by Christ. This, with the Romanists is a great sin, and the poor hapless victim is at once placed under punishment. If they die in this condition, their bodies are cast out as heretics, but if they confess and receive absolution, they are placed in the tomb, but not embalmed. The flesh, of course, decays, and then the bones are thrown under the shelves. Never shall I forget how frightful those bones appeared to me, or the cold shudder that thrilled my frame at the sight of the numerous human skulls that lay scattered around.
Twenty-four hours I spent in this abode of the dead, without rest or sleep. The attempt to obtain either would have been sheer madness, for the least mis-step, the least unguarded motion, or a slight relaxation of the firm grasp by which I held on to the shelves, would have plunged me headlong into the dark water, from which escape would have been impossible. For thirty hours I had not tasted food, and my limbs, mangled and badly swollen, were so stiff with long standing, that, when allowed to leave the tomb, I could hardly step. When the priest came to let me out, he seemed to think it necessary to say something to cover his attempt to deceive and frighten me, but he only made a bad matter worse. He said that after he left me, he thought he would try me once more, and see if I would not do my duty better; he had, therefore, willed the dead not to eat me! And they, obedient to his will, were compelled to let me alone! I did not reply to this absurd declaration, lest I should say something I ought not, and again incur his displeasure. Indeed, I was not expected to say anything, unless I returned thanks for his unparalleled kindness, and I was not hypocrite enough for that. I suppose he thought I believed all he said, but he was greatly mistaken. If I began to doubt his word while in the tomb, this ridiculous pretence only served to add contempt to unbelief, and from that time I regarded him as a deceiver, and a vile, unscrupulous, hypocritical pretender.
It was with the greatest difficulty that I again made my way to the kitchen. I was never very strong, even when allowed my regular meals, for the quantity, was altogether insufficient, to satisfy the demands of nature; and now I had been so long without anything to eat, I was so weak, and my limbs so stiff and swollen, I could hardly stand. I managed, however, to reach the kitchen, when I was immediately seated at
I had but just finished my gruel when the Superior came back and desired me to go up stairs and help tie a mad nun. I think she did this simply for the purpose of giving me a quiet lesson in convent life, and showing me the consequences of resistance or disobedience. She must have known that I was altogether incapable of giving the assistance she pretended to ask. But I followed her as fast as possible, and when she saw how difficult it was for me to get up stairs, she walked slowly and gave me all the time I wished for. She led me into a small room and closed the door. There I beheld a scene that called forth my warmest sympathy, and at the same time excited feelings of indignation that will never be subdued while reason retains her throne. In the center of the room sat a young girl, who could not have been more than sixteen years old; and a face and form of such perfect symmetry, such surpassing beauty, I never saw. She was divested of all her clothing except one under-garment, and her hands and feet securely tied to the chair on which she sat. A priest stood beside her, and as we entered he bade us assist him in removing the beds from the bedstead. They then took the nun from her chair and laid her on the bedcord. They desired me to assist them, but my heart failed me. I could not do it, for I was sure they were about to kill her; and as I gazed upon those calm, expressive features, so pale and sad, yet so perfectly beautiful, I felt that it would be sacrilege for me to raise my hand against nature’s holiest and most exquisite work. I therefore assured them that I was too weak to render the assistance they required. At first they attempted to compel me to do it; but, finding that I was really very weak, and unwilling to use what strength I had, they at length permitted me to stand aside. When they extended the poor girl on the cord, she said, very quietly, “I am not mad, and you know that I am not.” To this no answer was given, but they calmly proceeded with their fiendish work. One of them tied her feet, while the other fastened a rope across her neck in such a way that if she attempted
All this time the poor doomed nun submitted quietly to her fate. I suppose she thought it useless, yea, worse than useless, to resist; for any effort she might make to escape would only provoke them, and they would torment her the more. I presume she thought her last hour had come, and the sooner she was out of her misery the better. As for me, my heart was so filled with terror, anguish, and pity for her, I could hardly obey the command to leave the room.
I attempted to descend the stairs, but was obliged to go very slowly on account of the stiffness of my limbs, and before I reached the bottom of the first flight the priest and the Superior came out into the hall. I heard them whispering together, and I paused to listen. This, I know, was wrong; but I could not help it, and I was so excited I did not realize what I was doing. My anxiety for that girl overpowered every other feeling. At first I could only hear the sound of their voices; but soon they spoke more distinctly, and I heard the words. “What shall we do with her? she will never confess.” In an audible tone of voice, the other replied, “We had better finish her.” How those words thrilled my soul! I knew well enough that they designed “to finish her,” but to hear the purpose announced so coolly, it was horrible. Was there no way that I could save her? Must I stand there, and know that a fellow-creature was being murdered, that a young girl like myself, in all the freshness of youth and the fullness of health, was to be cut off in the very prime of life and numbered with the dead; hurried out of existence and plunged, unwept, unlamented, into darkness and silence? She had friends, undoubtedly, but they would never be allowed to know her sad fate, never shed a tear upon her grave! I could not endure the thought. I felt that if I lingered there another moment I should be in danger of madness myself; for I could not help her. I could not prevent the consummation of their cruel purpose; I therefore hastened away, and this was the last I ever heard of that poor nun. I had never seen her before, and as I did not see her clothes, I could not even tell whether she belonged to our nunnery or not.
The sick nun.
On my return to the kitchen I found the sick nun sitting as we left her. She asked me, by signs, if we were alone. I told her she need not fear to speak, for the Superior was two flights of stairs above, and no one else was near. “Are they all away?” she whispered. I assured her that we were quite alone, that she had nothing to fear. She then informed me that she had been nine days under punishment, that when taken from the cell she could not stand or speak, and she was still too weak to walk without assistance. “O!” said she, and the big tears rolled over her cheeks as she said it, “I have not a friend in the world. You do not know how my heart longs for love, for sympathy and kindness.” I asked if she had not parents, or friends, in the world. She replied, “I was born in this convent, and know no world but this. You see,” she continued, with a sad smile, “what kind of friends I have here. O, if I had A friend, if I could feel that one human being cares for me, I should get better. But it is so long since I heard a kind word—” a sob choked her utterance. I told her I would be a friend to her as far as I could. She thanked me; said she was well aware of the difficulties that lay in my way, for every expression of sympathy or kind feeling between the nuns was strictly forbidden, and if caught in anything of the kind a severe correction would follow. “But,” said she “if you will give me a kind look sometimes, whenever you can do so with safety, it will be worth a great deal to me. You do not know the value of a kind look to a breaking heart.”
She wept so bitterly, I feared it would injure her health, and to divert her mind, I told her where I was born; spoke of my childhood, and of my life at the White Nunnery. She wiped away her tears, and replied, “I know all about it. I have heard the priests talk about you, and they say that your father is yet living, that your mother was a firm protestant, and that it will be hard for them to beat Catholicism into you. But I do not know how you came in that nunnery. Who put you there?” I told her that I was placed there by my father, when only six years old. “Is it possible?” she exclaimed, and then added passionately, “Curse your father for it.” After a moments silence, she continued, “Yes, child; you have indeed cause to curse your father, and the day when you first entered the convent; but you do not suffer as much as you would if you had been born here, and were entirely dependent on them. They fear that your friends may sometime look after you; and, in case they are compelled to grant them an interview, they would wish them to find you in good health and contented; but if you had no influential friends outside the convent, you would find yourself much worse off than you are now.”
She then said she wished she could get some of the brandy from the cellar. Her stomach was so weak from long fasting, it would retain neither food or drink, and she thought the brandy would give it strength. She asked if I could get it for her. The idea frightened me at first, for I knew that if caught in doing it, I should be most cruelly punished, yet my sympathy for her at length overcame my fears, and I resolved to try, whatever might be the result. I accordingly went up stairs, ostensibly, to see if the Superior wanted me, but really, to find out where she was, and whether she would be likely to come down, before I could have time to carry out my plan. I trembled a little, for I knew that I was guilty of a great misdemeanor in thus boldly presenting myself to ask if I was wanted; but I thought it no very great sin to pretend that I thought she called me, for I was sure my motives were good, whatever they might think of them. I had been taught that “the end sanctifies the means,” and I thought I should not be too hardly judged by the great searcher of hearts, if, for once, I applied it in my own way.
I knocked gently at the door I had left but a few moments before. It was opened by the Superior, but she immediately stepped out, and closed it again, so that I had no opportunity to see what was passing within. She sternly bade me return to the kitchen, and stay there till she came down; a command I was quite ready to obey. In the kitchen there was a small cupboard, called the key cupboard, in which they kept keys of all sizes belonging to the establishment. They were hung on hooks, each one being marked with the name of the place to which it belonged. It was easy for me to find the key to the cellar, and having obtained it, I opened another cupboard filled with bottles and vials, where I selected one that held half a pint, placed it in a large pitcher, and hastened down stairs. I soon found a cask marked “brandy,” turned the faucet, and filled the bottle. But my heart beat violently, and my hand trembled so that I could not hold it steady, and some of it ran over into the pitcher. It was well for me that I took this precaution, for if I had spilt it on the stone floor of the cellar, I should have been detected at once. I ran up stairs as quickly as possible, and made her drink what I had in the pitcher, though there was more of it than I should have given her under other circumstances; but I did not know what to do with it. If I put it in the fire, or in the sink, I thought they would certainly smell it, and, there was no other place, for I was not allowed to go out of doors. I then replaced the key, washed up my pitcher, and secreted the bottle of brandy in the waist of the nun’s dress. This I could easily do, their dresses being made with a loose waist, and a large cape worn over them. I then began to devise some way to destroy the scent in the room. I could smell it very distinctly, and I knew that the Superior would notice it at once. After trying various expedients to no purpose, I at length remembered that I had once seen a dry rag set on fire for a similar purpose. I therefore took one of the cloths from the sink, and set it on fire, let it burn a moment, and threw it under the caldron.
I was just beginning to congratulate myself on my success, when I saw that the nun appeared insensible, and about to fall from her chair. I caught her in my arms, and leaned her back in the chair, but I did not dare to lay her on the bed, without permission, even if I had strength to do it. I could only draw her chair to the side of the room, put a stick of wood under it, and let her head rest against the wall. I was very much frightened, and for a moment, thought she was dead. She was pale as a corpse, her eyes closed, and her mouth wide open. Had I really killed her? What if the Superior should find her thus? I soon found that she was not dead, for her heart beat regularly, and I began to hope she would get over it before any one came in. But just as the thought passed my mind, the door opened and the Superior appeared. Her first words were, “What have you been burning? What smells so?” I told her there was a cloth about the sink that I thought unfit for use, and I put it under the caldron. She then turned towards the nun and asked if she had fainted. I told her that I did not know, but I thought she was asleep, and if she wished me to awaken, and assist her to bed, I would do so. To this she consented, and immediately went up stairs again. Glad as I was of this permission, I still doubted my ability to do it alone, for I had little, very little strength; yet I resolved to do my best. It was long, however, before I could arouse her, or make her comprehend what I said, so entirely were her senses stupified with the brandy. When at length I succeeded in getting her upon her feet, she said she was sure she could not walk; but I encouraged her to help herself as much as possible, told her that I wished to get her away before any one came in, or we would be certainly found out and punished. This suggestion awakened her fears, and I at length succeeded in assisting her to bed. She was soon in a sound sleep, and I thought my troubles for that time were over. But I was mistaken. In my fright, I had quite forgotten the brandy in her dress. Somehow the bottle was cracked, and while she slept, the brandy ran over her clothes. The Superior saw it, and asked how she obtained it. Too noble minded to expose me, she said she drew it herself. I heard the Superior talking to a priest about it, and I thought they were preparing to punish her. I did not know what she had told them, but I did not think she would expose me, and I feared, if they punished her again, she would die in their hands.
I therefore went to the Superior and told her the truth about it, for I thought a candid confession on my part might, perchance, procure forgiveness for the nun, if not for myself. But no; they punished us both; the nun for telling the lie, and me for getting the brandy. For two hours they made me stand with a crown of thorns on my head, while they alternately employed themselves in burning me with hot irons, pinching, and piercing me with needles, pulling my hair, and striking me with sticks. All this I bore very well, for I was hurt just enough to make me angry.
When I returned to the kitchen again, the nun was sitting there alone. She shook her head at me, and by her gestures gave me to understand that some one was listening. She afterwards informed me that the Superior was watching us, to see if we would speak to each other when we met. I do not know how they punished her, but I heard a priest say that she would die if she suffered much more. Perhaps they thought the loss of that precious bottle of brandy was punishment enough. But I was glad I got it for her, for she had one good dose of it, and it did her good; her stomach was stronger, her appetite better, and in a few weeks she regained her usual health.
One day, while at work as usual, I was called up stairs with the other nuns to see one die. She lay upon the bed, and looked pale and thin, but I could see no signs of immediate dissolution. Her voice was strong, and respiration perfectly natural, the nuns were all assembled in her room to see her die. Beside her stood a priest, earnestly exhorting her to confess her sins to him, and threatening her with eternal punishment if she refused. But she replied, “No, I will not confess to you. If, as you say, I am really dying, it is with my God I have to do; to him alone will I confess, for he alone can save.” “If you do not confess to me,” exclaimed the priest, “I will give you up to the devil.” “Well,” said she, “I stand in no fear of a worse devil than you are, and I am quite willing to leave you at any time, and try any other place; even hell itself cannot be worse. I cannot suffer more there than I have here.” “Daughter,” exclaimed the priest, with affected sympathy, “must I give you up? How can I see you go down to perdition? It is not yet too late. Confess your sins and repent.” “I have already confessed my sins to God, and I shall confess to no one else. He alone can save me.” Her manner of saying this was solemn but very decided. The priest saw that she would not yield to his wishes, and raising his voice, he exclaimed, “Then let the devil take you.”
Immediately the door opened, and a figure representing the Roman Catholic idea of his Satanic Majesty entered the room. He was very black, and covered with long hair, probably the skin of some wild animal. He had two long white tusks, two horns on his head, a large cloven foot, and a long tail that he drew after him on the floor. He looked so frightful, and recalled to my mind so vividly the figure that I saw at the White Nunnery, that I was very much frightened; still I did not believe it was really a supernatural being. I suspected that it was one of the priests dressed up in that way to frighten us, and I now know that such was the fact. But what of that? We all feared the priests quite as much as we should the Evil One himself, even if he should come to us in bodily shape, as they pretended he had done. Most of the nuns were very much frightened when they saw that figure walk up to the bedside, taking good care, however, to avoid the priest, he being so very holy it was impossible for an evil spirit to go near or even look at him.
The priest then ordered us to return to the kitchen, for said he, “The devil has come for this nun’s soul, and will take it with him,” As we left the room I looked around on my companions and wondered if they believed this absurd story. I longed to ask them what they thought of it, but this was not allowed. All interchange of thought or feeling being strictly forbidden, we never ventured to speak without permission when so many of us were present, for some one was sure to tell of it if the least rule was broken.
I was somewhat surprised at first that we were all sent to the kitchen, as but few of us were employed there; but we were soon called back again to look at the corpse. I was inexpressibly shocked at this summons, for I had not supposed it possible for her to die so soon. But she was dead; and that was all we could ever know about it. As we stood around the bed, the priest said she was an example of those in the world called heretics; that her soul was in misery, and would remain so forever; no masses or prayers could avail her then, for she could never be prayed out of hell. Sins like hers could never be forgiven.
I continued to work in the kitchen as usual for many months after this occurrence, and for a few weeks the sick nun was there a great part of the time. Whenever we were alone, and sure that no one was near, we used to converse together, and a great comfort it was to us both. I felt that I had found in her one real friend, to sympathize with me in my grievous trials, and with whom I could sometimes hold communication without fear of betrayal. I had proved her, and found her faithful, therefore I did not fear to trust her. No one can imagine, unless they know by experience, how much pleasure we enjoyed in the few stolen moments that we spent together.
I shall never forget the last conversation I had with her. She came and sat down where I was assisting another nun to finish a mat. She asked us if we knew what was going on in the house. “As I came from my room,” said she, “I saw the priests and Superiors running along the halls, and they appeared so much excited, I thought something must be wrong. As they passed me, they told me to go to the kitchen, and stay there. What does it all mean?” Of course we did not know, for we had neither seen or heard anything unusual. “Well,” said she, “they are all so much engaged up stairs, we can talk a little and not be overheard. I want to know something about the people in the world. Are they really cruel and cold-hearted, as the priests say they are? When you was in the world were they unkind to you?” “On the contrary,” I replied, “I would gladly return to them again if I could get away from the convent. I should not be treated any worse, at all events, and I shall embrace the-first opportunity to go back to the world.” “That is what I have always thought since I was old enough to think at all,” said she, “and I have resolved a great many times to get away if possible. I suppose they tell us about the cruelty in the world just to frighten us, and. prevent us from trying to escape. I am so weak now I do not suppose I could walk out of Montreal even if I should leave the convent. But if I ever get strong enough, I shall certainly try to escape from this horrible place. O, I could tell you things about this convent that would curdle the blood in your veins.”
The other nun said that she had been once in the world, and every one was kind to her. “I shall try to get out again, some day,” said she, “but we must keep our resolutions to ourselves, for there is no one here, that we can trust. Those whom we think our best friends will betray us, if we give them a chance. I do believe that some of them delight in getting us punished.”
The sick nun said, “I have never exposed any one and I never will. I have the secrets of a great many hid in my breast, that nothing shall ever extort from me.” Here she was interrupted, and soon left the room. I never saw her again. Whether she was under punishment, or was so fortunate as to make her escape, I do not know. As no questions could be asked, it was very little we could know of each other. If one of our number escaped, the fact was carefully concealed from the rest, and if she was caught and brought back, no one ever knew it, except those who had charge of her. The other nun who worked in the room with me, watched me very closely. Having heard me declare my intention to leave the first opportunity, she determined to go with me if possible.
The joy of freedom.
At length the long sought opportunity arrived, and with the most extatic joy we fled from the nunnery. The girl I have before mentioned, who wished to go with me, and another nun, with whom I had no acquaintance, were left in the kitchen to assist me, in taking charge of the cooking, while the rest of the people were at mass in the chapel. A chance presented for us to get away, and we all fled together, leaving the cooking to take care of itself. We were assisted to get out of the yard, but how, or by whom, I can never reveal. Death, in its most terrible form would be the punishment for such an act of kindness, and knowing this, it would be the basest ingratitude for me to name the individual who so kindly assisted us in our perilous undertaking.
How well do I remember the emotions that thrilled my soul when I found myself safely outside the walls of that fearful prison! The joy of freedom—the hope of ultimate success—the fear of being overtaken, and dragged back to misery or death, were considerations sufficiently exciting to agitate our spirits, and lend fleetness to our steps. With trembling limbs, and throbbing hearts we fled towards the St. Lawrence river. Following the tow-path, we hastened on for a few miles, when one of the nuns became exhausted, and said she could go no further. She was very weak when we started, and the excitement and fatigue produced serious illness. What should we do with her? We could not take her along with us, and if we stopped with her, we might all be taken and carried back. Must we leave her by the way-side? It was a fearful alternative, but what else could we do? With sad hearts we took her to a shed near by, and there we left her to her fate, whatever it might be; perchance to die there alone, or what was still worse, be carried back to the convent. It was indeed, a sorrowful parting, and we wept bitter tears together, as we bade her a last farewell. I never saw or heard from her again.
We pursued our way along the tow-path for a short distance, when the canal boat came along. We asked permission to go upon the boat, and the captain kindly granted it, but desired us to be very still. He carried us twelve miles, and then proposed to leave us, as he exposed himself to a heavy fine by carrying us without a pass, and unattended by a priest or Superior. We begged him to take us as far as he went with the boat, and frankly told him our situation. Having no money to offer, we could only cast ourselves on his mercy, and implore his pity and assistance. He consented to take us as far as the village of Beauharnois, and there he left us. He did not dare take us further, lest some one might be watching for us, and find us on his boat.
It was five o’clock in the morning when we left the boat, but it was a Roman Catholic village, and we did not dare to stop. All that day we pursued our way without food or drink, and at night we were tired and hungry. Arriving at a small village, we ventured to stop at the most respectable looking house, and asked the woman if she could keep us over night. She looked at us very attentively and said she could not. We did not dare to call again, for we knew that we were surrounded by those who would think they were doing a good work to deliver us up to the priests. Darkness came over the earth, but still weary and sleepy as we were, we pursued our lonely way. I will not repeat our bitter reflections upon a cold hearted world, but the reader will readily imagine what they were.
Late in the evening, we came to an old barn. I think it must have been four or five miles from the village. There was no house, or other building near it, and as no person was in sight, we ventured to enter. Here, to our great joy, we found a quantity of clean straw, with which we soon prepared a comfortable bed, where we could enjoy the luxury of repose. We slept quietly through the night, and at the early dawn awoke, refreshed and encouraged, but O, so hungry! Gladly would we have eaten anything in the shape of food, but nothing could we find.
The morning star was yet shining brightly above us, as we again started on our journey. At length our hearts were cheered by the sight of a village. The first house we came to stood at some distance from the other buildings, and we saw two women in a yard milking cows. We called at the door, and asked the lady for some milk. “O yes,” said she, with a sweet smile, “come in, and rest awhile, and you shall have all you want.” She thought we were Sisters of Charity, for they often go about visiting the sick, and praying with the people. It is considered a very meritorious act to render them assistance, and speed them on their way; but to help a runaway nun is to commit a crime of sufficient magnitude to draw down the anathema of the church. Therefore, while we carefully concealed our real character, we gratefully accepted the aid we so much needed,
That day we traveled a long distance, at least, so it seemed to us. When nearly overcome with fatigue, we saw from the tow-path an island in the river, and upon it a small house. Near the shore a man stood beside a canoe. We made signs to him to come to us, and he immediately sprang into his canoe and came over. We asked him to take us to the island, and he cheerfully granted our request, but said we must sit very still, or we would find ourselves in the water. I did not wonder he thought so, for the canoe was very small, and the weight of three persons sank it almost even with the surface of the river, while the least motion would cause it to roll from side to side, so that we really felt that we were in danger of a very uncomfortable bath if nothing worse.
We landed safely, however, and were kindly welcomed by the Indian family in the house. Six squaws were sitting on the floor, some of them smoking, others making shoes and baskets. They were very gayly dressed, their skirts handsomely embroidered with beads and silk of various colors. One of the girls seemed very intelligent, and conversed fluently in the English language which she spoke correctly. But she did not look at all like an Indian, having red hair and a lighter skin than the others. She was the only one in the family that I could converse with, as the rest of them spoke only their native dialect; but the nun who was with me could speak both French and Indian.
They treated us with great kindness, gave us food, and invited in to stay and live with them; said we could be very happy there, and to induce us to remain, they informed us that the village we saw on the other side of the river, called St. Regis, was inhabited by Indians, but they were all Roman Catholics. They had a priest, and a church where we could go to Mass every Sabbath. Little did they imagine that we were fleeing for life from the Romish priests; that so far from being an inducement to remain with them, this information was the very thing to send us on our way with all possible speed. We did not dare to stay, for I knew full well that if any one who had seen us went to confession, they would be obliged to give information of our movements; and if one priest heard of us, he would immediately telegraph to all the priests in the United States and Canada, and we should be watched on every side. Escape would then be nearly impossible, therefore we gently, but firmly refused to accept the hospitality of these good people, and hastened to bid them farewell.
I asked the girl how far it was to the United States. She said it was two miles to Hogansburg, and that was in the States. We then asked the man to take us in his canoe to the village of St. Regis on the other side of the river. He consented, but, I thought, with some reluctance, and before he allowed us to land, he conversed some minutes with the Indians who met him on the shore. We could not hear what they said, but my fears were at once awakened. I thought they suspected us, and if so, we were lost. But the man came back at length, and, assisted us from the boat. If he had any suspicions he kept them to himself.
Soon after we reached the shore I met a man, of whom I enquired when a boat would start for Hogansburg. He gazed at us a moment, and then pointed to five boats out in the river, and said those were the last to go that day. They were then ready to start, and waited only for the tow-boat to take them along. But they were so far away we could not get to them, even if we dared risk ourselves among so many passengers. What could we do? To stay there over night, was not to be thought of for a moment. We were sure to be taken, and carried back, if we ventured to try it. Yet there was but one alternative; either remain there till the next day, or try to get a passage on the tow-boat. It did not take me a long time to decide for myself, and I told the nun that I should go on, if the captain would take me! “What! go on the tow-boat!” she exclaimed, “There are no ladies on that boat, and I do not like to go with so many men.” “I am not afraid of the men,” I replied, “if they are not Romanists, and I am resolved to go.” “Do not leave me,” she cried, with streaming tears. “I am sure we can get along better if we keep together, but I dare not go on the boat.” “And I dare not stay here,” said I, and so we parted. I to pursue my solitary way, she to go, I know not whither. I gave her the parting hand, and have never heard from her since, but I hope she succeeded better than I did, in her efforts to escape.
I went directly to the captain of the boat and asked him if he could carry me to the States. He said he should go as far as Ogdensburg, and would carry me there, if I wished; or he could set me off at some place where he stopped for wood and water. When I told him I had no money to pay him, he smiled, and asked if I was a run-a-way. I frankly confessed that I was, for I thought it was better for me to tell the truth than to try to deceive. “Well,” said the captain, “I will not betray you; but you had better go to my state-room and stay there.” I thanked him, but said I would rather stay where I was. He then gave me the key to his room, and advised me to go in and lock the door, “for,” said he, “we are not accustomed to have ladies in this boat, and the men may annoy you. You will find it more pleasant and comfortable to stay there alone.” Truly grateful for his kindness, and happy to escape from the gaze of the men, I followed his direction; nor did I leave the room again until I left the boat. The captain brought me my meals, but did not attempt to enter the room. There was a small window with a spring on the inside; he would come and tap on the window, and ask me to raise it, when he would hand me a waiter on which he had placed a variety of refreshments, and immediately retire.
Stranger in A strange land.
That night and the next day I suffered all the horrors of sea-sickness; and those who have known by experience how completely it prostrates the energies of mind and body, can imagine how I felt on leaving the boat at night. The kind-hearted captain set me on shore at a place where he left coal and lumber, a short distance from the village of Ogdensburg. He gave me twelve and half cents, and expressed regret that he could do no more for me. He said he could not direct me to a lodging for the night, being a stranger in the place, and this the first time he had been on that route. Should this narrative chance to meet his eye, let him know that his kind and delicate attentions to a stranger in distress, are and ever will be remembered with the gratitude they so richly merit. It was with evident reluctance that he left me to make my way onward as I could.
And now, reader, imagine, if you can, my situation. A stranger in a strange land, and comparatively a stranger to the whole world—alone in the darkness of night, not knowing where to seek a shelter or a place to lay my head; exhausted with sea-sickness until I felt more dead than alive, it did seem as though it would be a luxury to lie down and die. My stockings and shoes were all worn out with so much walking, my feet sore, swollen, and bleeding, and my limbs so stiff and lame that it was only by the greatest effort that I could step at all. So extreme were my sufferings, that I stopped more than once before I reached the village, cast myself upon the cold ground, and thought I could go no further. Not even the idea of being run over in the darkness by some passing traveller, had power to keep me on my feet. Then I would rest awhile, and resolve to try again; and so I hobbled onward. It seemed an age of misery before I came to any house; but at length my spirits revived at the sight of brilliant lights through the windows, and the sound of cheerful voices that fell upon my ear.
And now I thought my troubles over for that night at least. But no, when I asked permission to stay over night, it was coldly refused. Again and again I called at houses where the people seemed to enjoy all the comforts and even the luxuries of life; but their comforts were for themselves and not for a toil-worn traveller like me. This I was made to understand in no gentle manner; and some of those I called upon were not very particular in the choice of language.
By this time my feet were dreadfully swollen, and O! so sore and stiff, that every step produced the most intense agony. Is it strange that I felt as though life was hardly worth preserving? I resolved to call at one house more, and if again refused, to lie down by the wayside and die. I accordingly entered the village hotel and asked for the landlady. The bar-tender gave me a suspicious glance that made me tremble, and asked my business. I told him my business was with the landlady and no other person. He left the room a moment, and then conducted me to her chamber.
As I entered a lady came forward to meet me, and the pleasant expression of her countenance at once won my confidence. She gave me a cordial welcome, saying, with a smile, as she led me to a seat, “I guess, my dear, you are a run-a-way, are you not?” I confessed that it was even so; that I had fled from priestly cruelty, had travelled as far as I could, and now, weary, sick, and faint from long fasting, I had ventured to cast myself upon her mercy. “Will you protect me?” I asked, “and are you a Roman Catholic?” “No,” she replied, “I am not a Roman Catholic, and I will protect you. You seem to have suffered much, and are quite exhausted. But you will find a friend in me. I will not betray you, for I dislike the priests and the convents as much as you do.”
She then called her little girl, and ordered a fire kindled in another chamber, saying she did not wish her servants to see me. The child soon returned, when the lady herself conducted me to a large, pleasant bed-room, handsomely furnished with every convenience, and a fire in the grate. She gave me a seat in a large easy-chair before the fire, and went out, locking the door after her. In a short time she returned with warm water for a bath, and with her own hands gave me all the assistance needed. As I related the incidents of the day, she expressed much sympathy for my sufferings, and said she was glad I had come to her. She gave, me a cordial, and then brought me a cup of tea and other refreshments, of which I made a hearty supper. She would not allow me to eat all I wished; but when I had taken as much as was good for me, she bathed my feet with a healing wash, and assisted me to bed. O, the luxury of that soft and comfortable bed! No one can realize with what a keen sense of enjoyment I laid my head upon those downy pillows, unless they have suffered as I did, and known by experience the sweetness of repose after excessive toil.
All that night this good lady sat beside my bed, and kept my feet wet in order to reduce the swelling. I was little inclined to sleep, and at her request related some of the events of my convent life. While doing this, I hardly knew what to make of this curious woman. Sometimes she would weep, and then she would swear like any pirate. I was surprised and somewhat afraid of her, she seemed so strange and used such peculiar language. She understood my feelings at once, and immediately said, “You need not be afraid of me, for I have a kind heart, if I do use wicked words. I cannot help swearing when I think about the priests, monsters of iniquity that they are; what fearful crimes they do commit under the cloak of religion! O, if the people of this land could but see their real character, they would rise en masse and drive them from the country, whose liberties they will, if possible, destroy. For myself I have good cause to hate them. Shall I tell you my story, dear?” I begged her to do so, which she did, as follows:
“I once had a sister, young, talented, beautiful, amiable and affectionate. She was the pride of all our family, the idol of our souls. She wished for an education, and we gladly granted her request. In our zeal to serve her, we resolved to give her the very best advantages, and so we sent her to a Romish school. It was a seminary for young ladies taught by nuns, and was the most popular one in that part of the country. My father, like many other parents who knew such establishments only by report, had not the least idea of its true character. But deluded by the supposed sanctity of the place, he was happy in the thought that he had left his darling where it was said that ‘science and religion go hand in hand.’ For a season, all went on well. She wrote to us that she was pleased with the school, and wished to remain. We thought her hand writing wonderfully improved, and eagerly looked forward to the time when she would return to us a finished scholar, as well as an accomplished lady. But those pleasant prospects were soon overcast. Too soon, our happy, bounding hearts were hushed by unspeakable grief, and our brilliant anticipations were dissipated in the chamber of death. In their place came those solemn realities, the shroud, the coffin, the hearse and the tomb.”
“Did she die?” I asked. “Yes,” replied the lady, as she wiped away the fast flowing tears; “Yes, she died. I believe she was poisoned, but we could do nothing; we had no proof. She had been long at school before we suspected the deception that was practised upon us. But at length I went with my other sister to see her, and the Superior informed us that she was ill, and could not see us. We proposed going to her room, but to our great surprise were assured that such a thing could not be allowed. We left with sad hearts, and soon called again. I cannot describe my feelings when we were coldly informed that she did not wish to see us. What could it mean? Surely something must be wrong; and we left with terrible presentiments of coming evil. It came. Yes, too soon were our worst fears realized. I called one day resolved to see her before I left the house. Conceive, if you can, my surprise and horror, when they told me that my beautiful, idolized sister had resolved to become a nun. That she had already renounced the world, and would hold no further communication with her relatives. “Why did I not know this before? I exclaimed.” “You know it now,” was the cold reply. I did not believe a word of it, and when I told my father what they said, he went to them, and resolutely demanded his child. At first they refused to give her up, but when they saw that his high spirit was aroused—that he would not be flattered or deceived, they reluctantly yielded to his demand.”
Landlady’s story continued.
The poor girl was overjoyed to meet her friends again, but how great was our astonishment and indignation when she informed us that she had never received a single line from home after she entered the school, nor did she ever know that we had called to see her until we informed her of the fact. Whenever she expressed surprise that she did not hear from us, they told her that we had probably forgotten her, and strove to awaken in her mind feelings of indignation, suspicion and animosity. Not succeeding in this, however, they informed her that her father had called, and expressed a wish that she should become a nun; that he did not think it best for her to return home again, nor did he even ask for a parting interview.
Confounded and utterly heart-broken, she would have given herself up to uncontrollable grief had she been allowed to indulge her feelings. But even the luxury of tears was forbidden, and she was compelled to assume an appearance of cheerfulness, and to smile when her heart-strings were breaking. We brought forward the letters we had received from time to time which we believed she had written. She had never seen them, before, “and this,” said she, “is not my hand-writing.” Of this fact she soon convinced us, but she said she had written letter after letter hoping for an answer, but no answer came. She said she knew that the Superior examined all the letters written by the young ladies, but supposed they were always sent, after being read. But it was now plain to be seen that those letters were destroyed, and others substituted in their place.
[Footnote: Raffaele Ciocci, formerly a Benedictine Monk, in his “Narrative,” published by the American and Foreign Christian Union, relates a similar experience of his own, when in the Papal College of San Bernardo.
Being urged to sign “a deed of humility,” in which he was to renounce all his property and give it to the college, he says, “I knew not what to think of this “deed of humility.” A thousand misgivings filled my mind, and hoping to receive from the notary an explanation that would assist me in fully comprehending its intention, I anxiously said, “I must request, sir, that you will inform me what is expected from me. Tell me what is this deed— whether it be really a mere form, as has been represented to me, or if”—Here the master arose, and in an imperious tone interrupted me, saying,—“Do not be obstinate and rebellions, but obey. I have already told you that when you assume the habit of the Order, the chapter ’de humititate’ shall be explained to you. In this paper you have only to make a renunciation of all you possess on earth.”
“Of all I possess! And if I renounce all, who, when I leave the college, will provide for me?” The notary now interposed. “That,” said he, “is the point to which I wish to call your attention, in advising you to make some reservation. If you neglect to do so, you may find yourself in difficulties, losing, as you irrevocably will, every right of your own.” At these words, so palpable, so glaring, the bandage fell from my eyes, and I saw the abyss these monsters were opening under my feet. “This is a deception, a horrible deception,” I exclaimed. “I now understand the ‘deed of humility,’ but I protest I will not sign it, I will have nothing more to do with it.” * * * After spending two or three hours in bitterness and woe, I resolved to have recourse to my family. For this purpose I wrote a long letter to my mother, in which I exposed all the miseries of my heart, related what had taken place with regard to the “deed of humility,” and begged of her consolation and advice. I gave the letter into the hands of a servant, and on the following morning received a reply, in which I was told, in gentle, terms, to be tranquil,—not to resist the wishes of my directors, —sign unhesitatingly any paper that might be required, for, when my studies were completed, and I quitted the college, the validity of these forms would cease. This letter set all my doubts at rest, and restored peace to my mind. It was written by my mother, and she, I felt assured, would never deceive me. How could I for one moment imagine that this epistle was an invention of my enemies, who imitated the hand-writing and affectionate style of my mother? Some persons will say, you might have suspected it. * * * I reply, that in the uprightness of my heart, I could not conceive such atrocious wickedness; it appeared utterly irreconcilable with the sanctity of the place, and with the venerable hoariness of persons dedicated to God.
After perusing the letter, I hastened to the master, declaring my readiness to sign the “deed of humility.” He smiled approvingly on finding how well his plan had succeeded. The notary and witnesses were again summoned, and my condemnation written. The good notary, however, pitying my situation, inserted an exceptional clause to the total relinquishment of my rights. * * * No sooner was this business concluded, than the master commanded me to write to my parents, to inform them that I had signed the deed of renunciation, and was willing, for the benefit of my soul, to assume the monkish habit. He was present when I wrote this letter; I was, therefore, obliged to adopt the phrases suggested by him,—phrases, breathing zeal and devotion; full of indifference to the world, and tranquil satisfaction at the choice I had made. My parents, thought I, will be astonished when they read this epistle, but they must perceive that the language is not mine, so little is it in accordance with my former style of writing.
Reader, in the course of thirteen months, only one, of from fifty to sixty letters which I addressed to my mother, was ever received by her, and that one was this very letter. The monks, instead of forwarding mine, had forged letters imitating the hand-writing, and adopting a style suited to their purpose; and instead of consigning to me the genuine replies, they artfully substituted answers of their own fabrication. My family, therefore, were not surprised at the tenor of this epistle, but rejoiced over it, and reputed me already a Saint. They probably pictured me to themselves, on some future day, with a mitre on my head—with the red cap—nay, perhaps, even wearing the triple crown. Oh, what a delusion! Poor deceived parents! You knew not that your son, in anguish and despair, was clashing his chains, and devouring his tears in secret; that a triple bandage was placed before his eyes, and that he was being dragged, an unwilling victim, to the sacrifice.” Returning home soon after, Ciocci rushed to his mother, and asked if she had his letters. They, were produced; when he found that only one had been written by him. The rest were forgeries of the masters.]
“It follows then,” said my father, “that these letters are forgeries, and the excuses they have so often made are base falsehoods. A teacher of the religion of Jesus Christ guilty of lying and forgery! ’O, my soul come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly mine honor be thou not united.’”
“But we have our darling home again,” said I, “and now we shall keep her with us.” Never shall I forget the sweet, sad smile that came over her pale face as I uttered these words. Perchance, even then she realized that she was soon to leave us, never more to return. However this may be, she gradually declined. Slowly, but surely she went down to the grave. Every remedy was tried—every measure resorted to, that seemed to promise relief, but all in vain. We had the best physicians, but they frankly confessed that they did not understand her disease. In a very few months after her return, we laid our lovely and beloved sister beneath the clods of the valley. Our good old physician wept as he gazed upon her cold remains. I believe he thought she was poisoned, but as he could not prove it, he would only have injured himself by saying so. As for myself, I always thought that she knew too many of their secrets to be allowed to live after leaving them. “And now, dear,” she continued, “do you think it strange that I hate the Romanists? Do you wonder if I feel like swearing when I think of priests and convents?”
Truly, I did not wonder that she hated them, though I could not understand what benefit it could be to swear about it; but I did not doubt the truth of her story. How often, in the convent from which I fled, had I heard them exult over the success of some deep laid scheme to entrap the ignorant, the innocent and the unwary! If a girl was rich or handsome, as sure as she entered their school, so sure was she to become a nun, unless she had influential friends to look after her and resolutely prevent it. To effect this, no means were left untried. The grossest hypocricy, and the meanest deception were practised to prevent a girl from holding communication with any one out of the convent No matter how lonely, or how homesick she might feel, she was not allowed to see her friends, or even to be informed of their kind attentions. So far from this, she was made to believe, if possible, that her relatives had quite forsaken her, while these very relatives were boldly informed that she did not wish to see them. If they wrote to their friends, as they sometimes did, their letters were always destroyed, while those received at home were invariably written by the priest or Superior. These remarks, however, refer only to those who are rich, or beautiful in person. Many a girl can say with truth that she has attended the convent school, and no effort was ever made—no inducement ever presented to persuade her to become a nun. Consequently, she says that stories like the above are mere falsehoods, reported to injure the school. This may be true so far as she is concerned, but you may be sure she has neither riches nor beauty, or if possessed of these, there was some other strong reason why she should be an exception to the general rule. Could she know the private history of some of her school-mates, she would tell a different story.
I remember that while in the convent, I was one day sent up stairs to assist a Superior in a chamber remote from the kitchen, and in a part of the house where I had never been before. Returning alone to the kitchen, I passed a door that was partly open, and hearing a slight groan within, I pushed open the door and looked in, before I thought what I was doing. A young girl lay upon a bed, who looked more like a corpse than a living person. She saw me, and motioned to have me come to her.
As I drew near the bed, she burst into tears, and whispered, “Can’t you get me a drink of cold water?” I told her I did not know, but I would try. I hastened to the kitchen, and as no one was present but a nun whom I did not fear, I procured a pitcher of water, and went back with it without meeting any one on the way. I was well aware that if seen, I should be punished, but I did not care. I was doing as I would wish others to do to me, and truly, I had my reward. Never shall I forget how grateful that poor sufferer was for a draught of cold water. She could not tell how many days she had been fasting, for some of the time she had been insensible; but it must have been several days, and she did not know how long she was to remain in that condition.
“How came you here?” I asked, in a whisper; “and what have you done to induce them to punish you so?” “O,” said she, with a burst of tears, and grasping my hand with her pale, cold fingers, “I was in the school, and I thought it would be so nice to be a nun! Then my father died and left me all his property, and they persuaded me to stay here, and give it all to the church. I was so sad then I did not care for money, and I had no idea what a place it is. I really thought that the nuns were pure and holy—that their lives were devoted to heaven, their efforts consecrated to the cause of truth and righteousness. I thought that this was indeed the ‘house of God,’ the very ‘gate of heaven.’ But as soon as they were sure of me, they let me know—but you understand me; you know what I mean?” I nodded assent, and once more asked, “What did you do?” “O, I was in the school,” said she, “and I knew that a friend of mine was coming here just as I did; and I could not bear to see her, in all her loveliness and unsuspecting innocence, become a victim to these vile priests. I found an opportunity to let her know what a hell she was coming to. ’Twas an unpardonable sin, you see. I had robbed the church—committed sacrilege, they said—and they have almost killed me for it. I wish they would quite, for I am sure death has no terrors for me now. God will never punish me for what I have done. But go; don’t stay any longer; they’ll kill you if they catch you here.” I knew that she had spoken truly—they would kill me, almost, if not quite, if they found me there; but I must know a little more. “Did you save your friend?” I asked, “or did you both have to suffer, to pay for your generous act?” “Did I save her? Yes, thank God, I did. She did not come, and she promised not to tell of me. I don’t think she did; but they managed to find it out, I don’t know how; and now—O God, let me die!” I was obliged to go, and I left her, with a promise to carry her some bread if I could. But I could not, and I never saw her again. Yet what a history her few words unfolded! It was so much like the landlady’s story, I could not forbear relating it to her. She seemed much interested in all my convent adventures; and in this way we spent the night.
The two sisters.
Next morning the lady informed me that I could not remain with her in safety, but she had a sister, who lived about half a mile distant, with whom I could stop until my feet were sufficiently healed to enable me to resume my journey. She then sent for her sister, who very kindly, as I then thought, acceded to her request, and said I was welcome to stay with her as long as I wished. Arrangements were therefore made at once for my removal. My kind hostess brought two large buffalo robes into my chamber, which she wrapped around my person in such a way as to shield me from the observation of the servants. She then
This lady was a very different woman from her sister, and I soon had reason to regret that I was in her power. It has been suggested to me that the two ladies acted in concert; that I was removed for the sole purpose of being betrayed into the hands of my enemies. But I am not willing to believe this. Dark as human nature appears to me—accustomed as I am to regard almost every one with suspicion—still I cannot for one moment cherish a thought so injurious to one who was so kind to me. Is it possible that she could be such a hypocrite? Treat me with so much tenderness, and I might say affection, and then give me up to what was worse than death? No; whatever the reader may think about it, I can never believe her guilty of such perfidy. I regret exceedingly my inability to give the name of this lady in connection with the history of her good deeds, but I did not learn the name of either sister. The one to whom I was now indebted for a shelter seemed altogether careless of my interests. I had been with her but a few hours when she asked me to do some washing for her. Of course I was glad to do it; but when she requested me to go into the yard and hang the clothes upon the line, I became somewhat alarmed. I did not like to do it, and told her so; but she laughed at my fears, overruled all my objections, said no one in that place would seek to harm or to betray me, and assured me there was not the least danger. I at last consented to go, though my reason, judgment, and inclination, had I followed their dictates, would have kept me in the house. But I did not like to appear ungrateful, or unwilling to repay the kindness I received, as far as I was able; still I could not help feeling that it was an ungenerous demand. She might at least have offered me a bonnet or a shawl, as a partial disguise; but she did nothing of the kind.
When I saw that I could not avoid the exposure I resolved to make the best of it and get through as quickly, as possible; but my dress attracted a good deal of attention, and I saw more than one suspicious glance directed towards me before my task was finished. When it was over I thought no more about it, but gave myself up to the bright anticipations of future happiness, which now began to take possession of my mind.
That night I retired to a comfortable bed, and was soon lost to all earthly cares in the glorious land of dreams. What unalloyed happiness I enjoyed that night! what impossible feats I performed! Truly, the vision was bright, but a sad awaking followed. Some time in the night I was aroused by the flashing of a bright light from a dark lantern suddenly opened. I attempted to rise, but before I could realize where I was, a strong hand seized me and a gag was thrust into my mouth. The man attempted to take me in his arms, but with my hands and feet I defended myself to the best of my ability. Another man now came to his assistance, and with strong cords confined my hands and feet, so that I was entirely at their mercy. Perfectly helpless, I could neither resist nor call for help. They then took me up and carried me down stairs, with no clothing but my night-dress, not even a shawl to shield me from the cold night air.
At the gate stood a long covered wagon, in form like a butchers cart, drawn by two horses, and beside it a long box with several men standing around it. I had only time to observe this, when they thrust me into the box, closed the lid, placed it in the wagon, and drove rapidly away. I could not doubt for a moment into whose hands I had fallen, and when they put me into the box, I wished I might suffocate, and thus end my misery at once. But they had taken good care to prevent this by boring holes in the box, which admitted air enough to keep up respiration. And this was the result of all my efforts for freedom! After all I had suffered in making my escape, it was a terrible disappointment to be thus cruelly betrayed, gagged, bound, and boxed up like an article of merchandise, carried back to certain torture, and perchance to death. O, blame me not, gentle reader, if in my haste, and the bitter disappointment and anguish of my spirit, I questioned the justice of the power that rules the world. Nor let your virtuous indignation wax hot against me if I confess to you, that I even doubted the existence of that power. How often had I cried to God for help! Why were my prayers and tears disregarded? What had I done to deserve such a fife of misery? These, and similar thoughts occupied my mind during that lonely midnight ride.
We arrived at St. Regis before the first Mass in the morning. The box was then taken into the chapel, where they took me out and carried me into the church. I was seated at the foot of the altar, with my hands and feet fast bound, the gag still in my mouth, and no clothing on, but my night-dress. Two men stood beside me, and I remained here until the priest had said mass and the people retired from the church. He then came down from the altar, and said to the men beside me, “Well, you have got her.” “Yes Sir,” they replied, “what shall we do with her?” “Put her on the five o’clock boat,” said he, “and let the other men go with her to Montreal. I want you to stay here, and be ready to go the other way tonight” This priest was an Indian, but he spoke the English language correctly and fluently. He seemed to feel some pity for my forlorn condition, and as they were about to carry me away he brought a large shawl, and wrapped it around me, for which I was truly grateful.
At the appointed time, I was taken on board the boat, watched very closely by the two men who had me in charge. There was need enough of this, for I would very gladly have thrown myself into the water, had I not been prevented. Once and again I attempted it, but the men held me back. For this, I am now thankful, but at that time my life appeared of so little importance, and the punishments I knew were in reserve for me seemed so fearful, I voluntarily chose “strangling and death rather than life.” The captain and sailors were all Romanists, and seemed to vie with each other in making me as unhappy as possible They made sport of my “new fashioned clothing,” and asked if I “did not wish to run away again?” When they found I did not notice them they used the most abusive and scurrilous language, mingled with vulgar and profane expressions, which may not be repeated. The men who had charge of me, and who should have protected me from such abuse, so far from doing it, joined in the laugh, and appeared to think it a pleasant amusement to ridicule and vex a poor helpless fugitive. May God forgive them for their cruelty, and in the hour of their greatest need, may they meet with the kindness they refused to me.
At Lachine we changed boats and took another to Montreal. When we arrived there, three priests were waiting for us. Their names I perfectly remember, but I am not sure that I can spell them correctly. Having never learned while in the nunnery, to read, or spell anything except a simple prayer, it is not strange if I do make mistakes, when attempting to give names from memory. I can only give them as they were pronounced. They were called Father Kelly, Dow, and Conroy. All the priests were called father, of whatever age they might be.
As we proceeded from the boat to the Nunnery, one of the priests went before us while the others walked beside me, leading me between them. People gazed at us as we passed, but they did not dare to insult, or laugh at me, while in such respectable company. Yet, methinks it must have been a ludicrous sight to witness so much parade for a poor run-a-way nun.
Choice of punishments.
On our arrival at the Nunnery, I was left alone for half an hour. Then the Bishop came in with the Lady Superior, and the Abbess who had charge of the kitchen when I left. The Bishop read to me three punishments of which he said, I could take my choice. First.—To fast five days in the fasting room. Second.—To suffer punishment in the lime room. Third.—To fast four days, in the cell. As I knew nothing of these places except the cell, a priest was directed to take me to them, that I might see for myself, and then take my choice. At first, I thought I did not care, and I said I had no choice about it; but when I came to see the rooms, I was thankful that I was not allowed to abide by that decision. Certainly, I had no idea what was before me.
I was blindfolded, and taken to the lime room first. I think it must have been situated at a great distance from the room we left, for he led me down several flights of stairs, and through long, low passages, where it was impossible to stand erect. At length we entered a room where the atmosphere seemed laden with hot vapor. My blinder was removed, and I found myself in a pleasant room some fifteen feet square. There was no furniture of any kind, but a wide bench, fastened to the wall, extended round three sides of the room. The floor looked like one solid block of dark colored marble; not a crack or seam to be seen in it, but it was clouded, highly polished, and very beautiful. Around the sides of the room, a great number of hooks and chains were fastened to the wall, and a large hook hung in the center overhead. Near the door stood two men, with long iron bars, some two inches square, on their shoulders.
The priest directed me to stand upon the bench, and turning to the men, he bade them raise the door. They put down their bars, and I suppose touched a concealed spring, for the whole floor at once flew up, and fastened to the large hook over head. Surprised and terrified, I stood wondering what was to come next. At my feet yawned a deep pit, from which, arose a suffocating vapor, so hot, it almost scorched my face and nearly stopped my breath. The priest pointed to the heaving, tumbling billows of smoke that were rolling below, and; asked, “How would you like to be thrown into the lime?” “Not at all,” I gasped, in a voice scarcely audible, “it would burn me to death.” I suppose he thought I was sufficiently frightened, for he bade his men close the door. This they did by slowly letting down the floor, and I could see that it was in some way supported by the chains attached to the walls but in what manner I do not know.
I was nearly suffocated by the lime smoke that filled the room, and though I knew not what was in reserve for me, I was glad when my blinder was put on, and I was led away. I think we returned the same way we came, and entered another room where the scent was so very offensive, that I begged to be taken out immediately. Even before my eyes were uncovered, and I knew nothing of the loathsome objects by which we were surrounded, I felt that I could not endure to breathe an atmosphere so deadly. But the sight that met my eyes when my blinder was removed, I cannot describe, nor the sensations with which I gazed upon it. I can only give the reader some faint idea of the place, which, they said, was called the fasting room, and here incorrigible offenders fasted until they starved to death. Nor was this all. Their dead bodies were not even allowed a decent burial, but were suffered to remain in the place where they died, until the work of death was complete and dust returned to dust. Thus the atmosphere became a deadly poison to the next poor victim who was left to breathe the noxious effluvia of corruption and
Conceive, if you can, with what feelings I gazed upon these disgusting relics of the dead. Even now, my blood chills in my veins, as memory recalls the fearful sight, or as, in sleep, I live over again the dread realities of that hour. Was I to meet a fate like this? I might, perchance, escape it for that time, but what assurance had I that I was not ultimately destined to such an end? These thoughts filled my mind, as I followed the priest from the room; and for a long time I continued to speculate upon what I had seen. They called it the fasting room; but if fasting were the only object, why were they placed in those kettles, instead of being allowed to sit on chairs or benches, or even on the floor? And why placed in iron kettles? Why were they not made of wood? It would have answered the purpose quite as well, if fasting or starvation were the only objects in view. Then came the fearful suggestion, were these kettles ever heated? And was that floor made of stone or iron? The thought was too shocking to be cherished for a moment; but I could not drive it from my mind.
I was again blindfolded, and taken to a place they called a cell. But it was quite different from the one I was in before. We descended several steps as we entered it, and instead of the darkness I anticipated, I found myself in a large room with sufficient light to enable me to see every object distinctly. One end of a long chain was fastened around my waist, and the other firmly secured to an iron ring in the floor; but the chain, though large and heavy, was long enough to allow me to go all over the room. I could not see how it was lighted, but it must have been in some artificial manner, for it was quite as light at night, as in the day. Here were instruments of various kinds, the use of which, I did not understand; some of them lying on the floor, others attached to the sides of the room. One of them was made in the form of a large fish, but of what material I do not know. It was of a bright flesh color, and fastened to a board on the floor. If I pressed my foot upon the board, it would put in motion some machinery within, which caused it to spring forward with a harsh, jarring sound like the rumbling of the cars. At the same time its eyes would roll round, and its mouth open, displaying a set of teeth so large and long that I was glad to keep at a safe distance. I wished to know whether it would really bite me or not, but it looked so frightful I did not dare to hazard the experiment.
Another so nearly resembled a large serpent, I almost thought it was one; but I found it moved only when touched in a certain manner. Then it would roll over, open its mouth, and run out its tongue. There was another that I cannot describe, for I never saw anything that looked like it. It was some kind of a machine, and the turning of a crank made it draw together in such a way, that if a person were once within its embrace, the pressure would soon arrest the vital current, and stop the breath of life. Around the walls of the room were chains, rings and hooks, almost innumerable; but I did not know their use, and feared to touch them. I believed them all to be instruments of torture, and I thought they gave me a long chain in the hope and expectation that my curiosity would lead me into some of the numerous traps the room contained.
Every morning the figure I had seen beside the dying nun, which they called the devil, came to my cell, and unlocking the door himself, entered, and walked around me, laughing heartily, and seeming much pleased to find me there. He would blow white froth from his mouth, but he never spoke to me, and when he went out, he locked the door after him and took away the key. He was, in fact, very thoughtful and prudent, but it will be long before I believe that he came as they pretended, from the spirit world. So far from being frightened, the incident was rather a source of amusement. Such questions as the following would force themselves upon my mind. If that image is really the devil, where did he get that key? And what will he do with it? Does the devil hold the keys of this nunnery, so that he can come and go as he pleases? Or, are the priests on such friendly terms with his satanic majesty that they lend him their keys? Or, do they hold them as partners? Gentlemen of the Grey Nunnery, please tell us how it is about those keys.
Horrors of starvation.
One day a woman came into my cell, dressed in white, a white cap on her head, and so very pale she looked more like a corpse than a living person. She came up to me with her mouth wide open, and stood gazing at me for a moment in perfect silence. She then asked, “Where have you been?” “Into the world,” I replied. “How did you like the world?” “Very well,” said I. She paused a moment, and then asked, “Did you find your friends?” “No, ma’am,” said I, “I did not.” Another pause, and then she said, “Perhaps you will if you go again.” “No,” I replied, “I shall not try again.” “You had better try it once more,” she added, and I thought there was a slight sneer in her tone; “Perhaps you may succeed better another time.” “No,” I replied, “I shall not try to run away from the nunnery again. I should most assuredly be caught and brought back, and then they would make me suffer so much, I assure you I shall never do it again.” She looked at me a moment as though
Four days they kept me in this cell, and for five days and nights I had not tasted food or drink. I endured the most intolerable agonies from hunger and thirst. The suffering produced by hunger, when it becomes actual starvation, is far beyond anything that I can imagine. There is no other sensation that can be compared to it, and no language can describe it. One must feel it in order to realize what it is. The first two days I amused myself by walking round my room and trying to conjecture the use to which the various instruments were applied. Then I became so weak I could only think of eating and drinking. I sometimes fell asleep, but only to dream of loaded tables and luxurious feasts. Yet I could never taste the luxuries thus presented. Whenever I attempted to do so, they would be snatched away, or I would wake to find it all a dream. Driven to a perfect frenzy by the intensity of my sufferings, I would gladly have eaten my own flesh. Well was it for me that no sharp instrument was at hand, for as a last resort I more than once attempted to tear open my veins with my teeth.
This severe paroxysm passed away, and I sank into a state of partial unconsciousness, in which I remained until I was taken out of the cell. I do not believe I should have lived many hours longer, nor should I ever have been conscious of much more suffering. With me the “bitterness of death had passed,” and I felt disappointed and almost angry to be recalled to a life of misery. I begged them to allow me to die. It was the only boon I craved. But this would have been too merciful; moreover, they did not care to lose my services in the kitchen. I was a good drudge for them, and they wished to restore me on the same principle that a farmer would preserve the life of a valuable horse.
I do not remember leaving the cell. The first thing I realized they were placing me in a chair in the kitchen, and allowed me to lean my head upon the table. They gave me some gruel, and I soon revived so that I could sit up in my chair and speak in a whisper. But it was some hours before I could stand on my feet or speak loud. An Abbess was in the kitchen preparing bread and wine for the priests (they partake of these refreshments every day at ten in the morning and three in the afternoon). She brought a pailful of wine and placed it on the table near me, and left a glass standing beside it. When she turned away, I took the glass, dipped up a little of the wine, and drank it. She saw me do it, but said not a word, and I think she left it there for that purpose. The wine was very strong, and my stomach so weak, I soon began to feel sick, and asked permission to go to bed. They took me up in their arms and carried me to my old room and laid me on the bed. Here they left me, but the Abbess soon returned with some gruel made very palatable with milk and sugar. I was weak, and my hand trembled so that I could not feed myself; but the Abbess kindly sat beside me and fed me until I was satisfied. I had nothing more to eat until the next day at eleven o’clock, when the Abbess again brought me some bread and gruel, and a cup of strong tea. She requested me to drink the tea as quick as possible, and then she concealed the mug in which she brought it
I was now able to feed myself, and you may be sure I had an excellent appetite, and was not half so particular about my food as some persons I have since known. I lay in bed till near night, when I rose, dressed myself without assistance, and went down to the kitchen. I was so weak and trembled so that I could hardly manage to get down stairs; but I succeeded at last, for a strong will is a wonderful incentive to efficient action.
In the kitchen I met the Lady Superior. She saw how weak I was, and as she assisted me to a chair, she said, “I should not have supposed that you could get down here alone. Have you had anything to eat to-day?” I was about to say yes, but one of the nuns shook her head at me, and I replied “No.” She then brought some bread and wine, requesting me to eat it quick, for fear some of the priests might come in and detect us. Thus I saw that she feared the priests as well as the rest of us. Truly, it was a terrible crime she bad committed! No wonder she was afraid of being caught! Giving a poor starved nun a piece of bread, and then obliged to conceal it as she would have done a larceny or a murder! Think of it, reader, and conceive, if you can, the state of that community where humanity is a crime—where mercy is considered a weakness of which one should be ashamed! If a pirate or a highwayman had been guilty of treating a captive as cruelly as I was treated by those priests, he would have been looked upon as an inhuman monster, and at once given up to the strong
From this time I gained very fast, for the Abbess saw how hungry I was, and she would either put food in my way, or give me privately what I wished to eat. In two weeks I was able to go to work in the kitchen again. But those I had formerly seen there were gone. I never knew what became of the sick nun, nor could I learn anything about the one who ran away with me. I thought that the men who brought me to St. Regis, were kept there to go after her, but I do not know whether they found her or not. For myself, I promised so solemnly, and with such apparent sincerity, that I would never leave the nunnery again, I was believed and trusted. Had I been kindly treated, had my life been even tolerable, my conscience would have reproached me for deceiving them, but as it was, I felt that I was more “sinned against, than sinning.” I could not think it wrong to get away, if the opportunity presented, and for this I was constantly on the watch. Every night I lay awake long after all the rest were buried in slumber, trying to devise some plan, by which I could once more regain my liberty. And who can blame me? Having just tasted the sweets of freedom, how could I be content to remain in servitude all my life? Many a time have I left my bed at night, resolved to try to escape once more, but the fear of detection would deter me from the attempt.
In the discharge of my daily duties, I strove to the utmost of my ability to please my employers. I so far succeeded, that for five weeks after my return I escaped punishment. Then, I made a slight mistake about my work, though I verily thought I was doing it according to the direction. For this, I was told that I must go without two meals, and spend three days in the torture room. I supposed it was the same room I was in before, but I was mistaken. I was taken into the kitchen cellar, and down a flight of stairs to another room directly under it. From thence, a door opened into another subterranean apartment which they called the torture room. These doors were so constructed, that a casual observer would not be likely to notice them. I had been in that cellar many times, but never saw that door until I was taken through it. A person might live in the nunnery a life-time, and never see or hear anything of such a place. I presume those visitors who call at the school-rooms, go over a part of the house, and leave with the impression that the convent is a nice place, will never believe my statements about this room. Nor can we wonder at their skepticism. It is exceedingly difficult for pure minds to conceive how any human being can be so fearfully depraved. Knowing the purity of their own intentions, and judging others by themselves, it is not strange that they regard such tales of guilt and terror as mere fabrications, put forth to gratify the curiosity of the wonder-loving crowd.
The torture room.
I remember hearing a gentleman at the depot remark that the very enormity of the crimes committed by the Romanists, is their best protection. “For,” said he, “some of their practices are so shockingly infamous they may not even be alluded to in the presence of the refined and the virtuous. And if the story of their guilt were told, who would believe the tale? Far easier would it be to call the whole a slanderous fabrication, than to believe that man can be so vile.”
This consideration led me to doubt the propriety of attempting a description of what I saw in that room. But I have engaged to give a faithful narrative of what transpired in the nunnery; and shall I leave out a part because it is so strange and monstrous, that people will not believe it? No. I will tell, without the least exaggeration what I saw, heard, and experienced. People may not credit the story now, but a day will surely come when they will know that I speak the truth.
As I entered the room I was exceedingly shocked at the horrid spectacle that met my eye. I knew that fearful scenes were enacted in the subterranean cells, but I never imagined anything half so terrible as this. In various parts of the room I saw machines, and instruments of torture, and on some of them persons were confined who seemed to be suffering the most excruciating agony. I paused, utterly overcome with terror, and for a moment imagined that I was a witness to the torments, which, the priests say, are endured by the lost, in the world of woe. Was I to undergo such tortures, and which of those infernal engines would be applied to me? I was not long in doubt. The priest took hold of me and put me into a machine that held me fast, while my feet rested on a piece of iron which was gradually heated until both feet were blistered. I think I must have been there fifteen minutes, but perhaps the time seemed longer than it was. He then took me out, put some ointment on my feet and left me.
I was now at liberty to examine more minutely the strange objects around me. There were some persons in the place whose punishment, like my own, was light compared with others. But near me lay one old lady extended on a rack. Her joints were all dislocated, and she was emaciated to the last degree. I do not suppose I can describe this rack, for I never saw anything like it. It looked like a gridiron but was long enough for the tallest man to lie upon. There were large rollers at each end, to which belts were attached, with a large lever to drive them back and forth. Upon this rack the poor woman was fastened in such a way, that when the levers were turned and the rollers made to revolve, every bone in her body was displaced. Then the violent strain would be relaxed, a little, and she was so very poor, her skin would sink into the joints and remain there till it mortified and corrupted.
It was enough to melt the hardest heart to witness her agony; but she bore it with a degree of fortitude and patience, I could not have supposed possible, had I not been compelled to behold it. When I entered the room she looked up and said, “Have you come to release me, or only to suffer with me?” I did not dare to reply, for the priest was there, but when he left us she exclaimed, “My child, let nothing induce you to believe this cursed religion. It will be the death of you, and that death, will be the death of a dog.” I suppose she meant that they would kill me as they would a dog. She then asked, “Who put you here?” “My Father,” said I. “He must have been a brute,” said she, “or he never could have done it.” At one time I happened to mention the name of God, when she fiercely exclaimed with gestures of contempt, “A God! You believe there is one, do you? Don’t you suffer yourself to believe any such thing. Think you that a wise, merciful, and all powerful being would allow such a hell as this to exist? Would he suffer me to be torn from friends and home, from my poor children and all that my soul holds dear, to be confined in this den of iniquity, and tortured to death in this cruel manner? No, O, no. He would at once destroy these monsters in human form; he would not suffer them, for one moment, to breathe the pure air of heaven.”
At another time she exclaimed, “O, my children! my poor motherless children! What will become of them? God of mercy, protect my children!” Thus, at one moment, she would say there was no God, and the next, pray to him for help. This did not surprise me, for she was in such intolerable misery she did not realize what she did say. Every few hours the priest came in, and gave the rollers a turn, when her joints would crack and—but I cannot describe it. The sight made me sick and faint at the time, as the recollection of it, does now. It seemed as though that man must have had a heart of adamant, or he could not have done it. She would shriek, and groan, and weep, but it did not affect him in the least. He was as calm, and deliberate as though he had a block of wood in his hands, instead of a human being. When I saw him coming, I once shook my head at her, to have her stop speaking; but when he was gone, she said, “Don’t shake your head at me; I do not fear him. He can but kill me, and the quicker he does it the better. I would be glad if he would put an end to my misery at once, but that would be too merciful. He is determined to kill me by inches, and it makes no difference what I say to him.”
She had no food, or drink, during the three days I was there, and the priest never spoke to her. He brought me my bread and water regularly, and I would gladly have given it to that poor woman if she would have taken it. But she would not accept the offer. It would only prolong her sufferings, and she wished to die. I do not suppose she could have lived, had she been taken out when I first saw her.
In another part of the room, a monk was under punishment. He was standing in some kind of a machine, with heavy weights attached to his feet, and a belt passed across his breast under his arms. He appeared to be in great distress, and no refreshment was furnished him while I was there.
On one side of the room, I observed a closet with a “slide door,” as the nuns called them. There were several doors of this description in the building, so constructed as to slide back into the ceiling out of sight. Through this opening I could see an image resembling a monk; and whenever any one was put in there, they would shriek, and groan, and beg to be taken out, but I could not ascertain the cause of their suffering.
One day a nun was brought in to be punished. The priest led her up to the side of the room, and bade her put her fingers into some holes in the wall just large enough to admit them. She obeyed but immediately drew them back with a loud shriek. I looked to see what was the matter with her, and lo! every nail was torn from her fingers, which were bleeding profusely. How it was done, I do not know. Certainly, there was no visible cause for such a surprising effect. In all probability the fingers came in contact with the spring of some machine on the other side, or within the wall to which some sharp instrument was attached. I would give much to know just how it was constructed, and what the girl had done to subject herself to such a terrible and unheard-of punishment. But this, like many other things in that establishment, was wrapped in impenetrable mystery. God only knows when the veil will be removed, or whether it ever will be until the day when all secret things will be brought to light.
When the three days expired, I was taken out of this room, but did not go to work again till my feet were healed. I was then obliged to assist in milking the cows, and taking care of the milk. They had a large number of cows, I believe thirty-five, and dairy rooms, with every thing convenient for making butter and cheese. When first directed to go out and milk, I was pleased with the idea, for I hoped to find and opportunity to escape; but I was again disappointed. In the cow yard, as elsewhere, every precaution was taken to prevent it.
Passing out of the main yard of the convent through a small door, I found myself in a small, neat yard, surrounded by a high fence, so that nothing could be seen but the sky overhead. The cows were driven in, and the door immediately locked, so that escape from that place seemed impossible.
At harvest time, in company with twenty other nuns, I was taken out into the country to the residence of the monks. The ride out there was a great treat, and very much enjoyed by us all. I believe it was about five miles, through a part of the city of Montreal; the north part I think, but I am not sure. We stopped before a large white stone building, situated in the midst of a large yard like the one
Immediately on our arrival a part of our number were set to work in the fields, while the rest were kept in the house to assist the women. I hoped that I might be one of these last, but disappointment was again my lot. I was sent to the field with the others, and set to reaping; a priest being stationed near, to guard us and oversee our work. We were watched very closely, one priest having charge of two nuns, for whose safe keeping he was responsible. Here we labored until the harvest was all gathered in. I dug potatoes, cut up corn and husked it, gathered apples, and did all kinds of work that is usually done by men in the fall of the year. Yet I was never allowed to wear a bonnet on my head, or anything to shield me from the piercing rays of the sun. Some days the heat was almost intolerable, and my cap was not the least protection, but they allowed me no other covering.
In consequence of this exposure, my head soon became the seat of severe neuralgic pain, which caused me at times to linger over my work. But this was not permitted. My movements were immediately quickened, for the work must be done notwithstanding the severe pain. Every command must be obeyed whatever the result.
At night a part of our number were taken to the nunnery, and the rest of us locked up in our rooms in the house. We were not permitted to take our meals with the two housekeepers, but a table was set for us in another room. One would think that when gathering the fruit we would be allowed to partake of it, or at least to taste it. But this was not allowed; and as a priest’s eye was ever upon us, we dare not disobey, however much we might wish to do so. I used to wonder if the two women who kept the house were as severely dealt with as we were, but had no means whereby to satisfy my curiosity. They were not allowed to converse with us, and we might not speak to them, or even look them in the face. Here, as at the nunnery, we were obliged to walk with the head bent forward a little, the eyes fixed on the floor, one hand, if disengaged, under the cape, the other down by the side, and on no occasion might we look a person in the face. The two women seemed to be governed by the same rules that we were, and subject to the same masters. I used to think a great deal about them, and longed to know their history. They wore blue dresses, with white caps, and white handkerchiefs on their necks. Their life, I think, was a hard one.
Return to the nunnery.
While we remained at this place I was not punished in any of the usual methods. Perhaps they thought the exposure to a burning sun, and a severe headache, sufficient to keep me in subjection without any other infliction. But immediately on my return to the nunnery I was again subjected to the same cruel, capricious, and unreasonable punishment.
On the first day after my return one of the priests came into the kitchen where I was at work, and I hastened to give him the usual respectful salutation, which I have before described. But he took hold of my arm and said, “What do you look so cross for?” And without giving me time to reply, even if I had dared to do so, he added, “I’ll teach you not to look cross at me.” He left the room, with an expression of countenance that frightened me. I was not aware of looking cross at him, though I must confess I had suffered so much at his hands already, I did not feel very happy in his presence; yet I always endeavored to treat him with all due respect. Certainly his accusation against me in this instance was as false as it was cruel. But what of that? I was only a nun, and who would care if I was punished unjustly? The priest soon returned with a band of leather, or something of the kind, into which thorns were fastened in such numbers that the inside was completely covered with them. This he fastened around my head with the points of the thorns pressing into the skin, and drew it so tight that the blood ran in streams over my neck and shoulders. I wore this band, or “crown of thorns;” as they called it, for six hours, and all the time continued my work as usual. Then I thought of the “crown of thorns” our Saviour wore when he gave his life a ransom for the sins of the world. I thought I could realize something of his personal agony, and the prayer of my soul went up to heaven for grace to follow his example and forgive my tormentors.
From this time I was punished every day while I remained there, and for the most simple things. It was evident they wished to break down my spirit, but it only confirmed me in my resolution to get away from them as soon as possible.
One day I chanced to close the door a little too hard. It was mere accident, but for doing it they burned me with red hot tongs. They kept them in the fire till they were red hot, then plunged them into cold water, drew them out as quickly as possible, and immediately applied them to my arms or feet. The skin would, of course adhere to the iron, and it would sometime burn down to the bone before they condescended to remove it. At another time I was cruelly burned on my arms and shoulders for not standing erect. The flesh was deep in some places, and the agony I suffered was intolerable. I thought of the stories the Abbess used to tell me years before about the martyrs who were burned at the stake. But I had not a martyr’s faith, and I could not imitate their patience and resignation. The sores made on these occasions were long in healing, and to this day I bear upon my person the scars caused by these frequent burnings.
I was often punished because I forgot to walk on my toes. For this trivial offence I have often been made to fast two days. We all wore cloth shoes, and it was the rule of the house that we should all walk on tip-toe. Sometimes we would forget, and take a step or two in the usual way; and then it did seem as though they rejoiced in the opportunity to inflict punishment. It was the only amusement they had, and there was so little variety in their daily life, I believe they were glad of anything to break in upon the monotony of convent life, and give them a little excitement. It was very hard for me to learn to walk on my toes, and as I often failed to do it, I was of course punished for the atrocious crime. But I did learn at last, for what can we not accomplish by resolute perseverance? Several years of practice so confirmed the habit that I found it as difficult to leave off as it was to begin. Even now I often find myself tripping along on tip-toe before I am aware of it.
We had a very cruel abbess in the kitchen, and this was one reason of our being punished so often. She was young and inexperienced, and had just been promoted to office, with which she seemed much pleased and elated. She embraced every opportunity to exercise her authority, and often have I fasted two whole days for accidentally spilling a little water on the kitchen floor. Whenever she wished to call my attention to her, she did not content herself with simply speaking, but would box my ears, pull my hair, pinch my arms, and in many ways so annoy and provoke me that I often wished her dead. One day when I was cleaning knives and forks she came up to me and gave me such a severe pinch on my arm that I carried the marks for many days. I did not wait to think what I was doing, but turned and struck her with all my might. It could not have been a light blow, for I was very angry. She turned away, saying she should report me to the Lady Superior. I did not answer her, but as she passed through the door I threw a knife which I hoped would hit her, but it struck the door as she closed it. I expected something dreadful would be done to me after this wilful violation of a well known law. But I could bear it, I thought, and I was glad I hit her so hard.
She soon returned with a young priest, who had been there but a short time, and his heart had not yet become so hard as is necessary to be a good Romish priest. He came to me and asked, “What is the matter?” I told him the Abbess punished me every day, that in fact I was under punishment most of the time; that I did not deserve it, and I was resolved to bear it no longer. I struck her because she pinched me for no good reason; and I should in future try to defend myself from her cruelty.
“Do you know,” said he, “what will be done to you for this?” “No, sir,” said I, “I do not know,” and I was about to add, “I do not care,” but I restrained myself. He went out, and for a long time I expected to be called to account, but I heard no more of it. The Abbess, however, went on in the old way, tormenting me on every occasion.
One day the priests had a quarrel among themselves, and if I had said a drunken quarrel, I do not think it would have been a very great mistake. In the fray they stabbed one of their number in the side, drew him out of his room, and left him on the floor in the hall of the main building, but one flight of stairs above the kitchen. Two nuns, who did the chamber work, came down stairs, and, seeing him lie there helpless and forsaken, they took him by the hair of the head and drew him down to the kitchen. Here they began to torment him in the most cruel manner. They burned sticks in the fire until the end was a live coal, put them into his hands and closed them, pressing the burning wood into the flesh, and thus producing the most exquisite pain. At least this would have been the result if he had realized their cruelty. But I think he was insensible before they touched him, or if not, must have died very soon after, for I am sure he was dead when I first saw him.
I went to them and remonstrated against such inhuman conduct. But one of the nuns replied, “That man has tormented me more than I can him, if I do my best, and I wish him to know how good it is.” “But,” said I, some one will come in, and you will be caught in the act.” “I’ll risk that,” said she, “they are quarreling all over the house, and will have enough to do to look after each other for a while, I assure you.” “But the man is dead,” said I. “How can you treat a senseless corpse in that way?” “I’m afraid he is dead,” she replied, he don’t move at all, and I can’t feel his heart beat; but I did hope to make him realize how good the fire feels.”
Meanwhile, the blood was flowing from the wound in his side, and ran over the floor. The sight of this alarmed them, and they drew him into another dark hall, and left him beside the door of a room used for punishment. They then came back, locked the hall door, and washed up the blood. They expected to be punished for moving the dead body, but the floor was dry before any of the priests came in, and I do not think it was ever known. Perhaps they did not remember events as distinctly as they might under other circumstances, and it is very possible, that, when they found the corpse they might not have been able to say whether it was where they left it, or not. We all rejoiced over the death of that priest. He was a very cruel man; had punished me times without number, but, though I was glad he was dead, I could not have touched him when he lay helpless and insensible.
A few weeks after the events just related, another trifling occurrence brought me into collision with the Abbess. And here let me remark that I have no way, by which to ascertain at what particular time certain events transpired. The reader will understand that I write this narrative from memory, and our life at the nunnery was so monotonous, the days and weeks passed by with such dull, and irksome uniformity, that sometimes our frequent punishments were the only memorable events to break in upon the tiresome sameness of our unvarying life. Of course the most simple thing was regarded by us as a great event, something worthy of special notice, because, for the time, it diverted our minds from the peculiar restraints of our disagreeable situation.
To illustrate this remark let me relate an incident that transpired about this time. I was one day sent to a part of the house where I was not in the habit of going. I was passing along a dark hall, when a ray of light from an open door fell upon my path. I looked up, and as the door at that moment swung wide open, I saw, before a glass, in a richly furnished room, the most beautiful woman I ever beheld. From the purity of her complexion, and the bright color of her cheeks and lips, I could have taken her for a piece of wax work, but for the fact that she was carelessly arranging her hair. She was tall, and elegant in person, with a countenance of such rare and surpassing beauty, I involuntarily exclaimed, “What a beautiful woman!” She turned towards me with a smile of angelic sweetness, while an expression of sympathetic emotion overspread her exquisitely moulded features, which seemed to say as plainly as though she had spoken in words, “Poor child, I pity you.” I now became conscious that I was breaking the rules of the house, and hastened away. But O, how many days my soul fed on that smile! I never saw the lady again, her name I could never know, but that look of tenderness will never be forgotten. It was something to think of through many dreary hours, something to look back to, and be grateful for, all the days of my life.
But to return to my narrative. The priests had a large quantity of sap gathered from the maple trees, and brought to the nunnery to be boiled into sugar. Another nun and myself were left to watch it, keep the kettle filled up, and prevent it from burning. It was boiled in the large caldron of which I have before spoken, and covered with a large, thin, wooden cover. The sap had boiled some time, and become very thick. I was employed in filling up the kettle when the Abbess came into the room, and after a few inquiries, directed me to stand upon the cover of the caldron, and fix a large hook directly over it. I objected, for I know full well that it would not bear a fourth part of my weight. She then took hold of me, and tried to force me to step upon it, but I knew I should be burned to death, for the cover, on account of its enormous size was made as thin as possible, that we might be able to lift it. When I saw that she was determined to make me yield, in self defence, I threw her upon the floor. Would that I had been content to stop here. But no. When I saw her in my power, and remembered how much I had suffered from her, my angry passions rose, and I thought only of revenge.
I commenced beating her with all my might, and when I stopped from mere exhaustion, the other nun caught her by the hair and began to draw her round the room. She struggled and shrieked, but she could not help herself. Her screams, however, alarmed the house, and hearing one of the priests coming, the nun gave her a kick and left her. The priest asked what we were doing, and the Abbess related with all possible
Sickness and death of A superior.
The next excitement in our little community was caused by the sickness and death of our Superior. I do not know what her disease was, but she was sick two weeks, and one of the nuns from the kitchen was sent to take care of her. One night she was so much worse, the nun thought she would die, and she began to torment her in the most inhuman manner. She had been severely punished a short time before at the instigation of this woman, and she then swore revenge if she ever found an opportunity. Now it was presented. She was in her power, too weak to resist or call for assistance, and she resolved to let her know by experience how bitterly she had made others suffer in days gone by. It was a fiendish spirit, undoubtedly, that prompted her to seek revenge upon the dying, but what else could we expect? She only followed the example of her elders, and if she went somewhat beyond their teachings, she had, as we shall see, her reasons for so doing. With hot irons she burned her on various parts of her person, cut great gashes in the flesh upon her face, sides, and arms, and then rubbed salt and pepper into the wounds. But I will not try to describe it.
The wretched woman died before morning, and the nun went to the priest and told him that the Superior was dead, and that she had killed her. The priests were immediately all called together, and the Bishop called upon for counsel. He sentenced her to be hung that morning in the chapel before the assembled household. The Abbess came and informed us what had taken place, and directed us to get ready and go to the chapel. When we entered, the doomed girl sat upon a chair on the altar. She was clad in a white robe, with a white cap on her head, and appeared calm, self-possessed, and even joyful. The Bishop asked her if she had anything to say for herself. She immediately rose and said, “I have killed the Superior, for which I am to be hung. I know that I deserve to die, but I have suffered more than death many times over, from punishments inflicted by her order. For many years my life
She sat down, and they put a cap over her head and face, drew it tight around her neck, adjusted the rope, and she was launched into eternity. To me it seemed a horrid thing, and I could not look upon her dying struggles. I did not justify the girl in what she had done, yet I knew that the woman would have died if she had let her alone; and I also knew that worse things than that were done in the nunnery almost every day, and that too by the very men who had taken her life. I left the chapel with a firm resolve to make one more effort to escape from a thraldom that everyday became more irksome.
At the door the Abbess met me, and led me to a room I had never seen before, where, to my great surprise, I found my bed. She said it was removed by her order, and in future I was to sleep in that room. “What! sleep here alone?” I exclaimed, quite forgetting, in the agitation of the moment, the rule of silent obedience. But she did not condescend to notice either my question or the unpleasant feelings which must have been visible in my features. I did feel very much troubled. I had never slept in a room alone a night in my life. Another nun always occupied the room with me, and when she was absent, as she often was when under punishment, the Abbess slept there, so that I was never alone. I did not often meet the girl with whom I slept, as she did not work in the kitchen, but whenever I did, I felt as pleased as though she had been my sister. Yet I never spoke to her, nor did she ever attempt to converse with me. Yes, strange as it may seem, incredible as my reader may think it, it is a fact, that during all the years we slept together, not one word ever passed between us. We did not even dare to communicate our thoughts by signs, lest the Abbess should detect us.
That night I spent in my new room; but I could not sleep. I had heard strange hints about some room where no one could sleep, and where no one liked to go, though for what reason I could never learn. When I first entered, I discovered that the floor was badly stained, and, while speculating on the cause of those stains, I came to the conclusion that this was the room to which so much mystery was attached. It was very dark, with no window in it, situated in the midst of the house, surrounded by other rooms, and no means of ventilation except the door. I did not close my eyes during the whole night. I imagined that the door opened and shut, that persons were walking in the room, and I am certain that I heard noises near my bed for which I could not account. Altogether, it was the most uncomfortable night I ever spent, and I believe that few persons would have felt entirely at ease in my situation.
To such a degree did these superstitious fears assail me, I felt as though I would endure any amount of physical suffering rather than stay there another night. Resolved to brave everything, I went to a priest and asked permission to speak to him. It was an unusual thing, and I think his curiosity was excited, for it was only in extreme cases that a nun ventures to appeal to a priest When I told him my story, he seemed much surprised, and asked by whose order my bed was moved to that room. I informed him of all the particulars, when he ordered me to move my bed back again. “No one,” said he, “has slept in that room for years, and we do not wish any one to sleep there.” I accordingly moved the bed back, and as I had permission from the priest, the Abbess dared not find fault with me.
Students at the academy.
Through the winter I continued to work as usual, leading the same dull, dreary, and monotonous life, varied only by pains, and privations. In the spring a slight change was made in the household arrangements, and for a short time I assisted some of the other nuns to do the chamber work for the students at the academy. There was an under-ground passage from the convent to the cellar of the academy through which we passed. Before we entered, the doors and windows were securely fastened, and the students ordered to leave their rooms, and not return again till we had left. They were also forbidden to speak to us, but whenever the teachers were away, they were sure to come back to their rooms, and ask us all manner of questions. They wished to know, they said, how long we were going to stay in the convent, if we really enjoyed the life we had chosen, and were happy in our retirement; if we had not rather return to the world, go into company, get married, etc. I suppose they really thought that we could leave at any time if we chose. But we did not dare to answer their questions, or let them know the truth.
One day, when we went to do the work, we found in one of the rooms, some men who were engaged in painting. They asked us if we were contented. We did not dare to reply, lest they should betray us. They then began to make remarks about us, some of which I well remember. One of them said, “I don’t believe they are used very well; they look as though they were half starved.” Another replied, “I know they do; there is certainly something wrong about these convents, or the nuns would not all look so pale and thin.” I suspect the man little thought how much truth there was in his remarks.
Soon after the painters left we were all taken suddenly ill. Some were worse than others, but all were unwell except one nun. As all exhibited the same symptoms, we were supposed to have taken poison, and suspicion fastened on that nun. She was put upon the rack, and when she saw that her guilt could not be concealed, she confessed that she poisoned the water in the well, but she would not tell what she put into it, nor where she got it. She said she did not do it to injure the nuns, for she thought they were allowed so little drink with their food, they would not be affected by it, while those who drank more, she hoped to kill. She disliked all the priests, and the Superior, and would gladly have murdered them all. But for one priest in particular, she felt all the hatred that a naturally malignant spirit, excited by repeated acts of cruelty, is capable of. He had punished her repeatedly, and as she thought, unjustly, and she resolved to avenge herself and destroy her enemy, even though the innocent should suffer with the guilty. This was all wrong, fearfully wrong we must admit. But while we look with horror at the enormity of her crime let us remember that she had great provocation. I hope there are few who could have sought revenge in the way she did; yet I cannot believe that any one would endure from another what she was compelled to suffer from that man, without some feelings of resentment. Let us not judge too harshly this erring sister, for if her crime was great, her wrongs were neither small nor few, and her punishment was terrible.
They tortured her a long time to make her tell what kind of poison she put in the well, and where she obtained it. They supposed she must have got it from the painters, but she would never tell where she procured it. This fact proves that she had some generous feelings left. Under any other circumstances such magnanimity would have been highly applauded, and in my secret soul I could not but admire the firmness with which she bore her sufferings. She was kept upon the rack until all her joints were dislocated, and the flesh around them mortified. They then carried her to her room, removed the bed, and laid her upon the bedcord. The nuns were all assembled to look at her, and take warning by her sad fate. Such a picture of misery I never saw before. She seemed to have suffered even more than the old lady I saw in the cellar. It was but a moment, however, that we were allowed to gaze upon her shrunken ghastly features, and then she was hid from our sight forever. The nuns, except two or three, were sent from the room, and thus the murder was consummated. What else can we call it?
There was one young student at the academy whose name was Smalley. He was from New England, and his father lived at St. Albans, Vt., where he had wealth and influence. This young man had a little sister who used to visit at the convent, whom they called Sissy Smalley. She was young, but handsome, witty and intelligent. For one of her age, she was very much refined in her manners. They allowed her to go anywhere in the building except the private apartments where those deeds of darkness were performed which would not bear the pure light of heaven. I presume that no argument could convince little Sissy Smalley that such rooms were actually in the nunnery. She had been all over it, she would tell you, and she never saw any torture rooms, never heard of any one being punished, or anything of the kind. Such reports would appear to her as mere slanders, yet God knows they are true. I well remember how I used to shudder to hear that child praise the nunnery, tell what a nice, quiet place it was, and how she would like it for a permanent home. I hope her brother will find out the truth about it in season to prevent his beautiful sister from ever becoming a nun.
Second escape from the nunnery.
It was early in the spring, when I again succeeded in making my escape. It was on a Saturday evening, when the priests and nearly all the nuns were In the chapel. I was assisted out of the yard in the same way I was before, and by the same person. There was still snow upon the ground and that they might not be able to track me, I entered the market and walked the whole length of it without attracting observation. From thence I crossed the street, when I saw a police officer coming directly towards me. I turned down a dark alley and ran for my life, I knew not whither. It is the duty of every police officer in Montreal to accompany any of the sisters whom they chance to meet in the street, and I knew if he saw me he would offer to attend me wherever I wished to go. Such an offer might not be refused, and, certainly, his company, just at that time, was neither desirable nor agreeable.
At the end of the alley, I found myself near a large church, and two priests were coming directly towards me. It is said “the drowning catch at straws.” Whether this be true or not, the plan which I adopted in this emergency seemed as hopeless for my preservation, as a straw for the support of the drowning. Yet it was the only course I could pursue, for to escape unseen was impossible. I therefore resolved to go boldly past them, and try to make them think I was a Superior going to church. Trying to appear as indifferent as possible, I approached, and saluted them in the usual way. This is done by throwing forward the open hand, and passing it down by the side with a slight inclination of the head. The priest returns the salutation by standing with uncovered
At night I went on again, and on Sunday evening about ten o’clock I came to a small village where I resolved to seek food and lodging. Tired, hungry and cold, feeling as though I could not take another step, I called at one of the houses, and asked permission to stay over night. It was cheerfully granted. The lady gave me some milk, and I retired to rest. Next morning, I rose early and left before any of the family were up. I knew they were all Romanists, and I feared to trust them.
At noon that day I arrived at St. Oars, a town, named, as I have been informed, for the man who owns a great part of it. I stopped at a public house, which, they called, “Lady St. Oars,” where they were eating dinner. The landlady invited me to dine with them, and asked if I belonged to the convent in that place. I told her that I did, for I knew if I told the truth they would suspect me at once. “Do you eat meat?” she asked. I told her I did not. “Do you eat butter on your bread?” I replied in the affirmative, and she gave me a slice of bread and butter, a piece of cheese and a silver cup full of milk. I ate it all, and would gladly have eaten more, for I was very hungry. As I was about to leave, the lady remarked, “There was grease in that cheese, was it a sin for me to give it to you?” I assured her it was not, for I was allowed to eat milk, and the cheese being made of milk, there could be no sin in my eating it I told her that, so far from committing a sin, the blessed Virgin was pleased with her benevolent spirit, and would, in some way, reward her for her kindness.
Leaving Lady St. Oars, I went on to the next town where I arrived at seven in the evening. I called at the house of a Frenchman, and asked if I could stay over night, or at least, be allowed to rest awhile. The man said I was welcome to come in, but he had no place where I could sleep. They were just sitting down to supper, which consisted of pea soup; but the lady said there was meat in it, and she would not invite me to partake of it; but she gave me a good supper of bread and milk. She thought I was a Sister of Charity, and I did not tell her that I was not. After supper, she saw that my skirt was stiff with mud, and kindly offered to wash it out for me, saying, I could rest till it was dry. I joyfully accepted her offer, and reclining in a corner, enjoyed a refreshing slumber.
It was near twelve o’clock before I was ready to go on again, and when I asked how far it was to the next town, they manifested a great anxiety for my welfare. The man said it was seven miles to Mt. Bly, but he hoped I did not intend to walk. I told him I did not know whether I should or not, perhaps I might ride. “But are you not afraid to go on alone?” he asked. “St. Dennis is a bad place for a lady to be out alone at night, and you must pass a grave-yard in the south part of the town; dare you go by it, in the dark?” I assured him that I had no fear whatever, that would prevent me from going past the grave-yard. I had never committed a crime, never injured any one, and I did not think the departed would come back to harm me. The lady said she would think of me with some anxiety, for she should not dare to go past that grave-yard alone in the dark. I again assured her that I had no cause to fear, had no crime on my conscience, had been guilty of no neglect of duty, and if the living would let me alone, I did not fear the dead. They thought I referred to the low characters about town, and the lady replied, “I shall tell my beads for you and the holy Virgin will protect you from all harm. But remember,” she continued, “whenever you pass this way, you will always find a cordial welcome with us.” I thanked her, and with a warm grasp of the hand we parted.
Lonely midnight walk.
It was near morning when I entered Mt. Bly, but I did not stop. I traveled all night, and late in the morning came to a respectable looking farmhouse which I thought might be occupied by Protestants. I always noticed that their houses were neater, and more comfortable than those of the Romanists in the same condition in life. In the present instance I was not disappointed in my expectations. The lady received me kindly, gave me some breakfast, and directed me to the next village. I walked all day, and near night arrived at St. Mary’s, where I called at a house, and asked permission to sit and rest awhile. They gave me an invitation to enter, but did not offer refreshments. I did not like to ask for charity if I could avoid it, and I thought it possible they might ask me to stay over night. But they did not, and after a half hour’s rest I rose to depart, and thanking them for their kindness inquired how far it was to the next house. They said it was seven miles to the first house, and nine to the next village.
With a sad heart, I once more pursued my lonely way. Soon it began to rain, and the night came on, dark and dismal, cold and stormy, with a high wind that drove the rain against my face with pitiless fury. I entered a thick wood where no ray of light could penetrate, and at almost every step, I sank over shoes in the mud. Thus I wandered on, reflecting bitterly on my wretched fate. All the superstitious fears, which a convent life is so well calculated to produce,
How long I slept, I do not know. I think it must have been some hours. When I awoke, my clothes were drenched with rain, and I was so stiff and lame, I could hardly move. But go I must, so I resolved to make the best of it, and hobble along as well as I could. At last I reached the village, but it was not yet morning, and I dared not stop. I kept on till daylight, and as soon as I thought people were up, I went up to a house and rapped. A woman came to the door, and I asked if she would allow me to go in, and dry my clothes, and I would have added, get some breakfast, but her looks restrained me. They were getting breakfast, but did not invite me to partake of it, and I dared not ask for anything to eat. When my clothes were dry, I thanked them for the use of their fire, and inquired how far it was to the next village. They said the next town was Highgate, but they did not know the distance.
My tears flowed freely when I again found myself in the street, cold, hungry, almost sick, and entirely friendless. What should I do? What would become of me? One thought alone gave courage to my desponding heart, buoyed up my sinking spirits, and restored strength to my weary limbs. I was striving for liberty, that priceless boon, so dear to every human heart. I might, perhaps, obtain it. At least, I would try.
Nerved to renewed effort by thoughts like these, I toiled onward. All that day I walked without a particle of nourishment. When I reached Highgate, it was eleven o’clock at night, but in one house I saw a light, and I ventured to rap at the door. It was opened by a pale, but pleasant looking woman. “Kind lady,” said I, “will you please tell me how far it is to the States?” “To the States!” she exclaimed, and in a moment she seemed to understand both my character and situation.
The next morning the good lady urged me to stay with her, at least, for a time, and said I should be welcome to a home there for the rest of my life. Grateful as I was for her offer, I was forced to decline it, for I knew that I could not remain so near Montreal in safety. She said the “select men” of the town would protect me, if they were made acquainted with my peculiar situation. Dear lady! she little knew the character of a Romish priest! Her guileless heart did not suspect the cunning artifice by which they accomplish whatever they undertake. And those worthy “select men,” I imagine, were not much better informed than herself. Sure I am, that any protection they could offer me, would not, in the least degree, shield me from the secret intrigue, the affectionate, maternal embrace of holy Mother Church.
When she found that, notwithstanding all her offers, I was resolved to go, she put into a basket, a change of clothing, the shoes she had given me, and a good supply of food which she gave me for future use. But the most acceptable part of her present was a sun-bonnet; for thus far I had nothing on my head but the cap I wore in the convent. She gave me some money, and bade me go to Swanton, and there, she said, I could take the cars. I accordingly bade her farewell, and, basket in hand, directed my steps toward the depot some seven miles distant, as I was informed; but I thought it a long seven miles, as I passed over it with my sore feet, the blood starting at every step.
On my arrival at the depot, a man came to me, and asked where I wished to go. I told him I wished to go as far into the State as my money would carry me. He procured me a ticket, and said it would take me to St. Albans. He asked me where I came from, but I begged to be excused from answering questions. He then conducted me to the ladies room, and left me, saying the cars would be along in about an hour.
In this room, several ladies were waiting to take the cars. As I walked across the room, one of them said, in a tone that grated harshly on my feelings, “Your skirt is below your dress.” I did not feel very good natured, and instead of saying “thank you,” as I should have done, I replied in the most impudent manner, “Well, it is clean, if it is in sight.” The lady said no more, and I sat down upon a sofa and fell asleep. As I awoke, one of the ladies said, “I wonder who that poor girl is!” I was bewildered, and, for the moment, could not think where I was, but I thought I must make some reply, and rousing myself I turned to her, and said, “I am a nun, if you wish to know, and I have just escaped from a convent.” She gave me a searching look, and said, “Well, I must confess you do look like one. I often visit in Montreal where I see a great many of them, and they always look poor and pale. Will you allow me to ask you a few questions?” By this time, I was wide awake, and realized perfectly where I was, and the folly of making such an imprudent disclosure. I would have given much to recall those few words, for I had a kind of presentiment that they would bring me trouble. I begged to be excused from answering any questions, as I was almost crazy with thinking of the past and did not wish to speak of it.
The lady said no more for some time, but she kept her eye upon me, in a way that I did not like; and I began to consider whether I had better wait for the cars, or start on foot. I was sorry for my imprudence, but it could not be helped now, and I must do the best I could to avoid the unpleasant consequences which might result from it. I had just made up my mind to go on, when I heard in the far distance, the shrill whistle of the approaching train; that train which I fondly hoped would bear me far away from danger, and onward to the goal of my desires.
At this moment, the lady crossed the room, and seating herself by my side, asked, “Would you not like to go and live with me? I have one waiting maid now, but I wish for another, and if you will go, I will take you and give you good wages. Your work will not be hard; will you go?” “Where do you go?” I asked. “To Montreal,” she replied. “Then I shall not go with you,” said I. “No money could induce me to return there again.” “Ah!” said she, with a peculiar smile, “I see how it is, but you need not fear to trust me. I will protect you, and never suffer you to be taken back to the convent.” I saw that I had made unconsciously another imprudent revelation, and resolved to say no more. I was about to leave her, but she drew me back saying, “I will give you some of my clothes, and I can make them fit you so well that no one will ever recognize you. I shall have plenty of time to alter them if they require it, for the train that I go in, will not he along for about three hours; you can help me, and in that time we will get you nicely fixed.”
I could hardly repress a smile when I saw how earnest she was, and I thought it a great pity that a plan so nicely laid out should be so suddenly deranged, but I could not listen to her flatteries. I suspected that she was herself in the employ of the priests, and merely wished to get me back that she might betray me. She had the appearance of being very wealthy, was richly clad, wore a gold watch, chain, bracelets, breastpin, ear rings, and many finger rings, all of the finest gold. But with all her wealth and kind offers, I dare not trust her. I thought she looked annoyed when I refused to go with her, but when I rose to go to the cars, a look of angry impatience stole over, her fine features, which convinced me that I had escaped a snare.
The cars came at length, and I was soon on my way to St. Albans. I was very sick, and asked a gentleman near me to raise the windows. He did so, and inquired how far I was going. I informed him, when he remarked that he was somewhat acquainted in St. Albans, and asked with whom I designed to stop. I told him I had no friends or acquaintance in the place, but I hoped to get employment in some protestant family. He said he could direct me to some gentlemen who would, he thought, assist me. One in particular, he mentioned as being a very wealthy man, and kept a number of servants; perhaps he would employ me.
This gentleman’s name was Branard, and my informant spoke so highly of the family, I immediately sought them out on leaving the cars, and was at once employed by Mrs. Branard, as a seamstress. Here I found a quiet, happy home. Mrs. Branard was a kind sympathizing woman, and to her, I confided the history of my convent life. She would not allow me to work hard, for she saw that my nerves were easily excited. She made me sit with her in her own room a great part of the time, and did not wish me to go out alone. They had several boarders in the family, and one of them was a brother-in-law [Footnote: This gentleman was Mr. Z. K. Pangborn, late editor of the Worcester Daily Transcript. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pangborn give their testimony of the truth of this statement.] to Mrs. Branard. His name I have forgotten; it was not a common name, but he married Mrs. Branard’s sister, and with his wife resided there all the time that I was with them. Mr. Branard was away from home most of the time, so that I saw but little of him. They had an Irish girl in the kitchen, named Betsy. She was a kind, pleasant girl, and she thought me a strict Romanist because I said my prayers so often, and wore the Holy Scapulary round my neck. This Scapulary is a band with a cross on one side, and on the other, the letters “J. H. S.” which signify, “Jesus The Savior of Man.”
At this place I professed great regard for the Church of Rome, and no one but Mrs. Branard was acquainted with my real character and history. When they asked my name, I told them they could call me Margaret, but it was an assumed name. My own, for reasons known only by myself, I did not choose to reveal. I supposed, of course, they would regard me with suspicion for a while, but I saw nothing of the kind. They treated me with great respect, and no questions were ever asked. Perhaps I did wrong in changing my name, but I felt that I was justified in using any means to preserve my liberty.
Flight and recapture.
Four happy weeks I enjoyed unalloyed satisfaction in the bosom of this charming family. It was a new thing for me to feel at home, contented, and undisturbed; to have every one around me treat me with kindness and even affection. I sometimes feared it was too good to last. Mrs. Branard in particular, I shall ever remember with grateful and affectionate regard. She was more like a mother to me, than a mistress, and I shall ever look back to the time I spent with her, as a bright spot in the otherwise barren desert of my life. Better, far better would it have been for me had I never left her. But I became alarmed, and thought the convent people were after me. It was no idle whim, no imaginary terror. I had good cause to fear, for I had several times seen a priest go past, and gaze attentively at the house. I knew him at the first glance, having often seen him in Montreal.
Then my heart told me that they had traced me to this place, and were now watching a chance to get hold of me. Imagine, if you can, my feelings. Had I suffered so much in vain? Would they be allowed to take me back to those fearful cells, where no ray of mercy could ever reach me? I could not endure the thought. Frightened, and almost beside myself, I resolved to make an effort to find a more secure place. I therefore left those kind friends in the darkness of night, without one word of farewell, and without their knowledge. I knew they would not allow me to go, if they were apprised of my design. In all probability, they would have ridiculed my fears, and bade me rest in peace. How could I expect them to comprehend my danger, when they knew so little of the machination of my foes? I intended to go further into the state, but did not wish to have any one know which way I had gone. It was a sad mistake, but how often in this world do we plunge into danger when we seek to avoid it! How often fancy ourselves in security when we stand upon the very brink of ruin!
I left Mr. Branard’s in the evening, and called upon a family in the neighborhood whose acquaintance I had made, and whom I wished to see once more, though I dared not say farewell. I left them between the hours of nine and ten, and set forward on my perilous journey. I had gone but a short distance when I heard the sound of wheels and the heavy tread of horses’ feet behind me. My heart beat with such violence it almost stopped my breath, for I felt that they were after me. But there was no escape— no forest or shelter near where I could seek protection. On came the furious beasts, driven by no gentle hand. They came up with me, and I almost began to hope that my fears were groundless, when the horses suddenly stopped, a strong hand grasped me, a gag was thrust into my mouth, and again the well-known box was taken from the wagon. Another moment and I was securely caged, and on my way back to Montreal. Two men were in the wagon and two rode on horseback beside it. Four men to guard one poor nun!
They drove to Mt. Bly, where they stopped to change horses, and the two men on horseback remained there, while the other two mounted the wagon and drove to Sorel. Here the box was taken out and carried on board a boat, where two priests were waiting for me. When the boat started, they took me out for the first time after I was put into it at St. Albans. Three days we had been on the way, and I had tasted neither food nor drink. How little did I think when I took my tea at Mr. Branard’s the night I left that it was the last refreshment I would have for seven days; yet such was the fact. And how little did they think, as they lay in their quiet beds that night, that the poor fugitive they had taken to their home was fleeing for life, or for that which, to her, was better than life. Yet so it was. Bitterly did I reproach myself for leaving those kind friends as I did, for I thought perhaps if I had remained there, they would not have dared to touch me. Such were my feelings then; but as I now look back, I can see that it would have made little difference whether I left or remained. They were bound to get me, at all events, and if I had stopped there until they despaired of catching me secretly, they would undoubtedly have come with an officer, and accused me of some crime, as a pretext for taking me away. Then, had any one been so far interested for me as to insist on my having a fair trial, how easy for them to produce witnesses enough to condemn me! Those priests have many ways to accomplish their designs. The American people don’t know them yet; God grant they never may.
On my arrival at the nunnery I was taken down the coal grate, and fastened to an iron ring in the back part of a cell. The Archbishop then came down and read my punishment. Notwithstanding the bitter grief that oppressed my spirit, I could not repress a smile of contempt as the great man entered my cell. I remembered that before I ran away, my punishments were assigned by a priest, but the first time I fled from them a Bishop condescended to read my sentence, and now his honor the Archbishop graciously deigned to illume my dismal cell with the light of his countenance, and his own august lips pronounced the words of doom. Was I rising in their esteem, or did they think to frighten me into obedience by the grandeur of his majestic mien?
Such were my thoughts as this illustrious personage proceeded slowly, and with suitable dignity, to unroll the document that would decide my fate. What would it be? Death? It might be for aught I knew, or cared to know. I had by this time become perfectly reckless, and the whole proceeding seemed so ridiculous, I found it exceedingly difficult to maintain a demeanor sufficiently solemn for the occasion. But when the fixed decree came forth, when the sentence fell upon my ear that condemned me to seven days’ starvation, it sobered me at once. Yet even then the feeling of indignation was so strong within
But methinks I hear the reader ask, “Did they not fear the judgment of God and a future retribution?” In reply I can only state what I believe to be the fact. It is my firm belief that not more than one priest in ten thousand really believes in the truth of Christianity, or even in the existence of a God. They are all Infidels or Atheists; and how can they be otherwise? It is the legitimate fruit of that system of deceit which they call religion. Of course I only give this as my opinion, founded on what I have seen and heard. You can take it, reader, for what it is worth; believe it or not, just us you please; but I assure you I have often heard the nuns say that they did not believe in any religion. The professions of holiness of heart and parity of life so often made by the priests they know to be nothing but a hypocritical pretence, and their ceremonies they regard as a ridiculous farce.
For some time after I was taken from the cell I lay in a state of partial unconsciousness, but how long, I do not know. I have no recollection of being taken up stairs, but I found myself on my bed, in my old room, and on the stand beside me were several cups, vials, etc. The Abbess who sat beside me, occasionally gave me a tea-spoonful of wine or brandy, and tried to make me eat. Ere long, my appetite returned, but it was several weeks before my stomach was strong enough to enable me to satisfy in any degree, the cravings of hunger. When I could eat, I gained very fast, and the Abbess left me in the care of a nun, who came in occasionally to see if I wanted anything. This nun often stopped to talk with me, when she thought no one was near, and expressed great curiosity to know what I saw in the world; if people were kind to me, and if I did not mean to get away again, if possible, I told her I should not; but she replied, “I don’t believe that. You will try again, and you will succeed yet, if you keep up good courage. You are so good to work, they do not wish to part with you, and that is one reason why they try so hard to get you back again. But never mind, they won’t get you next time.” I assured her I should not try to escape again, for they were sure to catch me, and as they had almost killed me this time, they would quite the next. I did not dare to trust her, for I supposed the Superior had given her orders to question me.
I was still weak, so weak that I could hardly walk when they obliged me to go into the kitchen to clean vegetables and do other light work, and as soon as I had sufficient strength, to milk the cows, and take the care of the milk. They punished me every day, in accordance with the Bishop’s order, and sometimes, I thought, more than he intended. I wore thorns on my head, and peas in my shoes, was whipped and pinched, burnt with hot irons, and made to crawl through the underground passage I have before described. In short, I was tortured and punished in every possible way, until I was weary of my life. Still they were careful not to go so far as to disable me from work. They did not care how much I suffered, if I only performed my daily task.
There was an underground passage leading from the nunnery to a place which they called, “Providence,” in the south part of the city. I do not know whether it is a school, or a convent, or what it is, but I think it must be some distance, from what I heard said about it. The priest often spoke of sending me there, but for some reason, he did not make me go. Still the frequent reference to what I so much dreaded, kept me in constant apprehension and alarm. I have heard the priest say that underground passages extended from the convent in every direction, for a distance of five miles; and I have reason to believe the statement is true. But these reasons I may not attempt to give. There are things that may not even be alluded to, and if it were possible to speak of them, who would believe the story?
Resolves to escape.
As summer approached, I expected to be sent to the farm again, but for some reason I was still employed in the kitchen. Yet I could not keep my mind upon my work. The one great object of my life; the subject that continually pressed upon my mind was the momentous question, how shall I escape? The dreaded December was rapidly approaching. To some it would bring a joyous festival, but to me, the black veil and a life long imprisonment. Once within those dreary walls, and I might as well hope to escape from the grave. Such are the arrangements, there is no chance for a nun to escape unless she is promoted to the office of Abbess or Superior. Of course, but few of them can hope for this, especially, if they are not contented; and certainly, in my case there was not the least reason to expect anything of the kind. Knowing these facts, with the horrors of the Secret Cloister ever before me, I felt some days as though on the verge of madness. Before the nuns take the black veil, and enter this tomb for the living, they are put into a room by themselves, called the forbidden closet, where they spend six months in studying the Black Book. Perchance, the reader will remember that when I first came to this nunnery, I was taken by the door-tender to this forbidden closet, and permitted to look in upon the wretched inmates. From that time I always had the greatest horror of that room. I was never allowed to enter it, and in fact never wished to do so, but I have heard the most agonizing groans from those within, and sometimes I have heard them laugh. Not a natural, hearty laugh, however, such as we hear from the gay and happy, but a strange, terrible, sound which I cannot describe, and which sent a thrill of terror through my frame, and seemed to chill the very blood in my veins.
I have heard the priests say, when conversing with each other, while I was tidying their room, that many of these nuns lose their reason while studying the Black Book. I can well believe this, for never in my life did I ever witness an expression of such unspeakable, unmitigated anguish, such helpless and utter despair as I saw upon the faces of those nuns. And well they may despair. Kept under lock and key, their windows barred, and no air admitted to the room except what comes through the iron grate of their windows from other apartments; compelled to study, I know not what; with no hope of the least mitigation of their sufferings, or relaxation of the stringent rules that bind them; no prospect before them but a life-long imprisonment; what have they to hope for? Surely, death and the grave are the only things to which they can look forward with the least degree of satisfaction.
Those nuns selected for this Secret Cloister are generally the fairest, the most beautiful of the whole number. I used to see them in the chapel, and some of them were very handsome. They dressed like the other nuns, and always looked sad and broken hearted, but were not pale and thin like the rest of us. I am sure they were not kept upon short allowance as the others were, and starvation was not one of their punishments, whatever else they might endure. The plain looking girls were always selected to work in the kitchen, and do the drudgery about the house. How often have I thanked God for my plain face! But for that, I might not have been kept in the kitchen so long, and thus found means to escape which I certainly could not have found elsewhere.
With all my watching, and planning I did not find an opportunity to get away till June. I then, succeeded in getting outside the convent yard one evening between eight and nine o’clock. How I got there, is a secret I shall never reveal. A few yards from the gate I was stopped by one of the guard at the Barrack, who asked where I was going. “To visit a sick woman,” I promptly replied, and he let me pass. Soon after this, before my heart ceased to flutter, I thought I heard some one running after me. My resolution was at once taken. I would never be caught and carried back alive. My fate was at last, I thought, in my own hands. Better die at once than to be chained like a guilty criminal, and suffer as I had done before. Blame me not gentle reader, when I tell you that I stood upon the bank of the river with exultant joy; and, as I pursued my way along the tow-path, ready to spring into the water on the first indication of danger, I rejoiced over the disappointment of my pursuers in losing a servant who had done them so good service. At a little distance I saw a ferry boat, but when I asked the captain to carry me over the river, he refused. He was, probably, afraid of the police and a fine, for no one can assist a run-away nun with impunity, if caught in the act. He directed me, however, to the owner of the boat, who said I could go if the captain was willing to carry me. I knew very well that he would not, and I took my place in the boat as though I had a perfect right to it.
We were almost across the river, when the captain saw me, and gave orders to turn back the boat, and leave me on the shore from whence we started. From his appearance I thought we were pursued, and I was not mistaken. Five priests were following us in another boat, and they too, turned back, and reached the shore almost as soon as we did. I left the boat and ran for my life. I was now sure that I was pursued; there could be no doubt of that, for the sound of footsteps behind me came distinct to my ear. At a little distance stood a small, white house. Could I not reach it? Would not the people protect me? The thought gave me courage, and I renewed my efforts. Nearer came the footsteps, but I reached the house, and without knocking, or asking permission, I sprang through the door.
The people were in bed, in another room, but a man looked out, and asked what I wanted. “I’m a nun,” said I. “I’ve run away from the Grey Nunnery, and they’re after me. Hide me, O hide me, and God will bless you!” As I spoke he put out his hand and opened the cellar door. “Here,” said he, “run down cellar, I’ll be with you in a moment.” I obeyed, and he struck a light and followed. Pointing to a place where he kept ashes, he said hastily, “Crawl in there.” There was not a moment to lose, for before he had covered up my hiding place, a loud knock was heard upon the front door. Having extinguished his light, he ran up stairs, and opened the door with the appearance of having just left his bed. “Who is here?” he asked, “and what do you want this time of night?” One of them replied, “We are in search of a nun, and are very sure she came in here?” “Well gentlemen,” said he, “walk in, and see for yourselves. If she is here, you are at liberty to find her.” Lighting a candle, he proceeded to guide them over the house, which they searched until they were satisfied. They then came down cellar, and I gave up all hope of escape. Still, I resolved never to be taken alive. I could strangle myself, and I would do it, rather than suffer as I did before. At that moment I could truly say with the inspired penman, with whose language I have since become familiar, “my soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life.”
They looked all around me, and even into the place where I lay concealed, but they did not find me. At length I heard them depart, and so great was my joy, I could hardly restrain my feelings within the bounds of decorum. I felt as though I must dance and sing, shout aloud or leap for joy at my great deliverance. I am sure I should have committed some extravagant act had not the gentleman at that moment called me up, and told me that my danger was by no means past. This information so dashed my cup of bliss that I was able to drink it quietly.
He gave me some refreshment, and as soon as safety would permit, saddled his horse, and taking me on behind him, carried me six miles to another boat, put me on board, and paid the captain three dollars to carry me to Laprairie. On leaving me, he gave me twenty-five cents, and said, “you’ll be caught if you go with the other passengers.” The captain said he could hide me and no one know that I was on board, but himself. He led me to the end of the boat, and put me upon a board over the horses. He fixed a strong cord for me to hold on by, and said, “you must be careful and not fall down, for the horses would certainly kill you before you could be taken out.” The captain was very kind to me and when I left him, gave me twenty-five cents, and some good advice. He said I must hurry along as fast as possible, for it was Jubilee, and the priests would all be in church at four o’clock. He also advised me not to stop in any place where a Romish priest resided, “for,” said he, “the convent people have, undoubtedly, telegraphed all over the country giving a minute description of your person, and the priests will all be looking for you.”
Two days I travelled as fast as my strength would allow, when I came to Sorel, which was on the other side of the river. Here I saw several priests on the road coming directly towards me. That they were after me, I had not a doubt. Whither should I flee? To escape by running, was out of the question, but just at that moment my eye fell upon a boat near the shore. I ran to the captain, and asked him to take me across the river. He consented, and, as I expected, the priests took another boat and followed us. Once more I gave myself up for lost, and prepared to spring into the water, if they were likely to overtake me. The man understood my feelings, and exerted all his strength to urge forward the boat. At last it reached the shore, and as he helped me out he whispered, “Now run.” I did run, but though my own liberty was at stake I could not help thinking about the consequences to that man if I escaped, for I knew they would make him pay a heavy fine for his benevolent act. A large house stood in my way, and throwing open the door I exclaimed, “Are there any protestants here?” “O, yes,” replied a man who sat there, “come with me.” He led me to the kitchen, where a large company of Irish men were rolling little balls on a table. I saw the men were Irish and my first thought was, “I am betrayed.”
But my fears were soon relieved, for the man exclaimed, “Here is a nun, inquiring for protestants.” “Well,” replied one who seemed to be a leader, “this is the right place to find them. We are all true Orange men.” And then they all began to shout, “Down with the Catholics! Down with the Pope! Death to the Jesuits! etc.” I was frightened at their violence, but their leader came to me, and with the kindness of a brother, said, “Do not fear us. If you are a run-away, we will protect you.” He bade the men be still and asked if any one was after me. I told him about the priests, and he replied, “you have come to the right place for protection, for they dare not show themselves here. I am the leader of a band of Anti-Catholics, and this is their lodge. You have heard of us, I presume; we are called Orange men. Our object is, to overthrow the Roman Catholic religion, and we are bound by the most fearful oaths to stand by each other, and protect all who seek our aid. The priests dread our influence, for we have many members, and I hope ere long, the power of the Pope in this country will be at an end. I am sure people must see what a cruel, hypocritical set they are.”
Before he had done speaking, a man came to the door and said, “The carriage is ready.” Another of the men, on hearing this, said, “Come with me, and I’ll take you out of the reach of the priests.” He conducted me to a carriage, which was covered and the curtains all fastened down. He helped me into it, directing me to sit upon the back seat, where I could not be seen by any one unless they took particular pains. He drove to St. Oars that night, and, if I remember right, he said the distance was twelve miles. When, he left me he gave me twenty-five cents. I travelled all night, and about midnight passed through St. Dennis, But I did not stop until the next morning, when I called at a house and asked for something to eat. The lady gave me some bread and milk, and I again pursued my way.
Once more I had the good fortune to obtain a passage across the river in a ferry-boat, and was soon pressing onward upon the other side. Passing through two places called St. Mary’s and St. John’s, I followed the railroad to a village which I was informed was called Stotsville, [Footnote: I beg leave once more to remind the reader that it is by no means certain that I give these names correctly. Hearing them pronounced, with no idea of ever referring to them again, it is not strange that mistakes of this kind should occur.] a great part of the property being owned by a Mr. Stots, to whom I was at once directed. Here I stopped, and was kindly received by the gentleman and his wife. They offered me refreshments, gave me some articles of clothing, and then he carried me twelve miles, and left me at Rouse’s Point, to take the cars for Albany. He gave me six dollars to pay my expenses, and a letter of introduction to a gentleman by the name of Williams, in which he stated all the facts he knew concerning me, and commended me to his care for protection. I think he said Mr. Williams lived on North Pearl street, but I may be mistaken in this and also in some other particulars. As I had no thought of relating these facts at the time of their occurrence, I did not fix them in my mind as I otherwise should have done.
Mr. Stots said that if I could not find the gentleman to whom the letter was directed, I was to take it to the city authorities, and they would protect me. As he assisted me from the carriage he said, “You will stop here until the cars come along, and you must get your own ticket. I shall not notice you again, and I do not wish you to speak to me.” I entered the depot intending to follow his directions; but when I found the cars would not come along for three hours, I did not dare to stay. There was quite a large collection of people there, and I feared that some one would suspect and stop me. I therefore resolved to follow the railroad, and walk on to the next station. On my way I passed over a railroad bridge, which I should think was two miles long. The wind blew very hard at the time, and I found it exceedingly difficult to walk upon the narrow timbers. More than once I came near losing my precarious footing, and I was in constant fear that the train would overtake me before I got over. In that case I had resolved to step outside the track where I thought I could stand upon the edge of the bridge and hold on by the telegraph poles, and thus let them pass without doing me injury. Happily, however, I was not compelled to resort to this perilous expedient, but passed the bridge in safety. At the end I found another nearly as long, connected with it by a drawbridge. When I drew near it was up for a boat to pass; but a man called to me, and asked if I wish to go over. I told him I did, and he let down the bridge.
It was about one o’clock at night when I entered the principal street in Albany, and, as the lady predicted, a watchman came to me and asked why I was out that time of night. I gave him Mr. Stot’s letter. He stood beside a lamp-post and read it, when he seemed satisfied, and said, “I know the man; come with me and I’ll take you to his house.” I followed him a long way, till at last he stopped
Notwithstanding the good lady’s assurance of safety, I found it impossible to close my eyes. I was among strangers, in a strange place, and, having been so often deceived, might I not be again? Perhaps, after all their pretended kindness, they were plotting to betray me. A few days, however, convinced me that I had at last found real friends, who would protect me in the hour of danger to the utmost of their ability.
I remained here some four weeks, and should have remained longer, but an incident transpired that awakened all my fears, and again sent me forth into the wide world, a fugitive, and a wanderer. I went to my chamber one night, when I heard a sound like the full, heavy respiration of a man in deep sleep. The sound appeared to come from under the bed, but stopped as I entered the room. I was very much alarmed, but I controlled my feelings, and instead of running shrieking from the room, I deliberately closed the blinds, shut the windows, adjusted the curtain, all the time carelessly humming a tune, and taking up my lamp I slowly left the room. Once outside the door, I ran in all haste to Mr. Williams, and told him what I had heard. He laughed at me, said it was all imagination, but, to quiet my fears, he went to my room resolved to convince me that no one was there. I followed, and stood at the door while he lifted the bed valance, when a large, tall man sprang forth, and caught him with one hand while with the other he drew a pistol from beneath his coat saying, “Let me go, and I’ll depart in peace; but attempt to detain me, and I’ll blow your brains out.” I shrieked, and Mrs. Williams came in great terror and consternation, to see what was the matter. But she could render no assistance, and Mr. Williams, being unarmed, was obliged to let him go. The watch were immediately called, and they sought for the intruder in every direction. No effort was spared to find him, that we might, at least, learn the object of this untimely visit. But the search was all in vain. No trace of his whereabouts could be discovered.
Mr. Williams said he did not believe it was me he sought. He thought the object was robbery, and perhaps arson and murder, but he would not think that I was in the least danger. “The man,” he said, “in hastily concealing himself had taken the first hiding place he could find.” Yet I thought otherwise. Indeed, so sure was I that he was an agent of the priests, sent forth for the express purpose of arresting me, no earthly consideration would have induced me to remain there another day. The rest of that night I spent in a state of anxiety I cannot describe. Sleep fled from my eyes. I dared not even undress and go to bed, but I sat in my chair, or walked the room every moment expecting the return of the mysterious visitor. I shuddered at every sound, whether real or imaginary. Once in particular, I remember, the distant roll of carriage wheels fell upon my ear. I listened; it came near, and still nearer, till at last it stopped, as I thought, at the gate. For a moment I stood literally stupified with terror, and then I hastily prepared to use the means for self destruction I had already provided in anticipation of such an emergency. I was still resolved never to be taken alive. “Give me liberty or give me death,” was now the language of my soul. If I could not enjoy the one, I would cordially embrace the other. But it was a sad alternative after all I had suffered that I might be free, after all my buoyant hopes, all my ardent aspirations for a better life. O, it was a bitter thing, thus to stand in the darkness of night, and with my own hand carefully adjust the cord that was to cut me off from the land of the living, and in a moment launch my trembling soul into the vast, unknown, untried, and fearful future, that men call eternity! Was this to be the only use I was to make of liberty? Was it for this I had so long struggled, toiled, wept and prayed? “God of mercy,” I cried, “save, O save me from this last great sin! From the sad and dire necessity which thus urges me to cut short a life which thou alone canst give!” My prayer was heard; but how slowly passed the hours of that weary night while I waited for the day that I might “hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” Truly, at that time I could say with one of old, “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. My heart is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Oh that I had the wings of a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest.”
But alas! I had not the wings of a dove, and whither should I flee from the furious grasp of my relentless persecutors? Again I must go forth into the “busy haunts of men,” I must mingle with the multitude, and what chance had I for ultimate escape? If I left these kind friends, and leave them I must, who would take me in? In whom could I confide? Who would have the power to rescue me in my hour of need? In God alone could I trust, yet why is he so far from helping me? Why are my prayers so long unanswered? And why does he thus allow the wicked to triumph; to lay snares for the feet of the innocent, and wrongfully persecute those whom their wanton cruelty hath caused to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death? Why does he not at once “break the bands of iron, and let the oppressed go free?”
The tedious night at length passed away. When I met Mr. Williams in the morning, I told him I could no longer remain with him, for I was sure if I did, I should be suddenly arrested in some unguarded moment, and carried back to Montreal. He urged me to stay, assured me he would never allow them to take me, said that he thought some of going south, and I could go with him, and thus be removed far from all whom I feared. Mrs. Williams, also, strove to persuade me to stay. But, though sorry to appear ungrateful, I dared not remain another night where I felt that my danger was so great.
When they found that I was determined to go, Mr. Williams said I had better go to Worcester, Mass., and try to get employment in some farmer’s family, a little out of the city. He gave me money to bear my expenses, until I found a place where I could earn my living. It was with a sad heart that I left this hospitable roof, and as I turned away I said in my heart, “Shall I always be hunted through the world in this manner, obliged to flee like a guilty thing, and shall I never find a home of happiness and peace? Must sorrow and despair forever be the portion of my cup?” But no words of mine can describe what I felt at that moment. I longed for the power to sound a warning through the length and breadth of the land, to cry in the ears of all the people, “Beware of Romanism!” Like the patient man of Uz, with whose history I have since become familiar, I was ready to exclaim, “O that my words were now written! O that they were printed in a book! Graven with an iron pen,” that the whole world might know what a fearful and bitter thing it is to be a nun! To be subject to the control of those ruthless tyrants, the Romish Priests.
Once more I entered the depot, and mingled with the crowd around the ticket office. But no pen can describe my terror when I found myself the object of particular attention. I heard people remark about my strange and unnatural appearance, and I feared I might be taken up for a crazy person, if not for a nun. Thinking that I saw an enemy in every face, and a pursuer in every one who came near me, I hastened to take refuge in the cars. There I waited with the greatest impatience for the starting of the train. Slowly the cars were filled; very leisurely the passengers sought their seats, while I sat trembling in every limb, and the cold perspiration starting from every pore. How carefully I scanned every face! how eagerly I watched for some indication of the priest or the spy! So intense was my anxiety, those few moments seemed to me an age of agony. At length the shrill whistle announced that all was ready, and like sweetest music the sound fell upon my ears. The train dashed off at lightning speed, but to me it seemed like the movement of a snail.
Once under way, I ventured to breathe freely, and hope again revived. Perchance I might yet escape. But even as the thought passed my mind, a man entered the cars and seated himself directly, before me. I thought he regarded me with too much interest, and thinking to shun him, I quietly left my seat and retired to the other end of the car. He soon followed, and again my fears revived. He at first tried to converse with me, but finding I would not reply, he began to question me in the most direct and impertinent manner. Again I changed my seat, and again he followed. I then sought the conductor, and revealed to him enough of my history to enlist his sympathy and ensure his protection. To his honor be it spoken, I did not appeal to him in vain. He severely reproved the man for his impertinence; and for the rest of the journey I was shielded from insult or injury.
Nothing further of interest transpired until I reached Worcester, when the first face that met my eye as I was about to leave the cars was that of a Romish priest. I could not be mistaken, for I had often seen him at Montreal. He might not have been looking for me, but he watched every passenger as they left the cars in a way that convinced me he had some special reason for doing it. As I, too, had special reasons for avoiding him just at that time, I stepped back out of sight until the passengers were all out of the cars and the priest had turned away. I then sprang out upon the opposite side, and, turning my back upon the depot, hastened away amid the wilderness of houses, not knowing whither I went. For a long time I wandered around, until at length, being faint and weary, I began to look for some place where I could obtain refreshment. But when I found a restaurant I did not dare to enter. A number of Irishmen were standing around who were in all probability Catholics. I would not venture among them; but as I turned aside I remembered that Mr. Williams had directed me to seek employment a little out of the city. I then inquired the way to Main street, and having found it, I turned to the north and walked on till I found myself out of the thickly settled part of the city. Then I began to seek for employment, and after several fruitless applications I chanced to call upon a man whose name was Handy. He received me in the kindest manner, and when I asked for work, he said his wife did not need to hire me, but I was welcome to stop with them and work for my board until I found employment elsewhere. This offer I joyfully accepted; and, as I became acquainted in the place, many kind hands were extended to aid me in my efforts to obtain an honest living. In this neighborhood I still reside, truly thankful for past deliverance, grateful for present mercies, and confidently trusting God for the future.
Here closes the history of Sarah J. Richardson, as related by herself. The remaining particulars have been obtained from her employers in Worcester.
She arrived in this city August, 1854, and, as she has already stated, at once commenced seeking for employment. She called at many houses before she found any one who wished for help; and her first question at each place was, “Are you a Catholic?” If the answer was in the affirmative, she passed on, but if the family were Protestants, she inquired for some kind of employment. She did not care what it was; she would cook, wash, sew, or do chamber-work—anything to earn her bread. A Mr. Handy was the first person who took her in, and gave her a home. In his family she worked for her board a few weeks, going out to wash occasionally as she had opportunity. She then went to Holden Mass., but for some reason remained only one week, and again returned to Worcester.
Mr. Ezra Goddard then took her into his own family, and found her capable, industrious, and trustworthy. Had anything been wanting to prove her truthfulness and sincerity, the deep gratitude of her fervent “I thank you,” when told that she had found a permanent home, would have done it effectually. But though her whole appearance indicated contentment and earnestness of purpose, though her various duties were faithfully and zealously performed, yet the deep sadness of her countenance, and the evident anxiety of her mind at first awakened a suspicion of mental derangement. She seemed restless, suspicious, and morbidly apprehensive of approaching danger. The appearance of a stranger, or a sudden ringing of the bell, would cause her to start, tremble, and exhibit the greatest perturbation of spirit. In fact, she seemed so constantly on the qui vive, the lady of the house one day said to her, “Sarah, what is the matter with you? what do you fear?” “The Roman Catholic priests,” she replied. “I have been a nun. I ran away from the Grey Nunnery at Montreal, and twice I have been caught, carried back, and punished in the most cruel manner. O, if you knew what I have suffered, you would not wonder that I live in constant fear lest they again seek out my retreat; and I will die before I go back again.”
Further questioning drew from her the foregoing narrative, which she repeated once and again to various persons, and at different times, without the least alteration or contradiction. She resided in the family of Mr. Goddard some weeks, when she was taken into the employ of Mr. Amos L. Black.
This gentleman informs us that he found her a faithful, industrious, honest servant, and he has not the least doubt of the truthfulness of her statements respecting her former life in the Convent.
A few weeks after this, she was married to Frederick S. Richardson with whom she became acquainted soon after her arrival in the city of Worcester. The marriage ceremony was performed by Charles Chaffin, Esq., of Holden, Mass. After their marriage, her husband hired a room in the house occupied by Mr. Handy with whom she had formerly resided. After a few weeks, however, they removed to a place called the Drury farm. It is owned by the heirs, but left in the care of Mr. Ezra Goddard.
Previous to her marriage, Mrs. Richardson had often been advised to allow her history to be placed before the public. But she always replied, “For my life I would not do it. Not because I do not wish the world to know it, for I would gladly proclaim it wherever a Romanist is known, but it would be impossible for me to escape their hands should I make myself so public. They would most assuredly take my life.” After her marriage, however, her principal objection was removed. She thought they would not wish to take her back into the nunnery, and her husband would protect her from violence. She therefore related the story of her life while in the convent, which, in accordance with her own request, was written down from her lips as she related it. This was done by Mrs. Lucy Ann Hood, wife of Edward P. Hood, and daughter of Ezra Goddard. It is now given to the public without addition or alteration, and with but a slight abridgment. A strange and startling story it certainly is. Perhaps the reader will cast it aside at once as a worthless fiction,—the idle vagary of an excited brain. The compiler, of course, cannot vouch for its truth, but would respectfully invite the attention of the reader to the following testimonials presented by those who have known the narrator. The first is from Edward P. Hood, with whom Mrs. Richardson resided when her narrative was written.
To all whom it may concern. I hereby certify that I was personally acquainted with Sarah J. Richards, now Sarah J. Richardson, at the time she resided in Worcester, Mass. I first saw her at the house of Mr. Ezra Goddard, where she came seeking employment. She appeared anxious to get some kind of work, was willing to do anything to earn an honest living. She had the appearance of a person who had seen much suffering and hardship. She worked for Mr. Goddard a short time, when she obtained another place. She then left, but called very often; and during her stay in Worcester, she worked there several times. So far as I was able to judge of her character, I do not hesitate to say that she was a woman of truth and honesty. I heard her relate the account of her life and sufferings in the Grey Nunnery, and her final escape. I knew when the story was written, and can testify to its being done according to her own dictation. I have examined the manuscript, and can say that it a written out truly and faithfully as related by the nun herself.
Edward P. Hood.
Worcester, May 5, 1856.
I first became acquainted with Sarah J. Richardson in August 1854. She came to my house to work for my wife. She was at my house a great many times after that until March 1855, when she left Worcester. At one time she was there four or five weeks in succession. She was industrious, willing to do anything to get an honest living. She was kind in her disposition, and honest in her dealings. I have no hesitation in saying that I think her statements can be relied upon.
Worcester, Jan. 21, 1856.
I am acquainted with the above named Sarah J. Richardson, and can fully testify to the truth of the above statements as to her kindness and industrious habits, honesty and truthfulness.
Worcester, Jan. 21, 1856.
To whom it may concern: This is to testify that I am acquainted with Sarah J. Richardson, formerly Sarah J. Richards. I became acquainted with her in the fall of 1854. She worked at my father’s at the time. I heard her tell her story, and from what I saw of her while she was in Worcester, I have no hesitation in saying that she was a woman of truth and honesty.
Worcester, March 1, 1856.
I became acquainted with Sarah J. Richardson last winter, at the house of Mr. Ezra Goddard; saw her a number of times after that, at the place where I boarded. She did some work for my wife, and I heard her speak of being at the Grey Nunnery. I also heard her story, from Mr. Goddard’s family. I have no doubt of her being honest and truthful, and I believe she is so considered by all who became acquainted with her.
Worcester, Feb., 1856.
Worcester, ss.—Holden, Nov. 11, 1854.
This certifies that I this day united in marriage, Frederick S. Richardson and Sarah J. Richards, both of Worcester.
Charles Chaffin, Justice of the Peace.
I, Sarah J. Richardson, wife of Frederick S. Richardson, of the city of Worcester, County of Worcester, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, formerly Sarah J. Richards before marriage, do solemnly swear, declare and say, that the foregoing pages contain a true and faithful history of my life before my marriage to the said Frederick S. Richardson, and that every statement made herein by me is true. In witness whereof, I do hereunto set my hand and seal, this 13th day of March, A.D. 1855.
Sarah J. Richardson (X her mark.)
In presence of Wm. Greenleaf.
Sworn to before me, the 13th day of March, ad. 1855.
Wm. Greenleaf, Justice of the Peace.
When it was known that the Narrative of Sarah J. Richardson was about to be published, Mr. Z. K. Pangborn, at that time editor of the Worcester Daily Transcript, voluntarily offered the following testimony which we copy from one of his editorials.
“We have no doubt that the nun here spoken of as one who escaped from the Grey Nunnery at Montreal, is the same person who spent some weeks in our family in the fall of 1853, after her first escape from the Nunnery. She came in search of employment to our house in St. Albans, Vt., stating that she had traveled on foot from Montreal, and her appearance indicated that she was poor, and had seen hardship. She obtained work at sewing, her health not being sufficient for more arduous task. She appeared to be suffering under some severe mental trial, and though industrious and lady-like in her deportment, still appeared absent minded, and occasionally singular in her manner. After awhile she revealed the fact to the lady of the house, that she had escaped from the Grey Nunnery at Montreal, but begged her not to inform any one of the fact, as she feared, if it should be known, that she would be retaken, and carried back. A few days after making this disclosure, she suddenly disappeared. Having gone out one evening, and failing to return, much inquiry was made, but no trace of her was obtained for some months. Last spring a gentleman from Worcester, Mass. called on us to make inquiries in regard to this same person and gave us the following account of her as given by herself. She states that on the evening when she so mysteriously disappeared from our house, she called upon an Irish family whose acquaintance she had formed, and when she was coming away, was suddenly seized, gagged, and thrust into a close carriage, or box, as she thought, and on the evening of the next day found herself once more consigned to the tender mercies of the Grey Nunnery in Montreal. Her capture was effected by a priest who tracked her to St. Albans, and watched his opportunity to seize her. She was subjected to the most rigorous and cruel treatment, to punish her for running away, and kept in close confinement till she feigned penitence and submission, when she was treated less cruelly, and allowed more liberty.
“But the difficulties in the way of an escape, only stimulated her the more to make the attempt, and she finally succeeded a second time in getting out of that place which she described as a den of cruelty and misery. She was successful also in eluding her pursuers, and in reaching this city, (Worcester,) where she remained some time, seeking to avoid notoriety, as she feared she might be again betrayed and captured. She is now, however, in a position where she does not fear the priests, and proposes to give to the world a history of her life in the Nunnery. The disclosures she makes are of the most startling character, but of her veracity and good character we have the most satisfactory evidence.”
This statement was confirmed by Mrs. Pangborn, a sister of the late Mrs Branard, the lady with whom Sarah J. Richardson stopped in St. Albans, and by whom she was employed as a seamstress. Being an inmate of the family at the time, Mrs Pangborn states that she had every opportunity to become acquainted with the girl and learn her true character. The family, she says, were all interested in her, although they knew nothing of her secret, until a few days before she left. She speaks of her as being “quiet and thoughtful, diligent, faithful and anxious to please, but manifesting an eager desire for learning, that she might be able to acquaint herself more perfectly with the Holy Scriptures. She could, at that time, read a little, and her mind was well stored with select passages from the sacred volume, which she seemed to take great delight in repeating. She was able to converse intelligently upon almost any subject, and never seemed at a loss for language to express her thoughts. No one could doubt that nature had given her a mind capable of a high degree of religious and intellectual culture, and that, with the opportunity for improvement, she would become a useful member of society. Of book knowledge she was certainly quite ignorant, but she had evidently studied human nature to some good purpose.” Mrs Pangborn also corroborates many of the statements in her narrative. She often visited the Grey Nunnery, and says that the description given of the building, the Academy, the Orphan’s Home, and young ladies school, are all correct. The young Smalley mentioned in the narrative was well known to her, and also his sister “little Sissy Smalley,” as they used to call her. Inquiries have been made of those acquainted with the route along which the fugitive passed in her hasty flight, and we are told that the description is in general correct; that even the mistakes serve to prove the truthfulness of the narrator, being such as a person would be likely to make when describing from memory scenes and places they had seen but once; whereas, if they were getting up a fiction which they designed to represent as truth, such mistakes would be carefully avoided.
Absurdities of Romanists.
It may perchance be thought by some persons that the foregoing narrative contains many things too absurd and childish for belief. “What rational man,” it may be said, “would ever think of dressing up a figure to represent the devil, for the purpose of frightening young girls into obedience? And those absurd threats! Surely no sane man, and certainly no Christian teacher, would ever stoop to such senseless mummery!”
Incredible it may seem—foolish, false, inconsistent with reason, or the plain dictates of common sense, it certainly is—but we have before us well-authenticated accounts of transactions in which the Romish priests claimed powers quite as extraordinary, and palmed off upon a credulous, superstitious people stories quite as silly and ridiculous as anything recorded in these pages. Indeed, so barefaced and shameless were their pretensions in some instances, that even their better-informed brethren were ashamed of their folly, and their own archbishop publicly rebuked their dishonesty, cupidity and chicanery. In proof of this we place before our readers the following facts which we find in a letter from Professor Similien, of the college of Angers, addressed to the Union de l’Ouest:
“Some years ago a pretended miracle was reported as having occurred upon a mountain called La Salette, in the southeastern part of France, where the Virgin Mary appeared in a very miraculous manner to two young shepherds. The story, however, was soon proved to be a despicable trick of the priest, and as such was publicly exposed. But the Bishop of Lucon, within whose diocese the sacred mountain stands, appears to have been unwilling to relinquish the advantage which he expected to result from a wide-spread belief in this infamous fable. Accordingly, in July, 1852, it was again reported that no less than three miracles were wrought there by the Holy Virgin. The details were as follows:
“A young pupil at the religious establishment of the visitation of Valence, who had been for three months completely blind from an attack of gutta-serena, arrived at La Salette on the first of July, in company with some sisters of the community. The extreme fatigue which she had undergone in order to reach the summit of the mountain, at the place of the apparition, caused some anxiety to be felt that she could not remain fasting until the conclusion of the mass, which had not yet commenced, and the Abbe Sibilla, one of the missionaries of La Salette, was requested to administer the sacrament to her before the service began. She had scarcely received the sacred wafer, when, impelled by a sudden inspiration, she raised her head and exclaimed, ‘ma bonne mere, je vous vois.’ She had, in fact, her eyes fixed on the statue of the Virgin, which she saw as clearly as any one present For more than an hour she remained plunged in an ecstasy of gratitude and love, and afterward retired from the place without requiring the assistance of those who accompanied her. At the same moment a woman from Gap, nearly sixty years of age, who for the last nineteen years had not had the use of her right arm, in consequence of a dislocation, suddenly felt it restored to its original state, and swinging round the once paralyzed limb, she exclaimed, in a transport of joy and gratitude, ’And I also am cured!’ A third cure, although not instantaneous, is not the less striking. Another woman, known in the country
“Bishop Lucon must have known that this was mere imposition; yet, so far from exposing a fraud so base, he not only permits his people to believe it, but he lends his whole influence to support and circulate the falsehood. And why? Ah! a church was to be erected; and it was necessary to get up a little enthusiasm among the people in order to induce them to fill his exhausted coffers, and build the church. In proof of this, we have only to quote a few extracts from the ‘Pastoral’ which he issued on this occasion.
“’And now,” he says, “Mary has deigned to appear on the summit of a lofty mountain to two young shepherds, revealing to them the secrets of heaven. But who attests the truth of the narrative of these Alpine pastors? No other than the men themselves, and they are believed. They declare what they have seen, they repeat what they have heard, they retain what they have received commandment to keep secret.
“A few words of the incomparable Mother of God have transformed them into new men. Incapable of concerting aught between themselves, or of imagining anything similar to what they relate, each is the witness to a vision which has not found him unbelieving; each is its historian. These two shepherds, dull as they were, have at once understood and received the lesson which was vouchsafed to them, and it is ineffaceably engraven on their hearts. They add nothing to it, they take nothing from it, they modify it in nowise, they deliver the oracle of Heaven just as they have received it.
“An admirable constancy enabled them to guard the secret, a singular sagacity made them discern all the snares laid for them, a rare prudence suggested to them a thousand responses, not one of which betrayed their secret; and when at length the time came when it was their duty to make it known to the common Father of the Faithful, they wrote correctly, as if reading a book placed under their eyes. Their recital drew to this blessed mountain thousands of pilgrims.
“They proclaimed that ’on Saturday, the 19th of September, 1846, Mary manifested herself to them; and the anniversary of this glorious day is henceforth and forever dear to Christian piety. Will not every pilgrim who repairs to this holy mountain add his testimony to the truthfulness of these young shepherds? Mary halted near a fountain; she communicated to it a celestial virtue, a divine efficacy. From being intermittent, this spring, today so celebrated, became perennial.
“’Every where is recounted the prodigies which she works. When the afflicted are in despair, the infirm without remedy, they resort to the waters of La Salette, and cures are wrought by this remedy, whose power makes itself felt against every evil. Our diocess, so devoted to Mary, has been no stranger to the bounty of this tender Mother. We are about to celebrate shortly the sixth anniversary of this miraculous apparition. Now that A sanctuary is to be raised on this holy mountain to the glory of God, we have thought it right to inform you thereof.
“’We cannot doubt that many of you have been heard by our Lady of La Salette; you desire to witness your gratitude to this mother of compassion; you would gladly bring your stone to the beautiful edifice that is to be constructed. We desire to further your filial tenderness with the means of transmitting the alms of faith and piety. For these reasons, invoking the holy name of God, we have ordained and do ordain as follows, viz.:
“’First, we permit the appearance of our Lady of La Salette to be preached throughout our diocess; secondly, on Sunday, the 19th of September next ensuing, the litanies of the Holy Virgin shall be chanted in all the chapels and churches of the diocess, and be followed by the benediction of the Holy Sacrament. Thirdly, the faithful who may desire to contribute to the erection of the new sanctuary, may Deposit their offerings in the hands of the cure, who will transmit them to us for the bishop of Grenoble.
“’Our present pastoral letter shall be read and published after mass in every parish on the Sunday after its reception.
“’Given at Lucon, in our Episcopal palace, under our sign-manual and the seal of our arms, and the official counter-signature of our secretary, the 30th of June, of the year of Grace, 1852.
“’X Jac-Mar Jos,
“‘Bishop of Lucon.’”
“It is not a little remarkable,” says the editor of the American Christian Union, “that whilst the Bishop of Lucon was engaged in extolling the miracles of La Salette, the Cardinal Archbishop of Lyons, Dr. Bonald, ’Primate of all the Gauls,’ addressed a circular to all the priests in his diocese, in which he cautions them against apocryphal miracles! There is indubitable evidence that his grace refers to the scandalous delusions of La Salette. His language is severe, very severe. He attributes the miracles in question to pecuniary speculation, which now-a-days, he says, mingles with everything, seizes upon imaginary facts, and profits by it at
[Footnote: Since the above was written, we have met with the following explanation of this modern miracle:
“A few years ago there was a great stir among ’the simple faithful’ in France, occasioned by a well-credited apparition of the Holy Virgin at La Salette. She required the erection of a chapel in her honor at that place, and made such promises of special indulgences to all who paid their devotions there, that it became ‘all the rage’ as a place of pilgrimage. The consequence was, that other shops for the same sort of wares in that region lost most of their customers, and the good priests who tended the tills were sorely impoverished. In self-defence, they, well knowing how such things were got up, exposed the trick. A prelate publicly denounced the imposture, and an Abbe Deleon, priest in the diocess of Grenoble, printed a work called ‘La Salette a Valley of Lies.’ In this publication it was maintained, with proofs, that the hoax was gotten up by a Mademoiselle de Lamerliere, a sort of half-crazy nun, who impersonated the character of the Virgin. For the injury done to her character by this book she sued the priest for damages to the tone of twenty thousand francs, demanding also the infliction of the utmost penalty of the law. The court, after a long and careful investigation, for two days, as we learn by the Catholic Herald, disposed of the case by declaring the miracle-working damsel non-suited, and condemning her to pay the expenses of the prosecution.”—American and Foreign Christian Union.]
Another of Rome’s marvellous stories we copy from the New York Daily Times of July 3d, 1854. It is from the pen of a correspondent at Rome, who, after giving an account of the ceremony performed in the church of St. Peters at the canonization of a new saint, under the name of Germana, relates the following particulars of her history. He says, “I take the facts as they are related in a pamphlet account of her ‘life, virtues, and miracles,’ published by authority at Rome:
“Germana Consin was born near the village of Pibrac, in the diocess of Toulouse, in France. Maimed in one hand, and of a scrofulous constitution, she excited the hatred of her step-mother, in whose power her father’s second marriage placed her while yet a child. This cruel woman gave the little Germana no other bed than some vine twigs, lying under a flight of stairs, which galled her limbs,
“Wonders did not cease with her death. Forty years after this event her body was uncovered, in digging a grave for another person, and found entirely uncorrupted—nay, the blood flowed from a wound accidentally made in her face. Great crowds assembled to see the body so miraculously preserved, and it was carefully re-interred within the church. There it lay in place until the French Revolution, when it was pulled up and cast into a ditch and covered with quick lime and water. But even this failed to injure the body of the blessed saint. It was found two years afterward entirely unhurt, and even the grave clothes which surrounded it were entire, as on the day of sepulture, two hundred years before.
“And now in the middle of the nineteenth century, these facts are published for the edification of believers, and his Holiness has set his seal to their authenticity. Four miracles performed by this saint after her death are attested by the bull of beatification, and also by Latin inscriptions in great letters displayed at St. Peter’s on the day of this great celebration. The monks of the monastery at Bourges, in France, prayed her to intercede on one occasion, that their store of bread might be multiplied; on another their store of meal; on both occasions their prayer was granted. The other two miracles were cures of desperate maladies, the diseased persons having been brought to pray over her tomb.
“On the splendid scarlet hangings, bearing the arms of Pius IX. and suspended at the corners of the nave and transept, were two Latin inscriptions, of similar purport, of one of which I give a translation: ’O Germana, raised to-day to celestial honors by Pius IX. Pontifex Maximus, since thou knowest that Pius has wept over thy nation wandering from God, and has exultingly rejoiced at its reconciling itself with God little by little, he prays thee intimately united with God, do thou, for thou canst do it, make known his wishes to God, and strengthen them, for thou art able, with the virtue of thy prayers.’
“I have been thus minute in my account of this Beatification, deeming the facts I state of no little importance and interest, as casting light upon the character of the Catholicism of the present day, and showing with what matters the Spiritual and Temporal ruler of Rome is busying himself in this year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-four.”
Many other examples similar to the above might be given from the history of Catholicism as it exists at the present time in the old world. But let us turn to our own country. We need not look to France or Rome for examples of priestly intrigue of the basest kind; and absurdities that almost surpass belief. The following account which we copy from The American and Foreign Christian Union of August, 1852, will serve to show that the priests in these United States are quite as willing to impose upon the ignorant and credulous as, their brethren in other countries. The article is from the pen of an Irish Missionary in the employ of The American and Foreign Christian Union and is entitled,
“A lying wonder.”
“It would seem almost incredible,” says the editor of this valuable Magazine, “that any men could be found in this country who are capable of practising such wretched deceptions. But the account given in the subjoined statement is too well authenticated to permit us to reject the story as untrue, however improbable it may, at first sight, seem to be. Here it is:—?
“Mr. Editor,—I give you, herein, some information respecting a lying wonder wrought in Troy, New York, last winter, and respecting the female who was the ‘medium’ of it. I have come to the conclusion that this female is a Jesuit, after as good an examination as I have been able to give the matter. I have been fed with these lying wonders in early life, and in Ireland as well as in this country there are many who, for want of knowing any better, will feed upon them in their hearts by faith and thanksgiving. About the time this lying wonder of which I am about to write happened, I had been talking of it in the office of Mr. Luther, of Albany, (coal merchant), where were a number of Irish waiting for a job. One of these men declared, with many curses on his soul if what he told was not true, that he had seen a devil cast out of a woman in his own parish, in Ireland, by the priest. I told him it would be better for his character’s sake for him to say he heard of it, than to say he saw it.
Mr. J. W. Lockwood, a respectable merchant in Troy, New York, and son of the late mayor, kept two or three young women as ‘helps’ for his lady, last winter. The name of one is Eliza Mead, and the name of another is Catharine Dillon, a native of the county of Limerick, Ireland. Eliza was an upper servant, who took care of her mistress and her children. Catharine was and is now the cook. Eliza appeared to her mistress to be a very well educated, and a very intellectual woman of 35, though she would try to make believe she could not write, and that she was subject to fits of insanity. There was then presumptive evidence that she wrote a good deal, and there is now positive evidence that she could write. She used often, in the presence of Mrs. L., to take the Bible and other books and read them, and would often say she thought the Protestants had a better religion than the Catholics, and were a better people. Afterwards she told Mrs. L. that she had doubts about the Catholic religion, and was inclined toward the Protestant: but now she is sure, quite sure, that the Catholic alone is the right one, for it was revealed to her.
On the evening of the 23d of December, 1851, Eliza and Catharine were missing;—but I will give you Catharine’s affidavit about their business from home.
“City of Troy, S. W.
“I, Catharine Dillon, say, that on Tuesday, 23d December inst, about five o’clock in the afternoon, I went with Eliza Mead to see the priest, Mr. McDonnel, who was at home. Eliza remained there till about six o’clock P. M. At that time I returned home, leaving her at the priest’s. At half past eight o’clock the same evening I returned to the priest’s house for Eliza, and waited there for her till about ten o’clock of the same evening, expecting that Eliza’s conference with the priest would be ended, and that she would come home with me.
“During the evening there had been another besides Mr. McDonnel there. About ten o’clock this other priest retired, as I understood. Soon after this Mr. McDonnel called me, with others, into the room where Eliza was, when he said that she (Eliza) was possessed of the devil Mr. McDonnel then commenced interrogating the devil, asking the devil if he possessed her. The answer was, “Yes.” The priest then asked, “How long?” and the answer was, “Six months and nine days.” The priest then asked, “Who sent you into her?” The answer was, “Mr. Lockwood.” The next question was, “When?” “When she was asleep,” was the answer. He then asked the devil if Mr. Lockwood had ever tempted Catharine, meaning me, and the reply was, “Yes.” Then the question was, “How many times?” And the answer was, “Three times, by offering her drink when she was asleep?”
“I came home about five o’clock in the morning, greatly shocked at what I had seen and heard, and impressed with the belief that Eliza was possessed with the devil. I went again to the priest’s on Wednesday to find Eliza, when the priest told me that he, Mr. McDonnel, exorcised the devil at high mass that morning in the church, and drove the devil out of Eliza. That he, the devil, came out of Eliza, and spat at the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ, and departed. He then told me that, as Eliza got the devil from Mr. Lockwood, in the house where I lived, I must leave the house immediately, and made me promise him that I would. During the appalling scenes of Tuesday night, Mr. McDonnel went to the other priest and called him up, but the other priest did not come to his assistance. These answers to the priest when he was asking questions of the devil, were given in a very loud voice and sometimes with a loud scream.”
“Subscribed and sworn to, this 31st day of December, 1851, before me, job S. Olin, Recorder of Troy, New York.” [A copy.]
At the interview between Mr. J. W. Lockwood and the Rev. Mr. McDonnel, officiating priest at St. Peter’s church, there were present Hon. James M. Warren, T. W. Blatchford, M. D., and C. N. Lockwood, on the part of Mr. Lockwood, and Father Kenny and Mr. Davis on the part of the Rev. Mr. McDonnel, on the evening of the 31st December, 1851.
Mr. McDonnel at first declined answering any questions, questioning Mr. Lockwood’s right to ask them: He would only say that Eliza Mead came to his house possessed, as she thought, with an evil spirit; that at first he declined having anything to do with her, first, because he believed her to be crazy; second, because he was at that moment otherwise engaged; and thirdly, because she was not in his parish; but, by her urgent appeals in the name of God to pray over her, he was at last induced to admit her. He became satisfied that she was possessed of the devil, or an evil spirit, by saying the appointed prayers of the church over her; for the spirit manifested uneasiness when this was done; and furthermore, as she was entering the church the following morning, she was thrown into convulsions by Father Kenny’s making the sign of the cross behind her back. At high mass in the morning he exorcised the devil, and he left her, spitting at the cross of Christ before taking his final departure.
As to Mr. McDonnel’s repeatedly telling Catharine that she must leave Mr. L’s house immediately, for if she remained there Mr. L. would put the devil in her, Mr. McDonnel denied saying or doing anything whatever that was detrimental to the character of Mr. L. or any of his family. Mr. McDonnel repeatedly refused to answer the questions put to him by Mr. L. He considered it insulting that Mr. L. should visit his house on such business, as no power on earth but that of the pope had authority to question him on such matters. But being reminded that slanderous reports had emanated from that very house against Mr. L. he, Mr. McDonnel, said it was all to see what kind of a man he was that brought Mr. L. there, and if reports were exaggerated, it was nothing to him.
Mr. McDonnel said that he cleared the church before casting out the devil, and there was but one person besides himself there. That, every word spoken in the church was in Latin, and nobody in the church understood a word of it. That he had heard threats made by Mr. L., also that Mr. L. had said the pretended answers of the devil ware made through the medium of ventriloquism. Father Kenny, in the progress of the interview, made two or three attempts to speak, but was prevented by Mr. McDonnel.
Thus ends the report written down by Mr. L.’s brother, who was present, immediately after the interview. It was all Latin in the church, we see; but the low Irish will not believe that the devil could understand Latin. However, it was not all Latin at the priest’s house, where Catharine Dillon heard what she declared on oath. How slow the priest was to admit her (Eliza Mead) in the beginning, and to believe that she had his sable majesty in her, until it manifested uneasiness under the cannonade of church prayers!
“But you will ask, how could an educated priest, or an intelligent woman, condescend to such diabolical impositions? I think it is something after the way that a man gets to be a drunkard; he may not like the taste thereof at first, but afterwards he will smack his lips and say, ‘there is nothing like whiskey,’ and as their food becomes part of their bodily substance, so are these ‘lying wonders’ converted into their spiritual substance. So I think; I am, however, but a very humble philosopher, and therefore I will use the diction of the Holy Spirit on the matter: ’For this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie,’ even of their own making, or what may easily be seen to be lies of other’s getting, “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’”
Albany, June 2nd, 1852.
It was said by one “that the first temptation on reading such monstrosities as the above, is to utter a laugh of derision.” But it is with no such feeling that we place them before our readers. Rather would we exclaim with the inspired penman, “O that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” for the deluded followers of these willfully blind leaders! Surely, no pleasure can be found in reading or recording scenes which a pure mind can regard only with pity and disgust. Yet we desire to prove to our readers that the absurd threats and foolish attempts to impose upon the weak and ignorant recorded by Sarah J. Richardson are perfectly consistent with the general character and conduct of the Romish priests. Read for instance, the following ridiculous story translated from Le Semeur Canadien for October 12th, 1855.
A new means of conversion.
In the district of Montreal lived a Canadian widow of French extraction who had become a Protestant. Madam V—, such was the name of this lady, lived with her daughter, the sole fruit of a union too soon dissolved by unsparing death. Their life, full of good works, dispelled prejudices that the inhabitants of the vicinity—all intolerant Catholics—had always entertained against evangelical Christians; they gained their respect, moreover, by presenting them the example of every virtue. Two of the neighbors of the Protestant widow—who had often heard at her house the word of God read and commented upon by one of those ministers who visit the scattered members of their communion—talked lately of embracing the reformed religion. In the mean while, Miss V— died. The young Christian rested her hope upon the promises of the Saviour who has said, “Believe in Christ and thou shall be saved.”
Her spirit flew to its Creator with the confidence of an infant who throws himself into the arms of his father. Her last moments were not tormented by the fear of purgatory, where every Catholic believes he will suffer for a longer or shorter time. This death strengthened the neighbors in the resolution they had taken to leave the Catholic church. The widow buried the remains of her daughter upon her own land, a short distance from her house: the nearest Protestant cemetery was so far off that she was forced to give up burying it there.
Some Catholic fanatics of the vicinity assembled secretly the day after the funeral of Miss V— to discuss the best means for arresting the progress that the reformed religion was making in the parish. After long deliberation they resolved to hire a poor man to go every evening for a whole week and groan near the grave of Miss V—–. Their object was to make the widow and neighbors believe that the young girl was damned; and that God permitted her to show her great unhappiness by lamentations, so that they might avoid her fate by remaining faithful to the belief of their fathers. In any other
The credulity of the French-Canadian is the work of the clergy; they invent and relate, in order to excite their piety, the most marvellous things. For example: the priests say that souls in purgatory desiring alleviation come and ask masses of their relatives, either by appearing in the same form they had in life, or by displacing the furniture and making a noise, as long as they have not terminated the expiation of their sins. The Catholic clergy, by supporting these fabulous doctrines and pious lies, lead their flock into the baleful habit of believing things the most absurd and destitute of proof.
The day after Miss V—’s funeral, everybody in the parish was talking of the woeful cries which had been heard the night before near her grave. The inhabitants of the place, imbued with fantastic ideas that their rector had kept alive, were dupes of the artifice employed by some of their own number. They became convinced that there is no safety outside of the church, of which they formed a part. Seized with horror they determined never to pass a night near the grave of the cursed one, as they already called the young Protestant. Mrs. V— by the instinctive effect of prejudices inculcated when she was a Catholic, was at first a prey to deadly anxiety; but recalling the holy life of her daughter, she no longer doubted of her being among the number of the elect. She guessed at the cause of the noise which was heard near the grave of her child. In order to assure herself of the justness of her suspicions, she besought the two neighbors of whom I have already spoken, to conceal themselves there the following night. These persons were glad of an occasion to test the accuracy of what a curate of their acquaintance had told them; who had asserted that a spirit free from the body could yet manifest itself substantially to the living, as speaking without tongue, touching without hands.
They discovered the man who was paid to play the ghost; they seized him, and in order to punish him, tied him to a tree, at the foot of which Miss V— was buried. The poor creature the next morning no longer acted the soul in torment, but shouted like a person who very much wanted his breakfast. At noon one of his friends passed by who, hearing him implore assistance, approached and set him free. Overwhelmed with questions and derision, the false ghost confessed he had acted thus only to obtain the reward which had been promised him. You may easily guess that the ridicule and reprobation turned upon those who had made him their instrument.
I will not finish this narrative without telling the reader that the curate of the place appeared much incensed at what his parishioners had done. I am glad to be able to suppose that he condemns rather than encourages such conduct. A Protestant friend of mine who does not entertain the same respect for the Roman clergy that I do, advances the opinion that the displeasure of the curate was not on account of the culpable attempt of some of his flock but on account of its failure. However, I must add, on my reputation as a faithful narrator, that nothing has yet happened to confirm his assertion.
Montreal, September 1855.
Cruelty of Romanists.
To show that the Romish priests have in all ages, and do still, inflict upon their victims cruelties quite as severe as anything described in the foregoing pages, and that such cruelties are sanctioned by their code of laws, we have only to turn to the authentic history of the past and present transactions of the high functionaries of Rome.
About the year 1356, Nicholas Eymeric, inquisitor-general of Arragon, collected from the civil and canon laws all that related to the punishment of heretics, and formed the “Directory of Inquisitors,” the first and indeed the fundamental code, which has been followed ever since, without any essential variation. “It exhibits the practice and theory of the Inquisition at the time of its sanction by the approbation of Gregory 13th, in 1587, which theory, under some necessary variations of practice, still remains unchanged.”
From this “Directory,” transcribed by the Rev. Wm. Rule of London, in 1852, we extract a few sentences in relation to torture.
“Torture is inflicted on one who confesses the principal fact, but varies as to circumstances. Also on one who is reputed to be a heretic, but against whom there is only one witness of the fact. In this case common rumor is one indication of guilt, and the direct evidence is another, making altogether but semi-plenar proof. The torture may bring out fall proof. Also, when there is no witness, but vehement suspicion. Also when there is no common report of heresy, but only one witness who has heard or seen something in him contrary to the faith. Any two indications of heresy will justify the use of torture. If you sentence to torture, give him a written notice in the form prescribed; but other means be tried first. Nor is this an infallible means for bringing out the truth. Weak-hearted men, impatient at the first pain, will confess crimes they never committed, and criminate others at the same time. Bold and strong ones will bear the most severe torments. Those who have been on the rack before bear it with more courage, for they know how to adapt their limbs to it, and they resist powerfully. Others, by enchantments, seem to be
Rules are laid down for the punishment of those who do confess. Innocent IV. commanded the secular judges to put heretics to torture; but that gave occasion to scandalous publicity, and now inquisitors are empowered to do it, and, in case of irregularity (that is, if the person dies in their hands), to absolve each other. And although nobles were exempt from torture, and in some kingdoms, as Arragon, it was not used in civil tribunals, the inquisitors were nevertheless authorized to torture, without restriction, persons of all classes.
And here we digress from Eymeric and Pena, in order to describe, from additional authority, of what this torture consisted, and probably, still consists, in Italy. Limborch collects this information from Juan de Rojas, inquisitor at Valencia.
“There were five degrees of torment as some counted (Eymeric included), or according to others, three. First, there was terror, including the threatenings of the inquisitor, leading to the place of torture, stripping, and binding; the stripping of their clothing, both men and women, with the substitution of a single tight garment, to cover part of the person—being an outrage of every feeling of decency—and the binding, often as distressing as the torture itself. Secondly came the stretching on the rack, and questions attendant. Thirdly a more severe shock, by the tension and sodden relaxation of the cord, which is sometimes given once, but often twice, thrice, or yet more frequently.”
“Isaac Orobio, a Jewish physician, related to Limborch the manner in which he had himself been tortured, when thrown into the inquisition at Seville, on the delation of a Moorish servant, whom he had punished for theft, and of another person similarly offended.
“After having been in the prison of the inquisition for full three years, examined a few times, but constantly refusing to confess the things laid to his charge, he was at length brought out of the cell, and led through tortuous passages to the place of torment. It was near evening. He found himself in a subterranean chamber, rather spacious, arched over, and hung with black cloth. The whole conclave was lighted by candles in sconces on the walls. At one end there was a separate chamber, wherein were an inquisitor and his notary seated at a table. The place, gloomy, intent, and everywhere terrible, seemed to be the very home of death. Hither he was brought, and the inquisitor again exhorted him to tell the truth before the torture should begin. On his answering that he had already told the truth, the inquisitor gravely protested that he was bringing himself to the torture by his own obstinacy; and that if he should suffer loss of blood, or even expire, during the question, the holy office would be blameless. Having thus spoken, the inquisitor left him in the hands of the tormentors, who stripped him, and compressed his body so tightly in a pair of linen drawers, that he could no longer draw breath, and must have died, had they not suddenly relaxed the pressure; but with recovered breathing came pain unutterably exquisite. The anguish being past, they repeated a monition to confess the truth, before the torture, as they said, should begin; and the same was afterwards repeated at each interval.
“As Orobio persisted in denial, they bound his thumbs so tightly with small cords that the blood burst from under the nails, and they were swelled excessively. Then they made him stand against the wall on a small stool, passed cords around various parts of his body, but principally around the arms and legs, and carried them over iron pulleys in the ceiling. The tormentor then pulled the cords with all his strength, applying his feet to the wall, and giving the weight of his body to increase the purchase. With these ligatures his arms and legs, fingers and toes, were so wrung and swollen that he felt as if fire were devouring them. In the midst of this torment the man kicked down the stool which had supported his feet, so that he hung upon the cords with his whole weight, which suddenly increased their tension, and gave indescribable aggravation to his pain. Next followed a new kind of torment. An instrument resembling a small ladder, consisting of two parallel pieces of wood, and five transverse pieces, with the anterior edges sharpened, was placed before him, so that when the tormentor struck it heavily, he received the stroke five times multiplied on each shin bone, producing pain that was absolutely intolerable, and under which he fainted. Bat no sooner was be revived than they inflicted a new torture. The tormentor tied other cords around his wrists, and having his own shoulders covered with leather, that they might not be chafed, passed round them the rope which was to draw the cords, set his feet against the wall, threw himself back with all his force, and the cords cut through to the bones. This he did thrice, each time changing the position of the cords, leaving a small distance between the successive wounds; but it happened that in pulling the second time they slipped into the first wounds, and caused such a gush of blood that Orobio seemed to be bleeding to death.
“A physician and surgeon, who were in waiting as usual, to give their opinion as to the safety or danger of continuing those operations, that the inquisitors might not commit an irregularity by murdering the patient, were called in. Being friends of the sufferer, they gave their opinion that he had strength enough remaining to bear more. By this means they saved him from a Suspension of the torture, which would have been followed by a repetition, on his recovery, under the pretext of continuation. The cords were therefore pulled a third time, and this ended the torture. He was dressed in his own clothes, carried back to prison, and, after about seventy days, when the wounds were healed, condemned as one suspected of Judaism. They could not say convicted, because he had not confessed; but they sentenced him to wear the sambenito [Footnote: This sambenito (Suco bendito or blessed sack,) is a garment (or kind of scapulary according to some writers,) worn by penitents of the least criminal class in the procession of an Auto de Fe, (a solemn ceremony held by the Inquisition for the punishment of heretics,) but sometimes worn as a punishment at other times, that the condemned one might be marked by his neighbors, and ever bear a signal that would affright and scare by the greatness of the punishment and disgrace; a plan, salutary it may be, but very grievous to the offender. It was made of yellow cloth, with a St. Andrew’s cross upon it, of red. A rope was sometimes put around the neck as an additional mark of infamy.
Those who were condemned to be burnt were distinguished by a habit of the same form, called Zamarra, but instead of the red cross were painted flames and devils, and sometimes an ugly portrait of the heretic himself,—a head, with flames under it. Those who had been sentenced to the stake, but indulged with commutation of the penalty, had inverted flames painted on the livery, and this was called fuego revuelto, “inverted fire.”
Upon the head of the condemned was also placed a conical paper cap, about three feet high, slightly resembling a mitre, called corona or crown. This was painted with flames and devils in like manner with the dress.] or penitential habit for two years, and then be banished for life from Seville.”
Inquisition of Goa—imprisonment of M. Dellon, 1673.
“M. Dellon a French traveller, spending some time at Damaun, on the north-western coast of Hindostan, incurred the jealousy of the governor and a black priest, in regard to a lady, as he is pleased to call her, whom they both admired. He had expressed himself rather freely concerning some of the grosser superstitions of Romanism, and thus afforded the priest, who was also secretary of the Inquisition, an occasion of proceeding against him as a heretic. The priest and the governor united in a representation to the
“In due time they were again at sea, and a fair wind wafted their fleet into that port after a voyage of seven days. Until they could be deposited in the cells of the Inquisition with the accustomed formalities, the Archbishop of Goa threw open his prison for their reception, which prison, being ecclesiastical, may be deemed worthy of description.
“The most filthy,” says Dellon, “the most dark, and the most horrible that I ever saw; and I doubt whether a more shocking and horrible prison can be found anywhere. It is a kind of cave wherein there is no day seen but by a very little hole; the most subtle rays of the sun cannot enter into it, and there is never any true light in it. The stench is extreme. * * *
“On the 16th of January 1674, at eight o’clock in the morning, an officer came with orders to take the prisoners to “the holy house.” With considerable difficulty M. Dellon dragged his iron-loaded limbs thither. They helped him to ascend the stairs at the great entrance, and in the hall, smiths were waiting to take off the irons from all the prisoners. One by one, they were summoned to audience. Dellon, who was called the first, crossed the hall, passed through an ante-chamber, and entered a room, called by the Portuguese “board of the holy office,” where the grand inquisitor of the Indies sat at one end of a very large table, on an elevated floor in the middle of the chamber. He was a secular priest about forty years of age, in full vigor—a man who could do his work with energy. At one end of the room was a large crucifix, reaching from the floor almost to the ceiling, and near it, sat a notary on a folding stool. At the opposite end, and near the inquisitor, Dellon
“Thus began his acquaintance with the holy house, which he describes as “great and magnificent,” on one side of the great space before the church of St Catharine. There were three gates in front; and, it was by the central, or largest, that the prisoners entered, and mounted a stately flight of steps, leading into the great hall. The side gates provided entrance to spacious ranges of apartments, belonging to the inquisitors. Behind the principal building, was another, very spacious, two stories high, and consisting of double rows of cells, opening into galleries that ran from end to end. The cells on the ground-floor were very small, without any aperture from without for light or air. Those of the upper story were vaulted, white-washed, had a small strongly grated window, without glass, and higher than the tallest man could reach. Towards the gallery every cell was shut with two doors, one on the inside, the other one outside of the wall. The inner door folded, was grated at the bottom, opened towards the top for the admission of food and was made fast with very strong bolts. The outer door was not so thick, had no window, but was left open from six o’clock every morning until eleven—a necessary arrangement in that climate, unless it were intended to destroy life by suffocation.
“To each prisoner was given as earthen pot with water wherewith to wash, another full of water to drink, with a cup; a broom, a mat whereon to lie, and a large basin with a cover, changed every fourth day. The prisoners had three meals a day; and their health so far as food could contribute to it in such a place, was cared for in the provision of a wholesome, but spare diet. Physicians were at hand to render all necessary assistance to the
“The officers of Goa were;—the inquisidor mor or grand inquisitor, who was always a secular priest; the second inquisitor, Dominican friar; several deputies, who came, when called for, to assist the inquisitors at trials, but never entered without such a summons; qualifiers, as usual, to examine books and writings, but never to witness an examination of the living, or be present at any act of the kind; a fiscal; a procurator; advocates, so called, for the accused; notaries and familiars. The authority of this tribunal was absolute in Goa. There does not appear to have been anything peculiar in the manner of examining and torturing at Goa where the practice coincided with that of Portugal and Spain.
“The personal narrative of Dellon affords a distinct exemplification of the sufferings of the prisoners. He had been told that, when he desired an audience, he had only to call a jailer, and ask it, when it would be allowed him. But, notwithstanding many tears and entreaties, he could not obtain one until fifteen days had passed away. Then came the alcayde and one of his guards. This alcayde walked first out of the cell; Dellon uncovered and shorn, and with legs and feet bare, followed him; the guard walked behind. The alcayde just entered the place of audience, made a profound reverence, stepped back and allowed his charge to enter. The door closed, and Dellon remained alone with the inquisitor and secretary. He knelt; but Don Fernando sternly bade him to sit on a bench, placed there for the use of the culprits. Near him, on a table, lay a missal, on which they made him lay his hand, and swear to keep secrecy, and tell them the truth. They asked if he knew the cause of his imprisonment, and whether he was resolved to confess it. He told them all he could recollect of unguarded sayings at Damaun, either in argument or conversation, without ever, that he knew, contradicting, directly or indirectly, any article of faith. He had, at some time dropped an offensive word concerning the Inquisition, but so light a word, that it did not occur to his remembrance. Don Fernando told him he had done well in accusing himself so willingly, and exhorted him in the name of Jesus Christ, to complete his self accusation fully, to the end that he might experience the goodness and mercy which were used in that tribunal towards those who showed true repentance by a sincere and unforced confession. The secretary read aloud the confession and exhortation, Dellon signed it, Don Fernando rang a silver bell, the alcayde walked in, and, in a few moments, the disappointed victim was again in his dungeon.
“At the end of another fortnight, and without having asked for it, he was again taken to audience. After a repetition of the former questions, he was asked his name, surname, baptism, confirmation, place of abode, in what parish? in what diocess? under what bishop? They made him kneel, and make the sign of the cross, repeat the Pater Noster, Hail Mary, creed, commandments of God, commandments of the church, and Salve Begins. He did it all very cleverly, and even to their satisfaction; but the grand inquisitor exhorted him, by the tender mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ, to confess without delay, and sent him to the cell again. His heart sickened. They required him to do what was impossible—to confess more, after he had acknowledged all. In despair, he tried to starve himself to death; ’but they compelled him to take food.’ Day and night he wept, and at length betook himself to prayer, imploring pity of the ‘blessed Virgin,’ whom he imagined to be, of all beings, the most merciful, and the most ready to give him help.
“At the end of a month, he succeeded in obtaining another audience, and added to his former confessions what he had remembered, for the first time, touching the Inquisition. But they told him that that was not what they wanted, and sent him back again. This was intolerable. In a frenzy of despair he determined to commit suicide, if possible. Feigning sickness, be obtained a physician who treated him for a fever, and ordered him to be bled. Never calmed by any treatment of the physician, blood-letting was repeated often, and each time he untied the bandage, when left alone, hoping to die from loss of blood, but death fled from him. A humane Franciscan came to confess him, and, hearing his tale of misery, gave him kind words, asked permission to divulge his attempt at self-destruction to the inquisitor, procured him a mitigation of solitude by the presence of a fellow-prisoner, a negro, accused of magic; but, after five months, the negro was removed, and his mind, broken with suffering, could no longer bear up under the aggravated load. By an effort of desperate ingenuity he almost succeeded in committing suicide, and a jailer found him weltering in his blood and insensible. Having restored him by cordials, and bound up his wounds, they carried him into the presence of the inquisitor once more; where he lay on the floor, being unable to sit, heard bitter reproaches, had his limbs confined in irons, and was thus carried back to a punishment that seemed more terrible than death. In fetters he became so furious, that they found it necessary to take them off, and, from that time, his examinations assumed another character, as he defended his positions with citations from the Council of Trent, and with some passages of scripture, which he explained in the most Romish sense, discovering a depth of ignorance in Don Fernando that was truly surprising. That ‘grand Inquisitor,’ had never heard the passage which Dellon quoted to prove the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, ’Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ Neither did he know anything of that famous passage in the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent, which declares that images are only to be reverenced on account of the persons whom they represent. He called for a Bible, and for the acts of the council, and was evidently surprised when he found them where Dellon told him they might be seen.
“The time for a general auto drew near. During the months of November and December, 1675, he heard every morning the cries of persons under torture, and afterwards saw many of them, both men and women, lame and distorted by the rack. On Sunday January 11th, 1676, he was surprised by the jailer refusing to receive his linen to be washed—Sunday being washing-day in the ‘holy house.’ While perplexing himself to think what that could mean, the cathedral bells rang for vespers, and then, contrary to custom, rang again for matins. He could only
“Scarcely had he fallen asleep when the alcayde and guards entered the cell, with great noise, bringing a lamp, for the first time since his imprisonment that they had allowed a lamp to shine there. The alcayde, laying down a suit of clothes, bade him put them on, and be ready to go out when he came again. At two o’clock in the morning they returned, and he issued from the cell, clad in a black vest and trowsers, striped with white, and his feet bare. About two hundred prisoners, of whom he was one, were made to sit on the floor, along the sides of a spacious gallery, all in the same black livery, and just visible by the gleaming of a few lamps. A large company of women were also ranged in a neighboring gallery in like manner. But they were all motionless, and no one knew his doom. Every eye was fixed, and each one seemed benumbed with misery.
“A third company Dellon perceived in a room not far distant, but they were walking about, and some appeared to have long habits. Those were persons condemned to be delivered to the secular arm, and the long habits distinguished confessors busily collecting confessions in order to commute that penalty for some other scarcely less dreadful. At four o’clock, servants of the house came, with guards, and gave bread and figs to those who would accept the refreshment. One of the guards gave Dellon some hope of life by advising him to take what was offered, which he had refused to do. ’Take your bread,’ said the man, ’and if you cannot eat it now, put it in your pocket; you will be certainly hungry before you return.’ This gave hope, that he should not end the day at the stake, but come back to undergo penance.
“A little before sunrise, the great bell of the cathedral tolled, and its sound soon aroused the city of Goa. The people ran into the streets, lining the chief thoroughfares, and crowding every place whence a view could be had of the procession. Day broke, and Dellon saw the faces of his fellow-prisoners, most of whom were Indians. He could only distinguish, by their complexion, about twelve Europeans. Every countenance exhibited shame, fear, grief, or an appalling blackness of apathy, as if dire suffering in the lightless dungeons underneath had bereft them of intellect. The company soon began to move, but slowly, as one by one the alcayde led them towards the door of the great hall, where the grand inquisitor sat, and his secretary called the name of each as he came, and the name of a sponsor, who also presented himself from among a crowd of the bettermost inhabitants of Goa, assembled there for that service. ’The general of the Portuguese ships in the Indies’ had the honor of placing himself beside our Frenchman. As soon as the procession was formed, it marched off in the usual order.
“First, the Dominicans, honored with everlasting precedence on all such occasions, led the way. Singing-boys also preceded, chanting a litany. The banner of the Inquisition was intrusted to their hands. After the banner walked the penitents—a penitent and a sponsor, two and two. A cross bearer brought up the train, carrying a crucifix aloft, turned towards them, in token of pity; and, on looking along the line, you might have seen another priest going before the penitents with a crucifix turned backwards, inviting their devotions. They to whom the Inquisition no longer afforded mercy, walked behind the penitents, and could only see an averted crucifix. These were condemned to be burnt alive at the stake! On this occasion there were but two of this class, but sometimes a large number were sentenced to this horrible death, and presented to the spectator a most pitiable spectacle. Many of them bore upon their persons the marks of starvation, torture, terror, and heart-rending grief. Some faces were bathed in tears, while others came forth with a smile of conquest on the countenance and words of triumphant faith bursting from the lips. These, however, were known as dogmatizers, and were generally gagged, the month being filled with a piece of wood kept in by a strong leather band fastened behind the head, and the arms tied together behind the back. Two armed familiars walked or rode beside each of these, and two ecclesiastics, or some other clerks or regulars, also attended. After these, the images of heretics who had escaped were carried aloft, to be thrown into the flames; and porters came last, tagging under the weight of boxes containing the disinterred bodies on which the execution of the church had fallen, and which were also to be burnt.
“Poor Dellon went barefoot, like the rest, through the streets of Goa, rough with little flint stones scattered about, and sorely were his feet wounded during an hour’s march up and down the principal streets. Weary, covered with shame and confusion, the long train of culprits entered the church of St. Francis, where preparation was made for the auto, the climate of India not permitting a celebration of that solemnity under the burning sky. They sat with their sponsors, in the galleries prepared, sambenitos, grey zamarras with painted flames and devils, corozas, tapers, and all the other paraphernalia of an auto, made up a woeful spectacle. The inquisitor and other personages having taken their seats of state, the provincial of the Augustinians mounted the pulpit and delivered the sermon. Dellon preserved but one note of it. The preacher compared the Inquisition to Noah’s ark, which received all sorts of beasts wild, but sent them out tame. The appearance of hundreds who had been inmates of that ark certainly justified the figure.
“After the sermon, two readers went up, one after the other, into the same pulpit, and, between them, they read the processes and pronounced the sentences, the person standing before them, with the alcayde, and holding a lighted taper in his hand. Dellon, in turn, heard the cause of his long-suffering. He had maintained the invalidity of baptismus flaminis, or desire to be baptised, when there is no one to administer the rite of baptism by water. He had said that images ought not to be adored, and that an ivory crucifix was a piece of ivory. He had spoken contemptuously of the Inquisition. And, above all, he had an ill intention. His punishment was to be confiscation of his property, banishment from India, and five years’ service in the galleys in Portugal, with penance, as the inquisitors might enjoin. As all the prisoners were excommunicate, the inquisitor, after the sentence had been pronounced, put on his alb and stole, walked into the middle of the church, and absolved them all at once. Dellon’s sponsor, who would not even answer him before, when he spoke, now embraced him, called him brother, and gave him a pinch of snuff, in token of reconciliation.
“But there were two persons, a man and a woman, for whom the church had no more that they could do; and these, with four dead bodies, and the effigies of the dead, were taken to be burnt on the Campo Santo Lazaro, on the river side, the place appointed for that purpose, that the viceroy might see justice done on the heretics, as he surveyed the execution from his palace-windows.”
The remainder of Dellon’s history adds nothing to what we have already heard of the Inquisition. He was taken to Lisbon, and, after working in a gang of convicts for some time, was released on the intercession of some friends in France with the Portuguese government. With regard to his despair, and attempts to commit suicide, when in the holy house, we may observe that, as he states, suicide was very frequent there. The contrast of his disconsolate impatience with the resignation and constancy of Christian confessors in similar circumstances, is obvious. As a striking illustration of the difference between those who suffer without a consciousness of divine favor, and those who rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, we would refer the reader to that noble band of martyrs who suffered death at the stake, at the Auto held in Seville, on Sunday, September 24, 1559. At that time twenty-one were burnt, followed by one effigy, and eighteen penitents, who were released.
“One of the former was Don Juan Gonzales, Presbyter of Seville, an eminent preacher. With admirable constancy he refused to make any declaration, in spite of the severe torture, saying that he had not followed any erroneous opinions, but that he had drawn his faith from the holy Scriptures; and for this faith he pleaded to his tormentors in the words of inspiration. He maintained that he was not a heretic, but a Christian,
Inquisition of Goa, concluded.
The Inquisition of Goa continued its Autos for a century after the affair of Dellon. In the summer of 1808, Dr. Claudius Buchanan visited that city, and had been unexpectedly invited by Joseph a Doloribus, second and most active inquisitor, to lodge with him during his visit. Not without some surprise, Dr. Buchanan found himself, heretic, schismatic, and rebel as he was, politely entertained by so dread a personage. Regarding his English visitor merely as a literary man, or professing to do so, Friar Joseph, himself well educated, seemed to enjoy his company, and was unreservedly communicative on every subject not pertaining to his own vocation. When that subject was first introduced by an apparently incidental question, he did not hesitate to return the desired information, telling Dr. Buchanan that the establishment was nearly as extensive as in former times. In the library of the chief inquisitor he saw a register containing the names of all the officers, who still were numerous.
On the second evening after his arrival, the doctor was surprised to see his host come from his apartment, clothed in black robes from head to foot, instead of white, the usual color of his order (Augustinian). He said that he was going to sit on the tribunal of the holy office, and it transpired that, so far from his “august office” not occupying much of his time, he had to sit there three or four days every week. After his return, in the evening, the doctor put Dellon’s book into his hand, asking him if he had ever seen it. He had never seen it before, and, after reading aloud and slowly, “Relation de l’Inquisition de Goa,” began to peruse it with eagerness.
While Dr. Buchanan employed himself in writing, Friar Joseph devoured page after page; but as the narrative proceeded, betrayed evident symptoms of uneasiness. He then turned to the middle, looked at the end, skimmed over the table of contents, fixed on its principal passages, and at one place exclaimed, in his broad Italian accent, “Mendacium! mendacium.’” The doctor requested him to mark the passages that were untrue, proposed to discuss them afterwards, and said he had other books on the subject. The mention of other books startled him; he looked up anxiously at some books on the table, and then gave himself up to the perusal of Dellon’s “Relation,” until bedtime. Even then, he asked permission to take it to his chamber.
The doctor had fallen asleep under the roof of the inquisitor’s convent, confident, under God, in the protection at that time guaranteed to a British subject, his servants sleeping in the gallery outside the chamber-door. About midnight, he was waked by loud shrieks and expressions of terror from some one in the gallery. In the first moment of surprise, he concluded it must be the alguazils of the holy office seizing his servants to carry them to the Inquisition. But, on going out, he saw the servants standing at the door, and the person who had caused the alarm, a boy of about fourteen, at a little distance, surrounded by some of the priests, who had come out of their cells on hearing the noise. The boy said he had seen a spectre; and it was a considerable time before the agitations of his body and voice subsided. Next morning at breakfast, the inquisitor apologized for the disturbance, and said the boy’s alarm proceeded from a phantasma animi,—phantom of the imagination.
It might have been so. Phantoms might well haunt such a place. As to Dellon’s book, the inquisitor acknowledged that the descriptions were just; but complained that he had misjudged the motives of the inquisitors, and written uncharitably of Holy Church. Their conversation grew earnest, and the inquisitor was anxious to impress his visitor with the idea that the Inquisition had undergone a change in some respects, and that its terrors were mitigated. At length Dr. Buchanan plainly requested to see the Inquisition, that he might judge for himself as to the humanity shown to the inmates,—according to the inquisitor,—and gave, as a reason why he should be satisfied, his interest in the affairs of India, on which he had written, and his purpose to write on them again, in which case he could scarcely be silent concerning the Inquisition. The countenance of his host fell; but, after some further observations, he reluctantly promised to comply. Next morning, after breakfast, Joseph a Doloribus went to dress for the holy office, and soon returned in his black robes. He said he would go half an hour before the usual time, for the purpose of showing him the Inquisition. The doctor fancied he looked more severe than usual, and that his attendants were not
“Now, father,” said I, “lead me to the dungeons below: I want to see the captives.” “No,” said he, “that cannot be.” I now began to suspect that it had been in the mind of the inquisitor, from the beginning, to show me only a certain part of the Inquisition, in the hope of satisfying my inquiries in a general way. I urged him with earnestness; but he steadily resisted, and seemed offended, or, rather, agitated, by my importunity. I intimated to him plainly, that the only way to do justice to his own assertion and arguments regarding the present state of the Inquisition, was to show me the prisons and the captives. I should then describe only what I saw; but now the subject was left in awful obscurity. “Lead me down,” said I, “to the inner building, and let me pass through the two hundred dungeons, ten feet square, described by your former captives. Let me count the number of your present captives, and converse with them. I want, to see if there be any subjects of the British government, to whom we owe protection. I want to ask how long they have been there, how long it is since they have seen the light of the sun, and whether they ever expect to see it again. Show me the chamber of torture, and declare what modes of execution or punishment are now practiced inside the walls of the Inquisition, in lieu of the public Auto de Fe. If, after all that has passed, father, you resist this reasonable request, I should be justified in believing that you are afraid of exposing the real state of the Inquisition in India.”
To these observations the inquisitor made no reply; but seemed impatient that I should withdraw. “My good father,” said I; “I am about to take my leave of you, and to thank you for your hospitable attentions; and I wish to preserve on my mind a favorable sentiment of your kindness and candor. You cannot, you say, show me the captives and the dungeons; be pleased, then, merely to answer this question, for I shall believe your word: how many prisoners are there now below in the cells of the Inquisition?” He replied, “That is a question which I cannot answer.” On his pronouncing these words, I retired hastily towards the door, and wished him farewell. We shook hands with as much cordiality as we could, at the moment, assume; and both of us, I believe, were sorry that our parting took place with a clouded countenance.
After leaving the inquisitor, Dr. Buchanan, feeling as if he could not refrain from endeavoring to get another and perhaps a nearer view, returned to avail himself of the pretext afforded by a promise from the chief inquisitor, of a letter to one of the British residents at Travancore, in answer to one which he had brought him from that officer. The inquisitors he expected to find within, in the “board of the holy office.” The door-keepers surveyed him doubtfully, but allowed him to pass. He entered the great hall, went up directly to the lofty crucifix described by Dellon, sat down on a form, wrote some notes, and then desired an attendant to carry in his name to the inquisitor. As he was walking across the hall, he saw a poor woman sitting by the wall. She clasped her hands, and looked at him imploringly. The sight chilled his spirits; and as he was asking the attendants the cause of her apprehension,—for she was awaiting trial,—Joseph a Doloribus came, in answer to his message, and was about to complain of the intrusion, when he parried the complaint by asking for the letter from the chief inquisitor. He promised to send it after him, and conducted him to the door. As they passed the poor woman, the doctor pointed to her, and said with emphasis, “Behold, father, another victim of the Holy Inquisition.” The other answered nothing; they bowed, and separated without a word.
When Dr. Buchanan published his “Christian Researches in Asia,” in the year 1812, the Inquisition still existed at Goa; but the establishment of constitutional government in Portugal, put an end to it throughout the whole Portuguese dominions.
Inquisition at Macerata, Italy.
Narrative of Mr. Bower. Meth. MAG. Third vol.
I never pretended that it was for the sake of religion alone, that I left Italy, On the contrary, I have often declared, that, had I never belonged to the Inquisition, I should have gone on, as most Roman Catholics do, without ever questioning the truth of the religion I was brought up in, or thinking of any other. But the unheard of cruelties of that hellish tribunal shocked me beyond all expression, and rendered me,—as I was obliged, by my office of Counsellor, to be accessary to them,—one of the most unhappy men upon earth. I therefore began to think of resigning my office; but as I had on several occasions, betrayed some weakness as they termed it, that is, some compassion and humanity, and had upon that account been reprimanded by the Inquisitor, I was well apprized that my resignation would be ascribed by him to my disapproving the proceedings of the holy tribunal. And indeed, to nothing else could it be ascribed, as a place at that board was a sure way to preferment, and attended with great privileges, and a considerable salary. Being, therefore, sensible how dangerous a thing it would be to give the least ground for any suspicions of that nature, and no longer able to bear the sight of the many barbarities practised almost daily within those walls, nor the reproaches of my conscience for being accessary to them, I determined, after many restless nights, and much deliberation, to withdraw at the same time from the Inquisition, and from Italy. In this mind, and in the most unhappy and tormenting situation that can possibly be imagined, I continued near a twelve-month, not able to prevail on myself to execute the resolution I had taken on account of the many dangers which I foresaw would inevitably attend it, and the dreadful consequences of my failing in the attempt. But, being in the mean time ordered by the Inquisitor, to apprehend a person with whom I had lived in the greatest intimacy and friendship, the part I was obliged to act on that occasion, left so deep an impression on my mind as soon prevailed over all my fears, and made me determine to put into execution, at all events, and without delay, the design I had formed. Of that transaction I shall give a particular account, as it will show in a very strong light the nature and proceedings of that horrid court.
The person whom the Inquisitor appointed me to apprehend was Count Vicenzo della Torre, descended from an illustrious family in Germany, and possessed of a very considerable estate in the territory of Macerata. He was one of my very particular friends, and had lately married the daughter of Signior Constantini, of Fermo, a lady no less famous for her good sense than her beauty. With her family too, I had contracted an intimate acquaintance, while Professor of Rhetoric in Fermo, and had often attended the Count during his courtship, from Macerata to Fermo, but fifteen miles distant. I therefore lived with both in the greatest friendship and intimacy; and the Count was the only person that lived with me, after I was made Counsellor of the Inquisition, upon the same free footing as he had done till that time. My other friends had grown shy of me, and gave me plainly to understand that they no longer cared for my company.
As this unhappy young gentleman was one day walking with another, he met two Capuchin friars, and turning to his companion, when they had passed, “what fools,” said he, “are these, to think they shall gain heaven by wearing sackcloth and going barefoot! Fools indeed, if they think so, or that there is any merit in tormenting one’s self; they might as well live as we do, and they would get to heaven quite as soon.” Who informed against him, whether the friars, his companion, or somebody else, I know not; for the inquisitors never tell the names of informers to the Counsellors, nor the names of the witnesses, lest they should except against them. It is to be observed, that all who hear any proposition that appears to them repugnant to, or inconsistent with the doctrines of holy mother church, are bound to reveal it to the Inquisitor, and also to discover the person by whom it was uttered; and, in this affair no regard is to be had to any ties, however sacred. The brother being bound to accuse the brother, the father the son, the son the father, the wife her husband, and the husband his wife; and all bound on pain of eternal damnation, and of being treated as accomplices if they do not denounce in a certain time; and no confessor can absolve a person who has heard anything said in jest or in earnest, against the belief or practice of the church, till that person has informed the Inquisitor of it, and given him all the intelligence he can concerning the person by whom it was spoken.
Whoever it was that informed against my unhappy friend, whether the friars, his companion, or somebody else who might have overheard him, the Inquisitor acquainted the board one night, (for to be less observed, they commonly meet, out of Rome, in the night) that the above mentioned propositions had been advanced, and advanced gravely, at the sight of two poor Capuchins; that the evidence was unexceptionable; and that they were therefore met to determine the quality of the proposition, and proceed against the delinquent.
There are in each Inquisition twelve Counsellors, viz: four Divines, four Canonists, and four Civilians. It is chiefly the province of the divines to determine the quality of the proposition, whether it is heretical, or only savors of heresy; whether it is blasphemous and injurious to God and His saints or only erroneous, rash, schismatical, or offensive to pious ears. The part of the proposition, “Fools! if they think there is any merit in tormenting one’s self,” was judged and declared heretical, as openly contradicting the doctrine and practice of holy mother church recommending austerities as highly meritorious. The Inquisitor observed, on this occasion, that by the proposition, “Fools indeed” &c., were taxing with folly, not only the holy fathers, who had all to a man practised great austerities, but St. Paul himself as the Inquisitor understood it, adding that the practice of whipping one’s self, so much recommended by all the founders of religious orders, was borrowed of the great apostle of the gentiles.
The proposition being declared heretical, it was unanimously agreed by the board that the person who had uttered it should be apprehended, and proceeded against agreeably to the laws of the Inquisition. And now the person was named; for, till it is determined whether the accused person should or should not be apprehended, his name is kept concealed from the counsellors, lest they should be biased, says the directory, in his favor, or against him. For, in many instances, they keep up an appearance of justice and equity, at the same time that, in truth, they act in direct opposition to all the known laws of justice and equity. No words can express the concern and astonishment it gave me to hear, on such an occasion, the name of a friend for whom I had the greatest esteem and regard. The Inquisitor was apprised of it; and to give me an opportunity of practising what he had so often recommended to me, viz. conquering nature with the assistance of grace, he appointed me to apprehend the criminal, as he styled him, and to lodge him safe, before daylight, in the prison of the holy inquisition. I offered to excuse myself, but with the greatest submission, from being in any way concerned in the execution of that order; an order, I said, which I entirely approved of, but only wished it might be put in execution by some other person; for your lordship knows, I said, the connection. But the Inquisitor shocked at the word, said with a stern look and angry tone of voice, “What! talk of connections where the faith is concerned? There is your guard,” (pointing to the Sbirri or bailiffs in waiting) “let the criminal be secured in St. Luke’s cell,” (one of the worst,) “before three in the morning.” He then withdrew, and as he passed me said, “Thus, nature is conquered.” I had betrayed some weakness or sense of humanity, not long before, in fainting away while I attended the torture of one who was racked with the utmost barbarity, and I had on that occasion been reprimanded by the Inquisitor for suffering nature to get the better of grace; it being an inexcusable weakness, as he observed, to be in any degree affected with the suffering of the body, however great, when afflicted, as they ever are in the Holy Inquisition, for the good of the soul. And it was, I presume, to make trial of the effect of that reprimand, that the execution of this cruel order was committed to me. As I could by no possible means decline it, I summoned all my resolution, after passing an hour by myself, I may say in the agonies of death, and set out a little after two in the morning for my unhappy friend’s house, attended by a notary of the Inquisition, and six armed Sbirri. We arrived at the house by different ways and knocking at the door, a maid-servant looked out of the window, and asked who knocked. “The Holy Inquisition,” was the answer, and at the same time she was ordered to awake nobody, but to come down directly and open the door, on pain of excommunication. At these
In the mean time, the husband awakening, and seeing me with my attendants, cried out, in the utmost surprise, “Mr. Bower!” He said no more, nor could I for some time utter a single word; and it was with much ado that, in the end I so far mastered my grief as to be able to let my unfortunate friend know that he was a prisoner of the Holy Inquisition. “Of the Holy Inquisition!” he replied. “Alas I what have I done? My dear friend, be my friend now.” He said many affecting things; but as I knew it was not in my power to befriend him, I had not the courage to look him in the face, but turning my back to him, withdrew, while he dressed, to a corner of the room, to give vent to my grief. The notary stood by, quite unaffected. Indeed, to be void of all humanity, to be able to behold one’s fellow-creatures groaning under the most exquisite torments cruelty can invent, without being in the least affected with their sufferings, is one of the chief qualifications of an inquisitor, and what all who belong to the Inquisition must strive to attain to. It often happens, at that infernal tribunal, that while the unhappy, and probably innocent, person is crying out in their presence on the rack, and begging by all that is sacred for one moment’s relief, in a manner one would think no human heart could withstand, it often happens, I say, that the inquisitor and the rest of his infamous crew, quite unaffected with his complaints, and deaf to his groans, to his tears and entreaties, are entertaining one another with the news of the town; nay, sometimes they even insult, with unheard of barbarity, the unhappy wretches in the height of their torment.
To return to my unhappy prisoner. He was no sooner dressed than I ordered the Bargello, or head of the Sbirri, to tie his hands with a cord behind his back, as is practised on such occasions without distinction of persons; no more regard being paid to men of the first rank, when charged with heresy, than to the meanest offender. Heresy dissolves all friendship; so that I durst no longer look upon the man with whom I had lived in the greatest friendship and intimacy as my friend, or show him, on that account, the least regard or indulgence.
As we left the chamber, the countess, who had been conveyed out of the room, met us, and screaming out in the most pitiful manner upon seeing her husband with his hands tied behind his back like a thief or robber, flew to embrace him, and hanging on his neck, begged, with a flood of tears, we would be so merciful as to put an end to her life, that she might have the satisfaction—the only satisfaction she wished for in this world, of dying in the bosom of the man from whom she had vowed never to part. The count, overwhelmed with grief, did not utter a single word. I could not find it in my heart, nor was I in a condition to interpose; and indeed a scene of greater distress was never beheld by human eyes. However, I gave a signal to the notary to part them, which he did accordingly, quite unconcerned; but the countess fell into a swoon, and the count was meantime carried down stairs, and out of the house, amid the loud lamentations and sighs of his servants, on all sides, for he was a man remarkable for the sweetness of his temper, and his kindness to all around him.
Being arrived at the Inquisition, I consigned my prisoner into the hands of a gaoler, a lay brother of St. Dominic, who shut him up in the dungeon above-mentioned, and delivered the key to me. I lay that night at the palace of the Inquisition, where every counsellor has a room, and returned next morning the key to the inquisitor, telling him that his order had been punctually complied with. The inquisitor had been already informed of my conduct by the notary, and therefore, upon my delivering the key to him, he said, “You have acted like one who is at least desirous to overcome, with the assistance of grace, the inclinations of nature;” that is, like one who is desirous, by the assistance of grace, to metamorphose himself from a human creature into a brute or a devil.
In the Inquisition, every prisoner is kept the first week of his imprisonment in a dark narrow dungeon, so low that he cannot stand upright in it, without seeing anybody but the gaoler, who brings him, every other day, his portion of bread and water, the only food allowed him. This is done, they say, to tame him, and render him, thus weakened, more sensible of the torture, and less able to endure it. At the end of the week, he is brought in the night before the board to be examined; and on that occasion my poor friend appeared so altered, in a week’s time, that, had it not been for his dress, I should not have known him. And indeed no wonder; a change of condition so sudden and unexpected; the unworthy and barbarous treatment he had already met with; the apprehension of what he might and probably should suffer; and perhaps, more than anything else, the distressed and forlorn condition of his once happy wife, whom he tenderly loved, whose company he had enjoyed only six months, could be attended with no other effect.
Being asked, according to custom, whether he had any enemies, and desired to name them, he answered, that he bore enmity to no man, and he hoped no man bore enmity to him. For, as in the Inquisition the person accused is not told of the charge brought against him, nor of the person by whom it is brought, the inquisitor asks him if he has any enemies, and desires him to name them. If he names the informer, all further proceedings are stopped until the informer is examined anew; and if the information is found to proceed from ill-will and no collateral proof can be produced, the prisoner is discharged. Of this piece of justice they frequently boast, at the same time that they admit, both as informers and witnesses, persons of the most infamous characters, and such as are excluded by all other courts. In the next place, the prisoner is ordered to swear that he will declare the truth, and conceal nothing from the holy tribunal, concerning himself or others, that he knows and the holy tribunal desires to know. He is then interrogated for what crime he has been apprehended and imprisoned by the Holy Court of the Inquisition, of all courts the most equitable, the most cautious, the most merciful. To that interrogatory the count answered, with a faint and trembling voice, that he was not conscious to himself of any crime, cognizable by the Holy Court, nor indeed by any other; that he believed and ever had believed whatever holy mother church believed or required him to believe. He had, it seems quite forgotten what he had unthinkingly said at the sight of the two friars. The inquisitor, therefore, finding that he did not remember or would not own his crime, after many deceitful interrogatories, and promises which he never intended to fulfil, ordered him back to his dungeon, and allowing him another week, as is customary in such cases, to recollect himself, told him that if he could not in that time prevail upon himself to declare the truth, agreeably to his oath, means would be found of forcing it from him; and he must expect no mercy.
At the end of the week he was brought again before the infernal tribunal; and being asked the same questions, returned the same answers, adding, that if he had done or said anything amiss, unwittingly or ignorantly, he was ready to own it, provided the least hint of it were given him by any there present, which he entreated them most earnestly to do. He often looked at me, and seemed to expect—which gave me such concern as no words can express—that I should say something in his favor. But I was not allowed to speak on this occasion, nor were any of the counsellors; and had I been allowed to speak, I durst not have said anything in his favor; the advocate appointed by the Inquisition, and commonly styled, “The Devil’s Advocate,” being the only person that is suffered to speak for the prisoner. The advocate belongs to the Inquisition, receives a salary from the Inquisition, and is bound by an oath to abandon the defence of the prisoner, if be undertakes it, or not to undertake it, if he finds it cannot be defended agreeably to the laws of the Holy Inquisition; go that the whole is mere sham and imposition. I have heard this advocate, on other occasions, allege something in favor of the person accused; but on this occasion he declared that be had nothing to offer in defence of the criminal.
In the Inquisition, the person accused is always supposed guilty, unless he has named the accuser among his enemies. And he is put to the torture if he does not plead guilty, and own the crime that is laid to his charge, without being so much as told what it is; whereas, in all other courts, where tortures are used, the charge is declared to the party accused before he is tortured; nor are they ever inflicted without a credible evidence of his guilt. But in the Inquisition, a man is frequently tortured upon the deposition of a person whose evidence would be admitted in no other court, and in all cases without hearing the charge. As my unfortunate friend continued to maintain his innocence, not recollecting what he had said, he was, agreeably to the laws of the Inquisition, put to the torture. He had scarcely borne it twenty minutes, crying out the whole time, “Jesus Maria!” when his voice failed him at once, and he fainted away. He was then supported, as he hung by his arms, by two of the Sbirri, whose province it is to manage the torture, till he returned to himself. He still continued to declare that he could not recollect his having said or done anything contrary to the Catholic faith, and earnestly begged they would let him know with what he was charged, being ready to own it if it was true.
The Inquisitor was then so gracious as to put him in mind of what he had said on seeing the two Capuchins. The reason why they so long conceal from the party accused the crime he is charged with, is, that if he should be conscious to himself of his having ever said or done anything contrary to the faith, which he is not charged with, he may discover that too, imagining it to be the very crime he is accused of. After a short pause, the poor gentleman owned that he had said something to that purpose; but, as he had said it with no evil intention, he had never more thought of it, from that time to the present. He added, but with a voice so faint, as scarce could be heard, that for his rashness he was willing to undergo what punishment soever the holy tribunal should, think fit to impose on him; and he again fainted away. Being eased for a while of his torment, and returned to himself, he was interrogated by the promoter fiscal (whose business it is to accuse and to prosecute, as neither the informer nor the witnesses, are ever to appear,) concerning his intention. For in the Inquisition, it is not enough for the party accused to confess the fact, he must declare whether his intention was heretical or not; and many, to redeem themselves from the torments they, can no longer endure, own their intention was heretical, though it really was not My poor friend often told us, he was ready to say whatever he pleased, but as he never directly acknowledged his intention to have been heretical, as is required by the rules of the court, he was kept on the torture still, quite overcome with the violence of the anguish, he was ready to expire. Being
The death of the unhappy Count Della Torre was soon publicly known; but no man cared to speak of it, not even his nearest relations, nor so much as to mention his name, lest anything should inadvertently escape them that might be construed into a disapprobation of the proceedings of the most holy tribunal; so great is the awe all men live in of that jealous and merciless court.
The deep impression that the death of my unhappy friend, the barbarous and inhuman treatment he had met with, and the part I had been obliged to act in so affecting a tragedy, made on my mind, got at once the better of my fears, so that, forgetting in a manner the dangers I had till then so much apprehended, I resolved, without further delay to put in execution the design I had formed, of quitting the Inquisition, and bidding forever adieu to Italy. To execute that design with some safety, I proposed to beg leave to visit the Virgin of Loretto, but thirteen miles distant, and to pass a week there; but in the mean time, to make the best of my way out of the reach of the Inquisition.
Having, therefore, after many conflicts with myself, asked leave to visit the neighboring sanctuary, and obtained it, I set out on horseback the very next morning, leaving, as I proposed to keep the horse, his full value with the owner. I took the road to Loretto, but turned out of it a short distance from Recanati, after a most violent struggle with myself, the attempt appearing to me at that juncture, quite desperate and impracticable; and the dreadful doom reserved for me should I miscarry, presented itself to my mind in the strongest light. But the reflection that I had it in my power to avoid being taken alive, and a persuasion that a man in my situation might lawfully avoid it, when every other means failed him, at the expense of his life, revived my staggered resolution; and all my fears ceasing at once, I steered my course, leaving Loretto behind me, to Rocca Contrada, to Fossonbrone, to Calvi in the dukedom of Urbino, and from thence through the Romagna into Bolognese, keeping the by-roads, and at a good distance from the cities through which the high road passed.
Thus I advanced very slowly, travelling in very bad roads, and often in places where there was no road at all, to avoid, not only the cities, and towns, but also the villages. In the mean time I seldom had any other support but some coarse provisions, and a very small quantity even, of them, that the poor shepherds, the countrymen or wood cleavers I met in those unfrequented by-places, could spare me. My horse fared not much better than myself; but, in choosing my sleeping-place I consulted his convenience as much as my own, passing the night where I found most shelter for myself, and most grass for him. In Italy there are very few solitary farm-houses or cottages, the country people all living together in villages; and I thought it far safer to lie where I could be in any way sheltered, than to venture into any of them. Thus I spent seventeen days before I got out of the ecclesiastical state; and I very narrowly escaped being taken or murdered, on the very borders of that state; it happened thus.
I had passed two whole days without any kind of subsistence whatever, meeting with no one in the by-roads that could supply me with any, and fearing to come near any house, as I was not far from the borders of the dominions of the Pope. I thought I should be able to hold out till I got into the Modanese, where I believed I should be in less danger than while I remained in the papal dominions. But finding myself, about noon of the third day, extremely weak and ready to faint away, I came into the high road that leads from Bologna to Florence, a few miles distant from the former city, and alighted at a post house, that stood quite by itself. Having asked the woman of the house whether she had any victuals, and being told that she had, I went to open the door of the only room in the house, (that being a place where gentlemen only stop to change horses,) and saw to my great surprise, a placard pasted on it, with a minute description of my whole person, sad a promise of a reward of 900 crowns (about 200 pounds English money) for delivering me up alive to the Inquisition, being a fugitive from that holy tribunal, and of 600 crowns for my head. By the same placard, all persons were forbidden, on pain of the greater excommunication, to receive or harbor, entertain, conceal, or screen me, or to be in any way aiding, or assisting me to make my escape. This greatly alarmed me, as the reader may well imagine; but I was still more frightened, when entering the room, I saw two fellows drinking there, who, fixing their eyes on me as soon as I went in, continued looking at me very steadfastly. I strove, by wiping my face and blowing my nose, and by looking out of the window, to prevent their having a full view of my features. But, one of them saying, “The gentleman seems afraid to be seen,” I put up my handkerchief, and turning to the fellow, said boldly, “What do you mean you rascal? Look at me; am I afraid to be seen?” He said nothing, but looking again steadfastly at me, and
Having rested a few days at Chiavenna, I resumed my journey quite refreshed, continuing it through the country of the Grisons, and the two small cantons of Ury and Underwald, to the canton of Lucerne. There I missed my way, as I was quite unacquainted with the country, and discovering a city at a distance, was advancing to it, but slowly, as I knew not where I was, when a countryman whom I met, informed me that the city before me was Lucerne. Upon that intelligence, I turned out of the road as soon as the countryman was out of sight, and that night I passed with a good natured shepherd in his cottage, who supplied me with sheep’s milk, and my horse with plenty of grass. I set out early next morning, making my way westward, as I knew that Berne lay west of Lucerne. But, after a few miles, the country proved very mountainous, and having travelled the whole day over mountains I was overtaken among them by night. As I was looking out for a place where I might shelter myself during the night, against the snow and rain, (for it both snowed and rained,) I perceived a light at a distance, and making towards it, I got into a kind of foot-path, but so narrow and rugged that I was obliged to lead my horse, and feel my way with one foot, (having no light to direct me,) before I durst move the other. Thus, with much difficulty I reached the place where the light was, a poor little cottage, and knocking at the door, was asked by a man within who I was, and what I wanted? I answered that I was a stranger
Having at length got safe into French Flanders, I there repaired to the college of the Scotch Jesuits at Douay, and discovering myself to the rector, I acquainted him with the cause of my sudden departure from Italy, and begged him to give notice of my arrival, as well as the motives of my flight to Michael Angelo Tambuvini, general of the order, and my very particular friend.
The rector wrote as I desired him, to the general, and he, taking no notice of my flight, in his answer, (for he could not disapprove, and did not think it safe to approve of it,) ordered me to continue where I was till further notice. I arrived at Douay early in May, and continued there till the beginning of July, when the rector received a second letter from the general, acquainting him that he had been commanded by the congregation of the Inquisition, to order me, wherever I was, back into Italy; to promise me, in their name, full pardon and forgiveness if I obeyed, but if I did not obey, to treat me as an apostate. He added, that the same order had been transmitted, soon after my flight, to the nuncios at the different Roman Catholic courts; and he, therefore, advised me to consult my own safety without further delay.
Upon the receipt of the general’s kind letter, the rector was of opinion that I should repair by all means, and without loss of time, to England, not only as the safest asylum I could fly to, in my present situation, but as a place where I should soon recover my native language, and be usefully employed, either there or in Scotland. The place being thus agreed on, and it being at the same time settled between the rector and me, that I should set out the very next morning, I solemnly promised, at his request and desire, to take no kind of notice, after my arrival in England, of his having been in any way privy to my flight, or the general’s letter to him. This promise I have faithfully and honorably observed; and should have thought myself guilty of the blackest ingratitude if I had not observed it, being sensible that, had it been known at Rome, that, either the rector or general had been accessary to my flight, the inquisition would have resented it severely in both. For although a Jesuit in France, in Flanders, or in Germany, is out of the reach of the Inquisition, the general is not; and the high tribunal not only have it in their power to punish the general himself, who resides constantly at Rome, but may oblige him to inflict what punishment they please on any of the order obnoxious to them.
The rector went that very night out of town, and in his absence, but not without his privity, I took one of the horses of the college, early next morning, as if I were going for a change of air, being somewhat indisposed, to pass a few days at Lisle; but steering a different course, I reached Aire that night and Calais the next day. I was there in no danger of being stopped and seized at the prosecution of the Inquisition, a tribunal no less abhorred in France than in England. But being informed that the nuncios at the different courts had been ordered, soon after my flight, to cause me to be apprehended in Roman Catholic countries through which I must pass, as an apostate and deserter from the order, I was under no small apprehension of being discovered and apprehended
In the year 1706, the Inquisition at Arragon was broken up by the French troops, under the command of the Duke of Orleans. The Holy Inquisitors were driven from their beautiful house, and in answer to their indignant remonstrance were told that the king wanted the house to quarter his troops in, and they were therefore compelled to leave it immediately. The doors of the prisons were then thrown open, and among the four hundred prisoners who were set at liberty were sixty young women, very beautiful in person, and clad in the richest attire.
Anthony Gavin, formerly one of the Roman Catholic priests of Saragossa, Spain, relates (in a book published by him after his conversion) that when travelling in France he met one of those women in the inn at Rotchfort; the son of the inn-keeper, formerly an officer in the French army, having married her for her great beauty and superior intelligence. In accordance with his request, she freely related to him the incidents of her prison life, from which we take the following extract:
“Early the next morning, Mary got up, and told me that nobody was up yet in the house; and that she would show me the dry pan and the gradual fire, on condition that I should keep it a secret for her sake as well as my own. This I promised, and she took me along with her, and showed me a dark room with a thick iron door, and within it an oven and a large brass pan upon it, with a cover of the same and a lock to it. The oven was burning at the time, and I asked Mary for what purpose the pan was there. Without giving me any answer, she took me by the hand and led me to a large room, where she showed me a thick wheel, covered on both sides with thick boards, and opening a little window in the center of it, desired me to look with a candle on the inside of it, and I saw all the circumference of the wheel set with sharp razors. After that she showed me a pit full of serpents and toads. Then she said to me, ’Now, my good mistress, I’ll tell
Llorente, the Spanish historian and secretary-general of the Inquisition, relates the following incident: “A physician, Juan de Salas, was accused of having used a profane expression, twelve months before, in the heat of debate. He denied the accusation, and produced several witnesses to prove his innocence. But Moriz, the inquisitor at Valladolid, where the charge was laid, caused de Salas to be brought into his presence in the torture-chamber, stripped to his shirt, and laid on a ladder or donkey, an instrument resembling a wooden trough, just large enough to receive the body, with no bottom, but having a bar or bars to placed that the body bent, by its own weight, into an exquisitely painful position. His head was lower than his heels, and the breathing, in consequence, became exceedingly difficult. The poor man, so laid, was bound around the arms and legs with hempen cords, each of them encircling the limb eleven times.
“During this part of the operation they admonished him to confess the blasphemy; but he only answered that he had never spoken a sentence of such a kind, and then, resigning himself to suffer, repeated the Athanasian creed, and prayed to God and our Lady many times. Being still bound, they raised his head, covered his face with a piece of fine linen, and, forcing open the mouth, caused water to drip into it from an earthen jar, slightly perforated at the bottom, producing in addition to his sufferings from distension, a horrid sensation of choking. But again, when they removed the jar for a moment, he declared that he had never uttered such a sentence; and this he often repeated. They then pulled the cords on his right leg, cutting into the flesh, replaced the linen on his face, dropped the water
Llorente also relates, from the original records, another case quite as cruel and unjust as the above. “On the 8th day of December, 1528, one Catalina, a woman of bad character, informed the inquisitors that, eighteen years before she had lived in the house with a Morisco named Juan, by trade a coppersmith, and a native of Segovia; that she had observed that neither he nor his children ate pork or drank wine, and that, on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings they used to wash their feet, which custom, as well as abstinence from pork and wine, was peculiar to the Moors. The old man was at that time an inhabitant of Benevente, and seventy-one years of age. But the inquisitors at once summoned him into their presence, and questioned him at three several interviews. All that he could tell was, that he received baptism when he was forty-five years of age; that having never eaten pork or drunk wine, he had no taste for them; and that, being coppersmiths, they found it necessary to wash themselves thoroughly once a week. After some other examinations, they sent him back to Benevente, with prohibition to go beyond three leagues’ distance from the town. Two years afterwards the inquisitor determined that he should be threatened with torture, in order to obtain information that might help them to criminate others. He was accordingly taken to Valladolid, and in a subterranean chamber, called the ’chamber, or dungeon, of torment,’ stripped naked, and bound to the ‘ladder.’ This might well have extorted something like confession from an old man of seventy-one; but he told them that whatever he might say when under torture would be merely extorted by the extreme anguish, and therefore unworthy of belief; that he would not, through fear of pain, confess what had never taken place. They kept him in close prison until the next Auto de Fe, when he walked among the penitents, with a lighted candle in his hand, and, after seeing others burnt to death, paid the holy office a fee of four ducats, and went home, not acquitted, but released. He was not summoned again, as he died soon afterwards.”
It sometimes happened that an individual was arrested by mistake, and a person who was entirely innocent was tortured instead of the real or supposed criminal. A case of this kind Mr. Bower found related at length in the “Annals of the Inquisition at Macerata.”
“An order was sent from the high tribunal at Rome to all the inquisitors throughout Italy, enjoining them to apprehend a clergyman minutely described in that order. One Answering the description in many particulars being discovered in the diocese of Osimo, at a small distance from Macerata, and subject to that Inquisition, he was there decoyed into the holy office, and by an order from Rome so racked as to lose his senses. In the mean time, the true person being apprehended, the unhappy wretch was dismissed, by a second order from Rome, but he never recovered the use of his senses, nor was any care taken of him by the inquisition.”
It would be easy to fill a volume with such narratives as the above, but we forbear. We are not writing a history of the Inquisition. We simply wish to exhibit the true spirit by which the Romanists are actuated in their dealings with those over whom they have power. We therefore, in closing this chapter of horrors, beg leave to place before our readers one of the fatherly benedictions with which, His Holiness, the Pope, dismisses his refractory subjects. Does it not show most convincingly what he would do here in America, if he had, among us, the power he formerly possessed in the old world, when the least inadvertent word might perchance seal the doom of the culprit?
“Pronounced on all who leave the Church of Rome. By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all celestial virtues, Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim, and of all the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, and of all the Apostles and Evangelists, of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the holy Lamb are found worthy to sing the new song of the Holy Martyrs and Holy Confessors, and of all the Holy Virgins, and of all the Saints, together with the Holy Elect of God,—may he be damned. We excommunicate and anathematize him, from the threshold of the holy church of God Almighty. We sequester him, that he may be tormented, disposed, and be delivered over with Datham and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord, ‘Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways;’ as a fire is quenched with water, so let the light of him be put out forevermore, unless it shall repent him, and make satisfaction. Amen.
“May the Father who creates man, curse him. May the Son, who suffered for us, curse him! May the Holy Ghost who is poured out in baptism, curse him! May the Holy Cross, which Christ for our salvation, triumphing over his enemies, ascended, curse him!
“May the Holy Mary, ever Virgin and Mother of God, curse him! May all the Angels, Principalities, and Powers, and all heavenly Armies curse him! May the glorious band of the Patriarchs and Prophets curse him! “May St. John the Precursor, and St John the Baptist, and St. Peter and St Paul, and St. Andrew and all other of Christ’s Apostles together curse him and may the rest of the Disciples and Evangelists who by their preaching converted the universe, and the Holy and wonderful company of Martyrs and Confessors, who by their works are found pleasing to God Almighty; may the holy choir of the Holy Virgins, who for the honor of God have despised the things of the world, damn him. May all the Saints from the beginning of the world to everlasting ages, who are found to be beloved of God, damn him!
“May he be damned wherever he be, whether in the house or in the alley, in the woods or in the water, or in the church! May he be cursed in living or dying!
“May he be cursed in eating and drinking, in being hungry, in being thirsty, in fasting and sleeping, in slumbering, and in sitting, in living, in working, in resting, and in blood letting! May he be cursed in all the faculties of his body!
“May he be cursed inwardly and outwardly. May he be cursed in his hair; cursed be he in his brains, and his vertex, in his temples, in his eyebrows, in his cheeks, in his jaw-bones, in his nostrils, in his teeth, and grinders, in his lips, in his shoulders, in his arms, and in his fingers.
“May he be damned in his mouth, in his breast, in his heart, and purtenances, down to the very stomach!
“May he be cursed in his reins and groins, in his thighs and his hips, and in his knees, his legs and his feet, and his toe-nails!
“May he be cursed in all his joints, and articulation of the members; from the crown of the head to the soles of his feet, may there be no soundness!
“May the Son of the living God, with all the glory of his majesty, curse him! And may Heaven, with all the powers that move therein, rise up against him, and curse and damn him; unless he repent and make satisfaction! Amen! So be it. Be it so. Amen.”
Such was the curse pronounced on the Rev. Wm. Hogan, (a converted Roman Catholic priest) a few years since, in Philadelphia.
As a further proof of the cruel, persecuting spirit of Catholicism, let us glance at a few extracts from their own publications.
“Children,” they say, “are obliged to denounce their parents or relations who are guilty of heresy; although they know that they will be burnt. They may refuse them all nourishment, and permit them to die with hunger; or they may kill them as enemies, who violate the rights of humanity.—Escobar, Theolg. Moral, vol. 4, lib. 31, sec. 2, precept 4, prop. 5, p. 239.”
“A man condemned by the Pope, may be killed wherever he is found.”—La Croix, vol. 1, p. 294.
“Children may kill their parents, if they would turn their children from the Popish faith.” “If a judge decide contrary to law, the injured person may defend himself by killing the judge.”—Fangundez Precept Decal, vol. 1, lib. 4, chap. 2, p. 501, 655, and vol. 2, lib. 8, chap. 32; p. 390.
“To secretly kill your calumniator, to avoid scandal, is justifiable.”—Ayrault, Cens. p. 319.
“You may kill before hand, any person who may put you to death, not excepting the judge, and witnesses, because it is self-defence.”—Emanuel Sa. Aphor, p. 178.
“A priest may kill those who hinder him from taking possession of any Ecclesiastical office.”—Arnicus, Num, 131.
“You may charge your opponent with false crime to take away his credit, as well as kill him.”—Guimenius, prop, 8, p. 86.
“Priests may kill the laity to preserve their goods.”— Nolina, vol. 3, disput. 16, p. 1786.
“You may kill any man to save a crown.”—Taberna, Synop. Theol. Tract, pars. 2, chap. 27, p. 256.
“By the command of god it is lawful to murder the innocent, to rob, and to commit all kind of wickedness, because he is the lord of life and death, and all things; and thus to fulfill his mandate is our duty.”—Alagona, Thorn. Aquin, Sum. Theol. Compend, Quest. 94, p. 230.
Again, in the Romish Creed found in the pocket of Priest Murphy, who was killed in the battle of Arklow, 1798, we find the following articles. “We acknowledge that the priests can make vice virtue, and virtue vice, according to their pleasure.
“We are bound to believe that the holy massacre was lawful, and lawfully put into execution, against Protestants, and likewise we are to continue the same, provided with safety to our lives!
“We are bound not to keep our oaths with heretics, though bound by the most sacred ties. We are bound not to believe their oaths; for their principles are damnation. We are bound to drive heretics with fire, sword, faggot, and confusion, out of the land; as our holy fathers say. if their heresies prevail we will become their slaves. We are bound to absolve without money or price, those who imbrue their hands in the blood of a heretic!” Do not these extracts show very clearly that Romanism can do things as bad as anything in the foregoing narrative?
Romanism of the present day.
Whenever we refer to the relentless cruelties of the Romanists, we are told, and that, too, by the influential, the intelligent, those who are well-informed on other subjects, that “these horrid scenes transpired only in the ‘dark ages;’” that “the civilization and refinement of the present age has so modified human society, so increased the milk of human kindness, that even Rome would not dare, if indeed she had the heart, to repeat the cruelties of by-gone days.”
For the honor of humanity we could hope that this opinion was correct; but facts of recent date compel us to believe that it is as false as it is ruinous to the best interests of our country and the souls of men. A few of these facts, gathered from unquestionable sources, and some of them related by the actors and sufferers themselves, we place before the reader.
In November, 1854, Ubaldus Borzinski, a monk of the Brothers of Mercy, addressed an earnest petition to the Pope, setting forth the shocking immoralities practised in the convents of his order in Bohemia. He specifies nearly forty crimes, mostly perpetrated by priors and subpriors, giving time, place, and other particulars, entreating the Pope to interpose his power, and correct those horrible abuses.
For sending this petition, he was thrown into a madhouse of the Brothers of Mercy, at Prague, where he still languishes in dreary confinement, though the only mark of insanity he ever showed was in imagining that the Pope would interfere with the pleasures of the monks.
This Ubaldus has a brother, like minded with himself, also a member of the same misnamed order of monks, who has recently effected his escape from durance vile.
John Evangelist Borzinski was a physician in the convent of the Brothers of Mercy at Prague. He is a scientific and cultivated man. By the study of the Psalms and Lessons from the New Testament, which make up a considerable part of the Breviary used in cloisters, he was first led into Protestant views. He had been for seventeen years resident in different cloisters of his order, as sick-nurse, alms gatherer, student, and physician, and knew the conventual life out and out. As he testifies: “There was little of the fear of God, so far as I could see, little of true piety; but abundance of hypocrisy, eye-service, deception, abuse of the poor sick people in the hospitals, such love and hatred as are common among the children of this world, and the most shocking vices of every kind.”
He now felt disgust for the cloister life, and for the Romish religion, and he sought, by the aid of divine grace, to attain to the new birth through the Word of God. Speaking of his change of views to a Prussian clergyman, he thus describes his conversion: “Look you, it was thus I became a Protestant. I found a treasure in that dustheap, and went away with it.” This treasure he prized more and more. He then thought within himself, if these detached passages can give such light, what an illumination he must receive if he could read and understand the whole Bible.
He did not, however, betray his dissatisfaction, but devoted himself to his professional duties with greater diligence. He might still have remained in the Order, his life hid with Christ in God, had not the hierarchy, under pretence of making reforms and restoring the neglected statutes of the Order, brought in such changes for the worse as led him to resolve to leave the order, and the Romish church as well. Following his convictions, and the advice of a faithful but very cautious clergyman, he betook himself to the territories of Prussia, where, on the 17th of January, 1855, he was received into the national church at Petershain, by Dr. Nowotny, himself formerly a Bohemian priest. This was not done till great efforts had been made to induce him to change his purpose, and also to get his person into the power of his adversaries. As he had now left the church of Rome, become an openly acknowledged member of another communion, he thought he might venture to return to his own country. Taking leave of his Prussian friends, to whom he had greatly endeared himself by his modesty and his lively faith, he went back to Bohemia, with a heart full of peace and joy.
He lived for some time amidst many perplexities, secluded in the house of his parents at Prosnitz, till betrayed by some who dwelt in the same habitation. On the 6th of March he was taken out of bed, at eight, by the police, and conveyed first to the cloister in Prosnitz, where he suffered much abuse, and from thence to the cloister in Prague. Here the canon Dittrich, “Apostolical Convisitator of the Order of the Brothers of Mercy,” justified all the inhuman treatment he had suffered, and threatened him with worse in case he refused to recant and repent. Dittrich not only deprived him of his medical books, but told him that his going over to Protestantism was a greater crime than if he had plundered the convent of two thousand florins. He was continually dinned with the cry, “Retract, retract!” He was not allowed to see his brother, confined in the same convent, nor other friends, and was so sequestered in his cell as to make him feel that he was forgotten by all the world.
He managed, through some monks who secretly sympathized with him, to get a letter conveyed occasionally to Dr. Nowotny. These letters were filled with painful details of the severities practised upon him. In one of them he says, “My only converse is with God, and the gloomy walls around me.” He was transferred to a cell in the most unwholesome spot, and infested with noisome smells not to be described. Close by him were confined some poor maniacs, sunk below the irrational brutes.
Under date of April 23d he writes: “Every hour, in this frightful dungeon seems endless to me. For many weeks have I sat idle in this durance, with no occupation but prayer and communion with God.” His appeals to civil authority and to the Primate of Hungary procured him no redress, but only subjected him to additional annoyances and hardships. His aged father, a man of four-score years, wept to see him, though of sound understanding, locked up among madmen; and when urged to make his son recant, would have nothing to do with it, and returned the same day to his sorrowful home. As he had been notified that he was to be imprisoned for life, he prayed most earnestly to the Father of mercies for deliverance; and he was heard, for his prayers and endeavors wrought together. The sinking of his health increased his efforts to escape; for, though he feared not to die, he could not bear the thought of dying imprisoned in a mad-house, where he knew that his enemies would take advantage of his mortal weakness to administer their sacraments to him, and give out that he had returned to the bosom of the church, or at least to shave his head, that he might be considered as an insane person, and his renunciation of Romanism as the effect of derangement of mind. Several plans of escape were projected, all beset with much difficulty and danger. The one he decided upon proved to be successful.
On Saturday, the 13th of October, at half-past nine in the evening, he fastened a cord made of strips of linen to the grate of a window, which grate did not extend to the top. Having climbed over this, he lowered himself into a small court-yard. He had now left that part of the establishment reserved for the insane, and was now in the cloistered part where the brethren dwelt. But here his fortune failed him. He saw at a distance a servant of the insane approaching with a light; and with aching heart and trembling limbs, by a desperate effort, climbed up again. He returned to his cell, concealing his cord, and laid himself down to rest.
On the following Monday, he renewed his efforts to escape. He lowered himself, as before, into the little court-yard; but being weak in health and much shaken in his nervous system by all he had suffered in body and mind, he was seized with palpitation of the heart and trembled all over, so that he could not walk a step. He laid down to rest and recover his breath. He felt as if he could get no further. “But,” he says in his affecting narrative, “My dear Saviour to whom I turned in this time of need, helped me wonderfully. I felt now, more than ever in my life, His gracious and comforting presence, and believed, in that dismal moment, with my whole soul, His holy word;” “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Borzinski now arose, pulled off his boots, and though every step was made with difficulty, he ascended the stairs leading to the first story. He went along the passage way until he came to a door leading into corridors where the cloister brethren lodged. But the trembling fit came over him again, with indescribable anguish, as he sought to open the door with a key with which he had been furnished. He soon rallied again, and, like a spectre, gliding by the doors of the brethren, who occupied the second and third corridors, many of whom had lights still burning, he came with his boots in one hand, and his bundle in the other, to a fourth passage way, in which was an outside window he was trying to reach. The cord was soon fastened to the window frame, yet still in bitter apprehension; for this window was seldom opened, and opened hard, and with some noise. It was also only two steps distant from the apartment of the cloister physician, where there was a light, and it was most likely that, on the first grating of the window, he would rush out and apprehend the fugitive. However the window was opened without raising any alarm, and now it was necessary to see that no one was passing below; for though the spot is not very much frequented, yet the streets cross there, and people approach it from four different directions. During these critical moments, one person and another kept passing, and poor Borzinski tarried shivering in the window for near a quarter of an hour before he ventured to let himself down. While he was waiting his opportunity he heard the clock strike the third quarter after nine and knew that he had but fifteen minutes to reach the house where he was to conceal himself, which would be closed at ten. When all was still, he called most fervently on the Saviour, and grasping the cord, slid down into the street. He could scarce believe his feet were on the ground. Trembling now with joy and gratitude rather than fear, he ran bareheaded to his place of refuge, where he received a glad welcome. Having changed his garb, and tarried till three o’clock in the morning, he took leave of his friends and passing through the gloomy old capital of Bohemia, he reached the Portzitscher Gate, in order to pass out as early as possible. Just then a police corporal let in a wagon, and Borzinski, passed out unchallenged. It is needless to follow him further in his flight. We have given enough, of his history to prove that conventual establishments are at this moment what they ever have been—dangerous alike to liberty and life. American and foreign Christian union.
In place of labored arguments we give the following history of personal suffering as strikingly illustrative of the spirit of Romanism at the present day.
Narrative op signorina FLORIENCIA D’
native of the city of Naples.
I was born in the year 1826, of noble and wealthy parents. Our mansion contained a small chapel, with many images, sacred paintings, and a neatly furnished mass altar. My father was a man of the world. He loved the society of fashionable men. As he lived on the rents and income of his estates, he had little to do, except to amuse himself with his friends. My mother, who was of as mild and sweet disposition, loved my father very dearly, but was very unhappy the most of the time because my father spent so much of his time in drinking with his dissolute companions, card playing, and in balls, parties, theatres, operas, billiards, &c. Father did not intend to be unkind to my mother, for he gave her many servants, and abundance of gold, horses, carriages and grooms, and said frequently in my hearing, that his wife should be as happy as a princess. Such was the state of society in Italy that men thought their wives had no just reason to complain, so long as they were furnished with plenty of food, raiment and shelter.
One of my father’s most intimate friends was the very Rev. Father Salvator, a Priest of the order of St. Francis; he wore the habit of the order, his head was about half shaved. The sleeves of his habit were very large at the elbow; in these sleeves he had small pockets, in which he usually carried his snuff box, handkerchief, and purse of gold. This priest was merry, full of fun and frolic; he could dance, sing, play cards, and tell admirably funny stories, such as would make even the devils laugh in their chains.
Such was the influence and power this Franciscan had over my father and mother, that in our house, his word was law. He was our confessor, knew the secrets and sins, and all the weak points of every mind in the whole household. My own dear mother taught me to read before I was seven years of age. As I was the only child, I was much petted and caressed, indeed, such was my mother’s affection for me that I was seldom a moment out of her sight. There was a handsome mahogany confessional in our own chapel. When the priest wanted any member of the household to come to him to confession, he wrote the name on a slate that hung outside the chapel door, saying that he would hear confessions at such a time to-morrow. Thus, we would always have time for the full examination of our consciences. Only one at a time was ever admitted into the chapel, for confessional duty, and the priest always took care to lock the door inside and place the key in his sleeve pocket. My mother and myself were obliged to confess once a week; the household servants, generally once a month. My father only once a year, during Lent, when all the inhabitants of seven years, and upwards, are obliged to kneel down to the priests, in the confessional, and receive the wafer God under the severest penalties. Woe to the individual who resists the ecclesiastical mandate.
When I was about fourteen years of age, I was sent to the Ursuline Convent, to receive my education. My dear mother would have preferred a governess or a competent teacher to teach me at home but her will was but a mere straw in the hands of our confessor and priestly tyrant. It was solely at the recommendation of the confessor, that I was imprisoned four years in the Ursuline Convent. As my confessor was also the confessor of the convent, he called himself my guardian and protector, and recommended me to the special care of the Mother Abbess, and her holy nuns, the teachers, who spent much of their time in the school department. As my father paid a high price, quarterly, for my tuition and board, I had a good room to myself, my living was of the best kind, and I always had wine at dinner. The nuns, my teachers, took much more pains to teach me the fear of the Pope, bishops and confessors, than the fear of God, or the love of virtue. In fact, with the exception of a little Latin and embroidery, which I learned in those four years, I came out as ignorant as I was before, unless a little hypocrisy may be called a useful accomplishment. For, of all human beings on earth, none can teach hypocrisy so well as the Romish priests and nuns. In the school department young ladies seldom have much to complain of, unless they are charity scholars; in that case the poor girls have to put up with very poor fare, and much hard work, hard usage and even heavy blows; how my heart has ached for some of those unfortunate girls, who are treated more like brutes, than human beings, because they are orphans, and poor. Yet they in justice are entitled to good treatment, for thousands of scudi (dollars) are sent as donations to the convents for the support of these orphans, every year, by benevolent individuals. So that as poor and unfortunate as these girls are, they are a source of revenue to the convents.
For the first three years of my convent life, I passed the time in the school department, without much anxiety of mind. I was gay and thoughtless, my great trouble was to find something to amuse myself, and kill time in some way. Though I treated all the school-mates with kindness, and true Italian politeness, I became intimate with only one. She was a beautiful girl, from the dukedom of Tuscany. She made me her confidant, and told me all her heart. Her parents were wealthy, and both very strict members of the Romish Church. But she had an aunt in the city of Geneva, who was a follower of John Calvin, or a member of the Christian church of Switzerland. This aunt had been yearly a visitor at her father’s house. She being her father’s only sister, an affectionate intimacy was formed between the aunt and niece. The aunt, being a very pious, amiable woman, felt it her duty to impress the mind of the niece, with the superiority of the religion of the holy bible over popish traditions; and the truth of the Scriptures soon found its way to the heart of my
From this, the best friend of my school days, I learned more about God’s word, and virtue, and truth, and the value of the soul, than from all other sources. There was a garden surrounded by a high wall, in which we frequently walked, and whispered to each other, though we trembled all the while for fear our confessor would by some means, find out that we looked upon the Romish church as the Babylon destined to destruction, plainly spoken of by St. John the revelator.
My young friend stood in great fear of the priests; she trembled at the very sight of one.
Her aunt had read to her the history and sufferings of the persecuted Protestants of Europe. She was a frail, and timid girl, yet such was the depth of her piety and the fervor of her religious faith, that she often declared to me that she would prefer death to the abandonment of those heavenly principles she had embraced, which were the source of her joy and hope. Her aunt gave her a pocket New Testament, in the Italian language, which she prized above all the treasures of earth, and carried with her carefully, wherever she went. I borrowed it and read it every opportunity I had. Several chapters I learned by heart. I took much pains to commit to memory all I could of the blessed book, for in case of our separation, I knew not where I could obtain another. My god-father who was a bishop, called to see me on my fifteenth birth day, and presented me with a splendid gold watch and chain richly studded with jewels, made in England, and valued at 200 scudi, saying that he had it imported expressly for my use. I had also several diamond articles of jewelry, presents I had received from my father from time to time. I had also, in my purse, 100 scudi in gold, which I had saved from my pin money. All the above property, I should have cheerfully given for a copy of the Holy Bible, in my own beautiful Italian language. A few months after I received the rich present from the Bishop, he called with my father and my confessor to see me. My heart almost came into my mouth when I saw them alight from my father’s carriage, and enter the chapel door of the convent. Very soon the lady porter came to me and said, “Signorina, you are wanted in the parlor.”
As my Tuscan friend had taught me to pray, and ask the Lord Jesus for grace and strength, I walked into my room, locked the door, and on my knees, called upon the Lord to save me from becoming a nun—for I knew then it was a determination on the part of the Abbess, bishop and confessor, that I should take the veil. I was the only child, and heiress of an immense fortune, of course, too good a prize to be lost. After a short and fervent prayer to my Lord and Saviour, I walked down to see what was to be my doom. I kissed my father’s cheek, and kissed the hands of the Bishop and confessor—yet my very soul revolted from the touch of these whited sepulchres. All received me with great cordiality, yea, even more than usual affection. Soon after our meeting, my father asked permission of the Bishop to speak to me privately and taking me into a small room, said to me, “My dear daughter, you are not aware of the great misfortune that has recently come upon your father. While I was excited with wine at the card-table last evening, betting high and winning vast sums of money, I so far forgot myself and my duty to the laws of the country, that I called for a toast, and induced a number of my inebriated companions to drink the health of Italian liberty, and we all drank and gave three cheers for liberty and a liberal constitution. A Benedictine Friar being present, took all our names to the Commissary General, and offered to be a witness against us in the King’s Court. As this is my first and only offence, the holy Bishop your god-father offers on certain conditions, to visit Rome immediately on my behalf, and secure the mediation of the holy Father Pius IX. Your venerable god-father has great influence at Rome, being a special favorite with his holiness, and his holiness can obtain any favor he asks of King Ferdinand. So if you will only consent to take the Black Veil, your father will be saved from the State prison.”
This was terrible news to my young and palpitating heart. It was the first heavy blow that I had experienced in this vale of tears. I did not speak for some minutes; I could not. My trembling bosom heaved like the waves of the ocean before the blast. My veins were almost bursting; my hands and feet became as cold as marble, and when I attempted to speak my words seemed ready to choke me to death. I thought my last hour had come. I fell upon my knees and called upon God for mercy and help. My father, thinking I had gone mad, was greatly alarmed. The Bishop and confessor, who were anxiously waiting the result of my father’s proposition, hearing my father weep and sob aloud, came in to see what the matter was. In the midst of my prayer, I fainted away, and became entirely unconscious. When I came to myself, I found myself on the bed. As I opened my eyes, it all seemed like a dream. The abbess spoke to me very kindly, and sprinkled my bed with holy water, and at the same time laid a large bronze crucifix on my breast, saying that Satan must
My head ached so violently at the time, and I was so feverish that I begged the old woman to send for my mother, and to talk to me no more on the subject of the black veil, but to drop it until some future time. In my agony on account of the foul plot against my liberty, my virtue, and my gold, I felt such a passion of rage come upon me, that had I absolute power for the moment I would have cast every Abbess, Pope, Bishop and Priest into the bottomless pit. May the Lord forgive me, but I would have done it at that time with a good will. The greatest comfort I now had was reading my Tuscan friend’s New Testament, or hearing it read by her when we had a chance to be by ourselves, which was not very often. In the evening of the same day of my illness, father and mother came to see me, and Satan came also in the shape of the confessor; so that I had not a moment alone with my dear parents. The confessor feared my determined opposition to a convent’s life, for he had previous to this, several times in the confessional, dropped hints to me on the great happiness, purity, serenity and joy of all holy nuns. But I always told him I would not be a nun for the world. I should be so good, it would kill me in a short time. “No, no, father,” said I, “I will not be A nun.”
Father spoke to me again of his great misfortune—told me that his trial would come on in a few days and that he was now at liberty on a very heavy bail; that the Bishop was only waiting my answer to start immediately for the holy city, and throw himself at the feet of the holy Pope to procure father’s unconditional pardon from the King. I said “my dear father, how long will you be imprisoned if you do not get a pardon?” “From two to five years,” he replied. “My daughter, it is my first offence, and I have witnesses to prove that the priest who appeared against me, urged me to drink wine several times after I had drank a large quantity, and was the direct cause of my saying what I did.” Now it all came to me, that the whole of it was a plot, a Jesuitical trick, to get my father in the clutches of the law, and then make a slave of me for life through my sympathy for my dear father.
The vile priests knew that I loved my father most ardently; in fact, my father and mother were the only two beings on earth that I did love. My mother I loved most tenderly, but my affection for my father was of a different kind. I loved him most violently, with all the ardor of my soul. Mother seemed all the home to me; but father was to me all the world beside. My father was all the brother I had. He would frequently come home, and get me to go out into the garden and play with him, just as though he was my brother. There we would swing, run, jump and exercise in several healthy games, common in our climate. He never gave me an unkind word or an unkind reproof. If I did say anything wrong, he would take me to my mother and say, “Clara, here I bring you a prisoner, let her be kept on bread and water till dinner time.” Even when mother had displeased him about some trifle, so that he had not a smile for her, he always had a smile for his Flora. Even now, while I write, a chill comes over my frame, while I think of that vile Popish plot. I said to my father, “You shall not be imprisoned if I can prevent it; at the same time I do not see any great gain, comfort or profit in having your only daughter put in prison for life, without the hope of liberty ever more, to save you from two years imprisonment.”
At these words, the eyes of the confessor flashed like lurid lightnings; his very frame shook, as though he had the fever and ague. Truth seemed so strange to the priest, that he found it hard of digestion. Father and mother both wept, but made no reply. The idea of putting their only child in a dungeon for life, though it might be done in the sacred name of religion, did not seem to give them much comfort “Father,” said I, “I wish to see you at ten o’clock to-morrow morning, without fail—I wish to see you alone; don’t bring mother or any one else with you. You shall not go to prison, all will yet be well.” On account of this reasonable request, to see my father alone, the confessor arose in a terrible rage and left the apartment As quick as the mad priest left us to ourselves, I told my father my plan, or what I would like to do with his permission. My plan was, for my mother and myself to get into our carriage and drive to the palace of King Ferdinand and make him acquainted with all the truth; for I was aware from what I had heard, that the King had heard only the priest’s side of the story. My father stood in such fear of the priests that he only consented to my plan with great reluctance, saying that we ought first to make our plan known to the confessor, lest he should be offended. To this my mother responded, saying, “My daughter, it would be very wrong for us to go to the King, or take any step without the advice of our spiritual guide.” Here, I felt it to be my duty to reveal to my deceived parents some of the secrets of the confessional, though I might, in their estimation, be guilty of an unpardonable sin by breaking the seal of iniquity. I revealed
On the following day, at twelve o’clock, we left the convent in our carriage for the palace. We were very politely received by the gentleman usher, who conducted us to seats in the reception-room. After sending our cards to the king, we waited nearly one hour before he made his appearance. His majesty received us with much kindness, raised us immediately from our knees, and demanded our business. I was greatly embarrassed at first, but the frank and cordial manner of the sovereign soon restored me to my equilibrium, and I spoke freely in behalf of my dear father. The king heard me through very patiently, with apparent interest, and said, “Signorina, I am inclined to believe you have spoken the truth; and as your father has always been a good loyal subject, I shall, for your sake, forgive him this offence; but let him beware that henceforth, wine or no wine, be does not trespass against the laws of the kingdom, for a second offence I will not pardon. Go in peace, signoras, you have my royal word.”
We thanked his majesty, and returned to our home with the joyful tidings. O, how brief was our joy! My father, who had been waiting the result of our visit to the palace with great impatience, received us with open arms, and pressed us to his heart again and again.
I was so excited that, long before we got to him, I cried out, “All is well, all is well, father. A pardon from the king! Joy, joy!” We drove home, and father went immediately to spread the happy news amongst his friends. All our faithful domestics, including my old affectionate nurse, were so overjoyed at the news that they danced about like maniacs. My father was always a very indulgent and liberal master, furnished his servants with the best of Italian fare, plenty of fresh beef, wine, and macaroni. We had scarcely got rested, when our tormenter, the confessor, came into our room and said, “Signoras, what is the meaning of all this fandango and folly amongst the servants? Are the heretics all killed, that there should be such joy, or has the queen been delivered of a son, an heir to the throne?”
My dear mother was now as pale as death, and silent, for she saw that the priest was awfully enraged; for, although he feigned to smile, his smile was similar to that of the hyena when digging his prey out of the grave. The priest’s dark and villainous visage had the effect of confirming in my mother’s mind all the truth regarding the plot to enslave me for life, and secure all my father’s estate to the pockets of the priests. The confessor was now terribly mad, for two obvious reasons: one was because he was not received by us with our usual cordiality and blind affection; the other, because, by the king’s pardon, I was not under the necessity to sacrifice my liberty and happiness for life to save my father from prison; and what tormented him the most was, that he believed that I, though young, could understand and thwart his hellish plans. As my mother trembled and was silent, fearing the priest was cursing her and her only daughter in his heart,—for the priests tell such awful stories about the effects of a priest’s curse that the great mass of the Italian people fear it more than the plague or any earthly misfortune.
The popish priests declare that St. Peter is the doorkeeper of the great city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, that he has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and has received strict orders not to admit any soul, under any circumstances, who has been cursed by a holy priest, unless that curse has been removed by the same priest in the tribunal of penance. I was obliged to speak to his reverence, and I felt so free, so happy in Christ as my only hope, that I opened my mind to the priest very freely, and told him what I thought of him and his plot. “Sir priest,” said I, “I shall never return to the convent to stay long. As soon as the time for my education ends, I shall return to liberty and domestic life. I am not made of the proper material to make a nun of. I love the social domestic circle; I love my father and mother, and all our domestics, even the dogs and the cats, pigeons, and canaries, the fish-ponds, play-grounds, gardens, rivers, and landscapes, mountain and ocean,—all the works of God I love. I shall live out of the convent to enjoy these things; therefore, reverend sir, if you value my peace and good-will, never speak to me or my parents on the subject of my becoming a nun in any convent. I shall prefer death to the loss of my personal liberty.”
I was so decided, and had received such strength and grace from heaven, that the priest was dumbfounded,—my smooth stone out of the sling had hit him in the right place. After much effort to appear bland and good-natured, he drew near my chair, seized my hand, and said, “My dear daughter, you mistake me. I love you as a daughter, I wish only your happiness. Your god-father, the holy Bishop, does not intend that you shall remain a common nun more than a year. After the first year you shall be raised to the highest dignity in the convent. You shall be the Lady Superior, and all the nuns shall bow at your feet, and implicitly obey your commands.
“The Lady Superior of St. Clara is now very old, and his lordship wishes soon to fill her place. For that purpose he has selected his adopted daughter. Your talents, education, wealth, and high position in society, eminently fit you for one of the highest dignities on earth.”
“A thousand thanks for the kindness of my lord Bishop,” said I; “but your reverence has not altered my mind in the least. I can never bow down to the feet of any Lady Superior, neither will I ever consent to see a single human being degraded at my feet. The holy Bible says, ’Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’” “Bible, my daughter!” exclaimed the priest, “Where did you see that dangerous book? Know you not that his holiness the Pope has placed it in the Index Expurgatorius, because it has been the means of the damnation of millions of souls? Not because it is in itself a bad book, but because it is a theological work, prepared only for the priests and ministers of our holy religion. Therefore, it is always a very dangerous book in the hands of women or laymen, who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.”
“Well, reverend sir,” I replied, “you seem determined to differ from the Lord Jesus and his apostles. I read in the New Testament that we should search the Scriptures because they testify of Christ. And one of the apostles, I don’t remember which, said, ’all scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness.’ Now, reverend sir, if the people have souls, as well as the priests, why should they not read the word of God which speaks of Christ and is profitable for instruction?”
“You are almost a heretic!” exclaimed the priest, “and you talk very much like one.” His countenance changed to a pale sickly hue, as he said, “My daughter, where did you get that dangerous book? If you have, it in your possession, give it to me, and I will bless you, and pray for you to the blessed Madonna that she may save you from the infernal pit of heresy.”
“I do not own the blessed book,” said I, “but I wish I did. I would give one hundred scudi in gold for a copy of the New Testament. I borrowed a copy from a friend, and returned it to the owner again. But I understand that there are copies to be had in London, and when I have a good opportunity I shall send for a copy, if I can do it unbeknown to any one.”
“Enough, enough!” exclaimed the priest. “I shall be in the tribunal of penance at six o’clock P.M.; there I shall expect to meet you. You need pardon immediately, and spiritual advice. Should you die as you now are without absolution, you would be lost and damned forever. I tremble for you, my dear daughter, seeing that the devil has got such a powerful hold of you. It may even be absolutely necessary to kill the body to save your soul; for should you relapse again into heresy after due penance for this crime has been performed, it would be impossible to renew you again to repentance, seeing you crucify the Lord and the Madonna afresh, and put them to an open shame.”
Here my mother fainted and shook like an aspen leaf. But God gave me strength, and I said in a moment that as his reverence thought my sins so great, I would not go to any man, no, not even to the Pope; I would go to God alone, and leave my cause in his hands, life or death. “Therefore, reverend sir, I shall save you from all further trouble in attending the confessional any more on my account. From henceforth no earthly power shall drag me alive and with my consent to the tribunal of penance.”
“Woman!” exclaimed the priest furiously, “are you mad? There are ten thousand devils in you, and we must drive them out by some means.” After this discharge of priestly venom, the priest left in a rage giving the door a terrible slam, which awoke my mother from her sorrowful trance. During the whole conversation, such was the electrical power of the priest over my mother’s weak and nervous system, that if she attempted to say a word in my behalf, the keen, snakish black eye of the priest would at once make her tremble and quail before him, and the half uttered word would remain silent on her lips. The priest went at once in search of my father. He came home boiling over with rage, saying he wished I had never been born. He cursed the day of my birth. The cause of all this paternal fury upon my poor devoted head was the foul misrepresentations of my father confessor, who was now in league with the Bishop, both determined to shut me up in a prison convent, or end my mortal career.
My poor mother remained mute and heart-broken. My sweet mother; never did she utter one word of unkindness to me; her very look to the last was one of gentleness and love. But my father loved honor and reputation amongst men above all other things. The idea of being the father of an accursed heretic, tormented his pride, and he being suspected of heresy himself caused him to be forsaken by many of his proud friends and acquaintances. He was even insulted in the streets by the numerous Lazaroni, with the epithet of Maldito Corrobonari, so that I lost my father’s love. And when the confessor told him there was no other way to save me from hell than an entire life of penance in a convent, he heartily and freely gave his consent. Mother, my own sweet mother, my only remaining friend, turned as pale as death, but was enabled to say a word in my behalf.
I saw that my earthly doom was sealed; there was not a single voice in all Naples to save me from imprisonment for life. Not a tongue in four hundred thousand that would dare speak one word in my behalf. Father commanded me to get ready to leave his house forever that very night, saying the carriage and confessor would be on hand to take me away at eight o’clock P.M., by moonlight. I got on my knees and begged my father as a last request that he would allow me to remain three days with my mother, but he refused. Said he, “That is now beyond my power. Not an hour can you remain after eight o’clock.”
As I knew not when I should see my Tuscan friend again, I begged the privilege of seeing her for a few moments. I was anxious to ask her prayers and sympathy, and to put her on her guard, for should the priests discover her New Testament, they would punish her as they did me, or as they intended to do to me. But this favor was denied me, and I could not write to her, for all letters of the scholars in the convents, are opened under the pretence to prevent them from receiving love-letters. The Romish church keeps all her dark plans a secret, but never allows any secret to be kept from the priests.
I went into my room to bid farewell to my home forever. I fell on my knees and prayed to God for his dear Son’s sake to help me, to give me patience, and to keep me from the sin of suicide. The more I thought of my utterly unprotected situation and of the savage disposition of my foes, the priests, the more I thought of the propriety of taking my own life, rather than live in a dungeon all my days. Such was the power of superstition over our domestics that they looked upon me as one accursed of the church, a Protestant heretic, and not one of them would take my hand or bid me good bye. At tea-time I was not allowed to sit at table with father, mother, and the confessor, as formerly. But I had my supper sent up to my room.
A short time after the bell rang for vespers, the carriage being ready, my father and the confessor with myself and one small trunk got into the best seats inside, and rode off at a rapid rate. I kept my veil over my face, and said not a word neither did I shed a single tear; my sorrow, and indignation was too deep for utterance or even for tears. The priest and my father uttered not a word. Perhaps my father’s conscience made him ashamed of such vile work—that of laying violent hands on a defenceless girl of eighteen years of age, for no crime whatever, only the love of liberty and pure Bible religion. But if the priest was silent, his vile countenance indicated a degree of hellish pleasure and satisfaction. Never did piratical captain glory more in seeing a rich prize along side with all hands killed and out of the way, than my reverend confessor; yet a short time before he said he loved me as a daughter. Yes, he did love me, as the wolf loves the lamb, as the cat loves the mouse and as the boa constrictor the beautiful gazelle. To my momentary satisfaction we entered the big gate of St. Ursula, for although I knew I should suffer there perhaps even death, there was some satisfaction in seeing a few faces that I had seen in my gay and happy days, now alas! forever gone by! I was somewhat grieved by the cold reception I received. All seemed to look upon me with horror. But none of these things moved me; I looked to God for strength, for I felt that He alone could nerve me for the conflict. The hardest blow of all was, my dear father left me at the mercy of the priest without one kind look or word. He did not even shake hands with me, nor did he say farewell.
Oh Popery, what a mysterious power is thine! Thou canst in a few hours destroy powerful love which it took long years to cement in loving hearts. When my father had left and I heard the porter lock the heavy iron gate I felt an exquisite wretchedness come over me. I would have given worlds for death at that moment. In a few moments the priest rung a bell, and the old Jezebel the mother Abbess made her appearance. “Take this heretic, Holy Mother, and place her in confinement in the lower regions; give her bread and water once in twenty-four hours, the water that you have washed your sacred feet in, no other; give her straw to sleep on, but no pillow. Take all her clothing away and give her a coarse tunic; one single coarse garment to cover her nakedness, but no shoes. She has grievously sinned against the holy mother church, and now she mercifully imposes upon her years of severe penance, that her body of sin may be destroyed and her soul saved after suffering one million of years in holy purgatory. Our chief duty now, holy mother, in order to save this lost soul from mortal sin will be to examine her carefully every, day to ascertain if possible what she most dislikes, or what is most revolting to her flesh, that whatever it may be, she, must be compelled to perform it whatever it may cost. Let a holy wax candle burn in her cell at night, until further orders. And let the Tuscan heretic be treated in the same way. They are both guilty of the same crimes.” At the word “Tuscan heretic,” possessing the spirit of Christ that I knew on earth. Yet how true it is that misery loves company; there was even satisfaction in being near my unfortunate friend though our sufferings might be unutterable. Still I was unhappy in the thought that she was suffering on my account. Had I never said a word about borrowing a New Testament, she would never have been suspected as being the direct cause of my conversion to the truth, and of my renunciation of the vile confessional.
I was somewhat puzzled to know what kind of a place was meant by the lower regions; I had never heard of these regions before. But soon two women in black habits with their faces entirely covered excepting two small holes for the eyes to peep through, came to me and without speaking, made signs for me to follow them. I did so without resistance, and soon found myself in an under-ground story of the infernal building. “There is your cell,” said the cowled inquisitors, “look all around, see every thing, but speak not; no not for your life. The softest whisper will immediately reach the ears of the Mother Abbess, and then you are loaded with heavy chains until you die, for there must be no talking or whispering in this holy retreat of penance. And,” said my jailor further, “take off your clothes, shoes and stockings, and put on this holy coarse garment which will chafe thy flesh but will bless thy soul. Holy St. Francis saved many souls by this holy garment.”
As resistance was worse than useless, I complied, and soon found my poor feet aching with the cold on the bare stone floor. I was soon made to feel the blessing of St. Francis with a vengeance. My sufferings were indescribable. It seemed as though ten thousand bees had stung me in every part. I never closed my eyes for several nights. I laid on my coarse straw and groaned and sighed for death to come and relieve me of my anguish. As soon as the holy wax candle was left with me I took it in my hand and went forth to survey my dungeon; but I did not enjoy my ramble. In one of the cells, I found my Tuscan friend—that dear Christian sister—in great agony, having had on the accursed garment for several days. Her body was one entire blister, and very much inflamed. Her bones were racked with pain, as with the most excruciating inflammatory rheumatism. We recognized each other; she pointed to heaven as if to say ’trust in the Lord, my sister, our sufferings will soon be over.’ I kissed my hand to her and returned again to my cell. I saw other victims half dead and emaciated that made my heart sick. I refrained from speaking to any one for I feared my condition, wretched as it was, might be rendered even worse, if possible by the fiends who had entire power over me. “O my God!” said I to myself, “why was I born? O give my soul patience to suffer every pain.”
On the fourth day of my imprisonment the jailor brought me some water and soap, a towel, brush and comb, and the same clothes I wore when I entered the foul den. They told me to make haste and prepare myself to appear before the holy Bishop. Hope revived in my soul, for I always thought that my god-father had some regard for me, and had now come to release me from the foul den I was in. Cold water seemed to afford much relief to my tortured body. I made my toilet as quick as I could in such a place. My feet were so numb and swollen that it was difficult for me to get my shoes on. At last the Bishop arrived as I supposed, and I was conducted—not into his presence as I expected, but into that of my bitterest enemy, the confessor. At the very sight of the monster, I trembled like a reed shaken by the wind. The priest walked to each of the doors, locked them, put the keys into a small writing desk, locked it, took out the key and placed it carefully in his sleeve pocket. This he did to assure me that we were alone, that not one of the inmates could by any means disturb for the present the holy meditations of the priest. He bade me take a seat on the sofa by him. In kind soft words he said to me, that if I was only docile and obedient, he would cause me to be treated like a princess, and that in a short time I should have my liberty if I preferred to return to the world. At the same time he attempted to put his arm around my waist. In a moment I was on my feet. While he was talking love to me, I was looking at two large alabaster vases full of beautiful wax flowers; one of them was as much as
As I had not a nun’s dress on, no one supposed I belonged to the Institution. I walked down directly to the sea coast. I could speak a few English words which I had learned from some English friends of my father. Before I got to where the boats lay I saw a gentleman whom I took to be an English or American gentleman. He had a pleasant face, looked at me very kindly, saw my pale dejected face and at once felt a deep sympathy for me. As I appeared to be in trouble and needed help, he extended his hand to me and said in tolerable good Italian, “Como va’ le’ signorina?” that is “How do you do young lady?” I asked him what was his country. “Me,” said he, “Americano, Americano, capitano de Bastimento.” (American captain of a ship.) “Signor Capitano,” said I, “I wish to go on board your ship and see an American ship.” “Well,” said he, “with a great deal of pleasure; my ship lies at anchor, my men are waiting; you shall dine with me, Signorina.”
I praised God in my soul for this merciful providence of meeting a friend, though a stranger, whose face seemed to me so honest and so true. Any condition, even honest slavery, would have been preferred by me at that time to a convent. The American ship was the most beautiful thing I ever saw afloat; splendid and neat in all her cabin arrangements. The mates were polite, and the sailors appeared neat and happy. Even the black cook showed his beautiful white teeth, as though he was glad to see one of the ladies of Italy. Poor fellows! Little did they know at that time what peril I was in should I be found out and taken back to my dungeon again. I informed the captain of my situation, of having just escaped from a convent into which I had been forced against my will. I told him I would pay him my passage to America, if he would hide me somewhere until the ship was well out to sea. He said I had come just in time, for he was only waiting for a fair wind, and hoped to be off that evening. “I have,” said he, “a large number of bread-casks on board, and two are empty. I shall have you put into one of these, in which I shall make augur-holes, so that you can have plenty of fresh air. Down in the hold amongst the provisions you will be safe.” I thanked my kind friend and requested him to buy me some needles, silk, and cotton thread, and some stuff for a couple of dresses, and one-piece of fine cotton, so that I might make myself comfortable during the voyage.
After I ate my dinner, the men called the captain and said there were several boats full of soldiers coming to the ship, accompanied by the priests. “Lady,” exclaimed the captain, “they are after you. There is not a moment to be lost. Follow me,” he continued. “And, Mr. Smith, tell the men to be careful and not make known that there is a lady on board.”
An awful cold chill ran over me. I followed my friend quickly, and soon found myself coiled in a large cask. The captain coopered the head, which was missing, and made holes for me to get the air; but the perspiration ran off my face in a stream. Lots of things were piled on the cask, so that I had hard work to breathe; but such was my fear of the priests that I would rather have perished in the cask than be returned to die by inches.
The captain had been gone but a short time when I heard steps on deck, and much noise and confusion. As the hatches were open, I could hear very distinctly. After the whole company were on deck, the captain invited the priests and friars, about twenty in number, to walk down to the cabin, and explain the cause of their visit. They talked through an interpreter, and said that “a woman of bad character had robbed one of the churches of a large amount of gold, had attempted to murder one of the holy priests, but they were happy to say that the holy father, though badly wounded, was in a fair way of recovery. This woman is young, but very desperate, has awful raving fits, and has recently escaped from a lunatic institution. When her fits of madness come on they are obliged to put her into a straight jacket, for she is the most dangerous person in Italy. A great reward is offered for her by her father and the government—five thousand scudi. Is not this enough to tempt one to help find her? She was seen coming towards the shipping, and we want the privilege of searching your ship.”
“Gentlemen,” said the captain, “I do not know that the Italian authorities have any right to search an American ship, under the stars and stripes of the United States, for we do not allow even the greatest naval power on earth to do that thing. But if such a mad and dangerous woman as you have described should by any means have smuggled herself on board my ship, you are quite welcome to take her away as soon as possible, for I should be afraid of my life if I was within one hundred yards of such an unfortunate creature. If you can get her into your lunatic asylum, the quicker the better; and the five thousand scudi will come in good time, for I am thinking of building me a larger ship on my return home. Now, gentlemen, come; I will assist you, for I should like to see the gold in my pocket.” The captain opened all his closets and secret places, in the cabin and forecastle and in the hold; everything was searched, all but the identical bread-cask in which I was snugly coiled.
After something like half an hour’s search, the soldiers of King Ferdinand and the priests of King Pope left the ship, satisfied that the crazy nun was not on board; for, judging the captain by themselves, they thought he certainly would have given up a mad woman for the sake of five thousand scudi in gold, and for the safety of his own peace and comfort. A few moments after the Pope’s friends had left, the excellent benevolent captain came down, and speedily and gently knocking off a few hoops with a hammer, took the head out, and I was free once more to breathe God’s free air. I lifted my trembling heart in thanksgiving, while tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks. Yet, as we were still within the reach of the guns of the papal forts, my heart was by no means at rest. But the good captain assured me repeatedly that all danger was past, for he had twenty-five men on board, all true Protestants, and he declared that all the priests of Naples would walk over their dead bodies before they should reach his vessel a second time. “And besides,” said the captain, “there are two American men-of-war in port, who will stand up for the rights of Americans. They have not yet forgotten Captain Ingraham, of the United States ship St. Louis, and his rescue from the Austrian papists of the Hungarian patriot, Martin Kozsta.” The captain wisely refused to purchase any needles or thread for me on shore, or any articles of ladies’ dress, for fear of the Jesuitical spies, who might surmise something and cause further trouble. But he kindly furnished me with some goods he had purchased for his own wife, and there were needles and silk enough on board, so that I soon cut and made a few articles that made me very comfortable during our voyage of thirty-two days to London.
Early the next morning we sailed out of the beautiful harbor of Naples, with a fair wind. The beautiful ship seemed to fly over the blue sea. I staid on deck gazing at my native city as long as I could. I thought then of my once happy home, of my poor, broken-hearted mother, of my unhappy father. Although he had cast me off through the foul play of Jesuitical intrigue, my love for my dear father remained the same. “Farewell, my dear Italy,” I said to myself. “When, my poor native land, wilt thou be happy? Never, never, so long as the Pope lives, and his wicked, murderous priests, to curse thee by their power.”
After we got out into the open sea, the motion of the ship made me feel very sick, and I was so starved out before I came on board, that what good provisions I ate on board did not seem to agree with me. My stomach was in a very bad state, for while I was in the lower regions of the convent I ate only a small quantity of very stale hard bread once in twenty-four hours, at the ringing of the vesper bells every evening, and the water given me was that in which the holy Mother Abbess had washed her sacred feet. But I must give the holy mother credit for one good omission—she did not use any soap.
The captain gave me a good state-room which I occupied with an English lady passenger. This good lady was accustomed to the sea, therefore, she did not suffer any inconvenience from sea-sickness; but I was very sick, so that I kept my berth for five days. This good Protestant lady was very kind and attentive during the whole passage, and kindly assisted me in getting my garments made up on board. On our arrival in London, the captain said that he would sail for America in two weeks time, and very kindly offered me a free passage to his happy, native land; and I could not persuade him to take any money for my passage from Naples, nor for the clothing he had given me.
My fellow passenger being wealthy, and well acquainted with people in England, took me to her splendid home, a few miles from London. At her residence I was introduced to a young French gentleman, a member of the Evangelical protestant church in France, and a descendant of the pious persecuted Huguenots. This gentleman speaks good English and Italian, having enjoyed the privilege of a superior education. His fervent prayers at the family altar morning and evening made a very deep impression on my mind. He became deeply interested in my history, and offered to take me to France, after I should become his lawful wife.
Though I did not like the idea of choosing another popish country for my residence, yet as my friend assured me that I should enjoy my protestant religion unmolested, I gave him my hand and my heart. My lady fellow passenger was my bridesmaid. We were married by a good protestant minister. My husband is a wealthy merchant—gives me means and opportunities for doing good. Home is precious in a foreign land. Our home is one of piety and peace and happiness. The blessed Bible is read by us every day. Morning and evening we sing God’s praise, and call upon the name of the Lord. Our prayer is that God may deliver beloved France and Italy from the curse of popery.
Another proof of the persecuting spirit of Rome is furnished by the “Narrative of Raffaele Ciocci, formerly a Benedictine Monk, but who now ’comes forth from Inquisitorial search and torture, and tells us what he has seen, heard and felt.’” We can make but a few extracts from this interesting little volume, published by the American and Foreign Christian Union, who,—to use their own language—“send it forth as a voice of instruction and warning to the American people. Let the facts be heard and read. They are not to be set aside by an apology for the dark ages, nor an appeal to the refinement of the nineteenth century. Here is Rome, not as she was in the midnight of the world, but as she is at the present moment. There is the same opposition to private judgment —the same coercive measures—the same cruel persecution— the same efforts to crush the civil and religious liberties of her own subjects, for which she has ever been characterized.”
Ciocci, compelled at an early age to enter the Catholic College—forced, notwithstanding his deep disgust and earnest remonstrance, to become a monk—imprisoned— deceived—the victim of priestly artifice and fraud, at length becomes a Christian. He is of course thrown into a deeper dungeon; and more exquisite anguish inflicted upon him that he may be constrained to return to the Romish faith. Of his imprisonment he says, “We traversed long corridors till we arrived at the door of an apartment which they requested me to enter, and they themselves retired. On opening the door I found myself in a close dark room, barely large enough for the little furniture it contained, which consisted of a small hard bed, hard as the conscience of an inquisitor, a little table cut all over, and a dirty ill-used chair. The window which was shut and barred with iron resisted all my efforts to open it My heart sunk within me, and I began to cogitate on the destiny in store for me.” The Jesuit Giuliani entering his room, he asked that the window might be opened for the admission of light and air. Before the words were finished he exclaimed in a voice of thunder, “How! wretched youth, thou complainest of the dark, whilst thou art living in the clouds of error? Dost thou desire the light of heaven, while thou rejectest the light of the Catholic faith?”
Ciocci saw that remonstrance was useless, but he reminded his jailer that he had been sent there for three days, to receive instruction, not to be treated as a criminal.
“For three days,” he resumed, counterfeiting my tone of voice, “for three days! That would be nothing. The dainty youth will not forsooth, be roughly treated; it remains to be seen whether he desires to be courteously entertained. Be converted, be converted, condemned soul! Fortunate is it for thee that thou art come to this place. Thou wilt never quit it excepting with the real fruits of repentance! Among these silent shades canst thou meditate at thy leisure upon the
“In the mean time the miseries I endured were aggravated by the heat of the season, the wretchedness of the chamber, scantiness of food, and the rough severity of those by whom I was occasionally visited. Uncertainty as to when this imprisonment would be at an end, almost drove me wild, and the first words I addressed to those who approached me were, ’Have the kindness to tell me when I shall be permitted to leave this place?’ One replied, ‘My son, think of hell.’ I interrogated another; the answer was, ’Think my son, how terrible is the death of the sinner!’ I spoke to a third, to a fourth, and one said to me, ’My son, what will be your feeling, if, on the day of judgment you find yourself on the left hand of God?’ the other, ‘Paradise, my son, Paradise!’ No one gave me a direct answer; their object appeared to be to mistify and confound me. After the first few days, I began to feel most severely the want of a change of clothing. Accustomed to cleanliness, I found myself constrained to wear soiled apparel. * * * For the want of a comb, my hair became rough and entangled. After the fourth day my portion of food was diminished; a sign, that they were pressing the siege, that it was their intention to adopt both assault and blockade—to conquer me by arms, or induce me to capitulate through hunger. I had been shut up in this wretched place for thirteen days, when, one day, about noon, the Father Mislei, the author of all my misery, entered my cell.
“At the sight of this man, resentment overcame every other consideration, and I advanced towards him fully prepared to indulge my feelings, when he, with his usual smile, expressed in bland words his deep regret at having been the cause of my long detention in this retreat. ‘Never could I have supposed,’ said he, ’that my anxiety for the salvation of your soul would have brought you into so much tribulation. But rest assured the fault is not entirely mine. You have yourself, in a great degree, by your useless obstinacy, been the cause of your sufferings. Ah, well, we will yet remedy all.’ Not feeling any confidence in his assurance, I burst out into bitter invectives and fierce words. He then
The fourteenth day of his imprisonment he was taken to the council to hear his sentence, when he was again urged to sign the form of recantation. But he refused. The Father Rossini then spoke: “Yon are decided; let it be, then, as you deserve. Rebellious son of the church, in the fullness of the power which she has received from Christ, you shall feel the holy rigor of her laws. She cannot permit tares to grow with the good seed. She cannot suffer you to remain among her sons and become the stumbling-block for the ruin of many. Abandon, therefore, all hope of leaving this place, and of returning to dwell among the faithful. Know, all is finished for you!”
For the conclusion of this narrative we refer the reader to the volume itself.
If any more evidence were needed to show that the spirit of Romanism is the same to-day that it has ever been, we find it in the account of a legal prosecution against ten Christians at Beldac, in France, for holding and attending a public worship not licensed by the civil authority. They had made repeated, respectful, and earnest applications to the prefect of the department of Hante-Vienne for the authorization required by law, and which, in their case, ought to have been given. It was flatly refused. They persisted in rendering to God that worship which his own command and their consciences required. For this they were arraigned as above stated, on the 10th of August, 1855. On the 26th of January, 1856, the case was decided by the “tribunal,” and the three pastors and one lady, a schoolmistress, were condemned to pay a fine of one thousand francs each, and some of the others five-hundred francs each, the whole amount, together with legal expenditures, exceeding the sum of nine thousand francs.
Meantime, the converts continue to hold their worship-meetings in the woods, barns, and secret places, in order not to be surprised by the police commissioner, and to avoid new official reports.
“Thus, you see,” says V. De Pressense, in a letter to the ‘American and foreign Christian Union,’ “that we are brought back to the religious meetings of the desert, when the Protestants of the Cevennes evinced such persevering fidelity. The only difference is, that these Christians belonged only a short time ago to that church which is now instigating persecutions against them.”
In 1809, Col. Lehmanowsky was attached to the part of Napoleon’s army which was stationed in Madrid. “While in that city,” said Col. L., “I used to speak freely among the people what I thought of the Priests and Jesuits, and of the Inquisition. It had been decreed by the Emperor Napoleon that the Inquisition and the Monasteries should be suppressed, but the decree, he said, like some of the laws enacted in this country, was not executed.”
Months had passed away, and the prisons of the Inquisition had not been opened. One night, about ten or eleven o’clock, as he was walking one of the streets of Madrid, two armed men sprang upon him from an alley, and made a furious attack. He instantly drew his sword, put himself in a posture of defence, and while struggling with them, he saw at a distance the lights of the patrols,—French soldiers mounted, who carried lanterns, and who rode through the streets of the city at all hours of the night, to preserve order. He called to them in French, and as they hastened to his assistance, the assailants took to their heels and escaped; not, however, before he saw by their dress that they belonged to the guards of the Inquisition.
He went immediately to Marshal Soult, then Governor of Madrid, told him what had taken place, and reminded him of the decree to suppress this institution. Marshal Soult told him that he might go and suppress it The Colonel said that his regiment (the 9th. of the Polish Lancers,) was not sufficient for such a service, but if he would give him two additional regiments, the 117th, and another which he named, he would undertake the work. The 117th regiment was under the command of Col. De Lile, who is now, like Col. L., a minister of the gospel, and pastor of an evangelical church in Marseilles, France. “The troops required were granted, and I proceeded,” said Col. L., “to the Inquisition which was situated about five miles from the city. It was surrounded by a wall of great strength, and defended by a company of soldiers. When we arrived at the walls, I addressed one of the sentinels, and summoned the holy fathers to surrender to the Imperial army, and open the gates of the Inquisition. The sentinel who was standing on the wall, appeared to enter into conversation with some one within, at the close of which he presented his musket, and shot one of my men. This was the signal of attack, and I ordered my troops to fire upon those who appeared on the walls.”
It was soon obvious that it was an unequal warfare. The soldiers of the holy office were partially protected by a breast-work upon the walls which were covered with soldiers, while our troops were in the open plain, and exposed to a destructive fire. We had no cannon, nor could we scale the walls, and the gates successfully resisted all attempts at forcing them. I could not retire and send for cannon to break through
Their intention, no doubt, was to make us think that this defence was wholly unauthorized by them, hoping, if they could make us believe that they were friendly, they should have a better opportunity, in the confusion of the moment, to escape. Their artifice was too shallow, and did not succeed. I caused them to be placed under guard, and all the soldiers of the Inquisition to be secured as prisoners. We then proceeded to examine all the rooms of the stately edifice. We passed through room after room; found all perfectly in order, richly furnished, with altars and crucifixes, and wax candles in abundance, but we could discover no evidences of iniquity being practiced there, nothing of those peculiar features which we expected to find in an Inquisition. We found splendid paintings, and a rich and extensive library. Here was beauty and splendor, and the most perfect order on which my eyes had ever rested. The architecture, the proportions were perfect. The ceilings and floors of wood were scoured and highly polished. The marble floors were arranged with a strict regard to order. There was everything to please the eye and gratify a cultivated taste; but where were those horrid instruments of torture, of which we had been told, and. where those dungeons in which human beings were said to be buried alive? We searched in vain. The holy father assured us that they had been belied; that we had seen all; and I was prepared to give up the search, convinced that this Inquisition was different from others of which I had heard.
But Col. De Idle was not so ready as myself to give up the search, and said to me, “Colonel, you are commander to-day, and as you say, so it must be; but if you will be advised by me, let this marble floor be examined. Let water be brought and poured upon it, and we will watch and see if there is any place through which it passes more freely than others.” I replied to him, “Do as you please, Colonel,” and ordered water to be brought accordingly. The slabs of marble were large and beautifully polished. When the water had been poured over the floor, much to the dissatisfaction of the inquisitors, a careful examination was made of every seam in the floor, to see if the water passed through. Presently Col. De Lile exclaimed that he had found it. By the side of one of these marble slabs the water passed through fast, as though there was an opening beneath. All hands were now at work for further discovery; the officers with their swords and the soldiers with their bayonets, seeking to clear out the seam, and pry up the slab; others with the butts of their muskets striking the slab with all their might to break it, while the priests remonstrated against our desecrating their holy and beautiful house. While thus engaged, a soldier, who was striking with the butt of his musket, struck a spring, and the marble slab flew up. Then the faces of the inquisitors grew pale as Belshazzar when the hand writing appeared on the wall; they trembled all over; beneath the marble slab, now partly up, there was a stair-case. I stepped to the altar, and took from the candlestick one of the candles four feet in length, which was burning that I might explore the room below. As I was doing this, I was arrested by one of the inquisitors, who laid his hand gently on my arm, and with a very demure and holy look said “My son, you must not take those lights with your bloody hands they are holy.” “Well,” said I, “I will take a holy thing to shed light on iniquity; I will bear the responsibility.” I took the candle, and proceeded down the stair-case. As we reached the foot of the stairs we entered a large room which was called the hall of judgment. In the centre of it was a large block, and a chain fastened to it. On this they were accustomed to place the accused, chained to his seat. On one side of the room was an elevated seat called the Throne of Judgment. This, the Inquisitor General occupied, and on either side were seats less elevated, for the holy fathers when engaged in the solemn business of the Holy Inquisition.
From this room we proceeded to the right, and obtained access to small cells extending the entire length of the edifice; and here such sights were presented as we hoped never to see again. Three cells were places of solitary confinement, where the wretched objects of inquisitorial hate were confined year after year, till death released them from their sufferings, and their bodies were suffered to remain until they were entirely decayed, and the rooms had become fit
In others we found living sufferers of both sexes and of every age, from three score years and ten down to fourteen or fifteen years—all naked as they were born into the world! And all in chains! Here were old men and aged women, who had been shut up for many years. Here, too, were the middle aged, and the young man and the maiden of fourteen years old. The soldiers immediately went to work to release the captives from their chains, and took from their knapsacks their overcoats and other clothing, which they gave to cover their nakedness. They were exceedingly anxious to bring them out to the light of day; but Col. L., aware of the danger, had food given them, and then brought them gradually to the light, as they were able to bear it.
We then proceeded, said Col. L., to explore another room on the left. Here we found the instruments of torture, of every kind which the ingenuity of men or devils could invent. Col. L., here described four of these horrid instruments. The first was a machine by which the victim was confined, and then, beginning with the fingers, every joint in the hands, arms and body, were broken or drawn one after another, until the victim died. The second was a box, in which the head and neck of the victim were so closely confined by a screw that he could not move in any way. Over the box was a vessel, from which one drop of water a second, fell upon the head of the victim; —every successive drop falling upon precisely the same place on the head, suspended the circulation in a few moments, and put the sufferer in the most excruciating agony. The third was an infernal machine, laid horizontally, to which the victim was bound; the machine then being placed between two beams, in which were scores of knives so fixed that, by turning the machine with a crank, the flesh of the sufferer was torn from his limbs, all in small pieces. The fourth surpassed the others in fiendish ingenuity. Its exterior was a beautiful woman, or large doll, richly dressed, with arms extended, ready, to embrace its victim. Around her feet a semi-circle was drawn. The victim who passed over this fatal mark, touched a spring which caused the diabolical engine to open; its arms clasped him, and a thousand knives cut him into as many pieces in the deadly embrace. Col. L., said that the sight of these engines of infernal cruelty kindled the rage of the soldiers to fury. They declared that every inquisitor and soldier of the inquisition should be put to the torture. Their rage was ungovernable. Col. L., did not oppose them. They might
In the mean time it was reported through Madrid that the prisons of the Inquisition were broken open, and multitudes hastened to the fatal spot. And, Oh, what a meeting was there! It was like a resurrection! About a hundred who had been buried for many years were now restored to life. There were fathers who had found their long lost daughters; wives were restored to their husbands, sisters to their brothers, parents to their children; and there were some who could recognize no friend among the multitude. The scene was such as no tongue can describe.
When the multitude had retired, Col. L. caused the library, paintings, furniture, etc., to be removed, and having sent to the city for a wagon load of powder, he deposited a large quantity in the vaults beneath the building, and placed a slow match in connection with it. All had withdrawn to a distance, and in a few moments there was a most joyful sight to thousands. The walls and turrets of the massive structure rose majestically towards the heavens, impelled by the tremendous explosion, and fell back to the earth an immense heap of ruins. The Inquisition was no more!
Such is the account given by Col. Lehmanowsky of the destruction of the inquisition in Spain. Was it then finally destroyed, never again to be revived? Listen to the testimony of the Rev. Giacinto Achilli, D. D. Surely, his statements in this respect can be relied upon, for he is himself a convert from Romanism, and was formerly the “Head Professor of Theology, and Vicar of the Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace.”
He certainly had every opportunity to obtain correct information on the subject, and in a book published by him in 1851, entitled “Dealings with the Inquisition,” we find, (page 71) the following startling announcement. “We are now in the middle of the nineteenth century, and still the Inquisition is actually and potentially in existence. This disgrace to humanity, whose entire history is a mass of atrocious crimes, committed by the priests of the Church of Rome, in the name of God and of His Christ, whose vicar and representative, the pope, the head of the Inquisition, declares himself to be,—this abominable institution is still in existence in Rome and in the Roman States.”
Again, (page 89) he says, “And this most infamous Inquisition, a hundred times destroyed and as often renewed, still exists in Rome as in the barbarous ages; the only difference being that the same iniquities are at present practiced there with a little more secrecy and caution than formerly, and this for the sake of prudence, that the Holy See may not be subjected to the animadversions of the world at large.”
On page 82 of the same work we find the following language. “I do not propose to myself to speak of the Inquisition of times past, but of what exists in Rome at the present moment; I shall therefore assert that the laws of this institution being in no respect changed, neither can the institution itself be said to have undergone any alteration. The present race of priests who are now in power are too much afraid of the popular indignation to let loose all their inquisitorial fury, which might even occasion a revolt if they were not to restrain it; the whole world, moreover, would cry out against them, a crusade would be raised against the Inquisition, and, for a little temporary gratification, much power would be endangered. This is the true reason why the severity of its penalties is in some degree relaxed at the present time, but they still remain unaltered in its code.”
Again on page 102, he says, “Are the torments which are employed at the present day at the Inquisition all a fiction? It requires the impudence of an inquisitor, or of the Archbishop of Westminister to deny their existence. I have myself heard these evil-minded persons lament and complain that their victims were treated with too much lenity.
“What is it you desire?” I inquired of the inquisitor of Spoleto. “That which St. Thomas Aquinas says,” answered he; “Death to all the heretics.”
“Hand over, then, to one of these people, a person, however respectable; give him up to one of the inquisitors, (he who quoted St. Thomas Aquinas to me was made an Archbishop)—give up, I say, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, an amiable and pious man, to one of these rabid inquisitors; he must either deny his faith or be burned alive. Is my statement false? Am I doting? Is not this the spirit that invariably actuates the inquisitors? and not the inquisitors only, but all those who in any way defile themselves with the inquisition, such as bishops and their vicars, and all those who defend it, as the papists do. There is the renowned Dr. Wiseman, the Archbishop of Westminster according to the pope’s creation, the same who has had the assurance to censure me from his pulpit, and to publish an infamous article in the Dublin Review, in which he has raked together, as on a dunghill, every species of filth from the sons of Ignatius Loyola; and there is no lie or calumny that he has not made use of against me. Well, then, suppose I were to be handed over to the tender mercy of Dr. Wiseman, and he had the full power to dispose of me as he chose,
This, then, according to Dr. Achilli is the spirit of Romanism! Can we doubt that it would lead to results as frightful as anything described in the foregoing story?
But let us listen to his further remarks on the present state of the Inquisition. On page 75 he says, “What, then, is the Inquisition of the nineteenth century? The same system of intolerance which prevailed in the barbarous ages. That which raised the Crusade and roused all Europe to arms at the voice of a monk [Footnote: Bernard of Chiaravalle.] and of a hermit, [Footnote: Peter the Hermit.] That which—in the name of a God of peace, manifested on earth by Christ, who, through love for sinners, gave himself to be crucified—brought slaughter on the Albigenses and the Waldenses; filled France with desolation, under Domenico di Guzman; raised in Spain the funeral pile and the scaffold, devastating the fair kingdoms of Granada and Castile, through the assistance of those detestable monks, Raimond de Pennefort, Peter Arbues, and Cardinal Forquemorda. That, which, to its eternal infamy, registers in the annals of France the fatal 24th of August, and the 5th of November in those of England.”
That same system which at this moment flourishes at Rome, which has never yet been either worn out or modified, and which at this present time, in the jargon of the priests, is called a “the holy, Roman, universal, apostolic Inquisition. Holy, as the place where Christ was crucified is holy; apostolic, because Judas Iscariot was the first inquisitor; Roman and universal, because from Rome it extends over all the world. It is denied by some that the Inquisition which exists in Rome as its centre, is extended throughout the world by means of the missionaries. The Roman Inquisition and the Roman Propaganda are in close connection with each other. Every bishop who is sent in partibus infidelium, is an inquisitor charged to discover, through the means of his missionaries, whatever is said or done by others in reference to Rome, with the obligation to make his report secretly.
The above statements of Dr. Achilli are fully corroborated by the Rev. Wm. H. Rule, of London. In a book published by him in 1852, entitled “The Brand of Dominic,” we find the following remarks in relation to the Inquisition of the present time. The Roman Inquisition is, therefore, acknowledged to have an infinite multitude of affairs constantly on hand, which necessitates its assemblage thrice every week. Still there are criminals, and criminal processes. The body of officials are still maintained on established revenues of the holy office. So far from any mitigation of severity or judicial improvement in the spirit of its administration, the criminal has now no choice of an advocate; but one person, and he a servant of the Inquisition, performs an idle ceremony, under the name of advocacy, for the conviction of all. And let the reader mark, that as there are bishops in partibus, so, in like manner, there are inquisitors of the same class appointed in every country, and chiefly, in Great Britain and the colonies, who are sworn to secrecy, and of course communicate intelligence to this sacred congregation of all that can be conceived capable of comprehension within the infinitude of its affairs. We must, therefore, either believe that the court of Rome is not in earnest, and that this apparatus of universal jurisdiction is but a shadow,—an assumption which is contrary to all experience,—or we must understand that the spies and familiars of the Inquisition are listening at our doors, and intruding themselves on our hearths. How they proceed, and what their brethren at Rome are doing, events may tell; but we may be sure they are not idle.
They were not idle in Rome in 1825, when they rebuilt the prisons of the Inquisition. They were not idle in 1842, when they imprisoned Dr. Achilli for heresy, as he assures us; nor was the captain, or some other of the subalterns, who, acting in their name, took his watch from him as he came out. They were not idle in 1843, when they renewed the old edicts against the Jews. And all the world knows that the inquisitors on their stations throughout the pontifical states, and the inquisitorial agents in Italy, Germany, and Eastern Europe, were never
For a third time at least the Roman prisons—I am not speaking of those of the provinces—were broken open, in 1849, after the desertion of Pius IX., and two prisoners were found there, an aged bishop and a nun. Many persons in Rome reported the event; but instead of copying what is already before the public, I translate a letter addressed to me by P. Alessandro Gavazzi, late chaplain-general of the Roman army, in reply to a few questions which I had put to him. All who have heard his statements may judge whether his account of facts be not marked with every note of accuracy. They will believe that his power of oratory does not betray him into random declamation. Under date of March 20th, 1852, be writes thus:
“My dear sir,—In answering your questions concerning the palace of Inquisition at Rome, I should say that I can give only a few superficial and imperfect notes. So short was the time that it remained open to the public, So great the crowd of persons that pressed to catch a sight of it, and so intense the horror inspired by that accursed place, that I could not obtain a more exact and particular impression.
“I found no instruments of torture, [Footnote: “The gag, the thumb-screw, and many other instruments of severe torture could be easily destroyed and others as easily procured. The non-appearance of instruments is not enough to sustain the current belief that the use of them is discontinued. So long as there is a secret prison, and while all the existing standards of inquisitorial practice make torture an ordinary expedient for extorting information, not even a bull, prohibiting torture, would be sufficient to convince the world that it has been discontinued. The practice of falsehood is enjoined on inquisitors. How, then, could we believe a bull, or decree, if it were put forth to-morrow, to release them from suspicion, or to screen them from obloquy? It would not be entitled to belief.”—Rev. Wm. H. Rule.] for they were destroyed at the time of the first French invasion, and because such instruments were not used afterwards by the modern Inquisition. I did, however, find, in one of the prisons of the second court, a furnace, and the remains of a woman’s dress. I shall never be able to believe that that furnace was placed there for the use of the living, it not being in such a place, or of such a kind, as to be of service to them. Everything, on the contrary, combines to persuade me that it was made use of for horrible deaths, and to consume the remains of the victims of inquisitorial executions. Another object of horror I found between the great hall of judgment and the luxurious apartment of the chief jailer (primo custode), the Dominican friar who presides over this diabolical establishment. This was a deep trap or shaft opening into the vaults under the Inquisition. As soon as the so-called criminal had confessed his offence; the second keeper, who is always a Dominican friar, sent him to the father commissary to receive a relaxation [Footnote: “In Spain, relaxation is delivery to death. In the established style of the Inquisition it has the same meaning. But in the common language of Rome it means release. In the lips of the inquisitor, therefore, if he used the word, it has one meaning, and another to the ear of the prisoner.”—Rev. Wm. H. Rule.] of his punishment. With the hope of pardon, the confessed culprit would go towards the apartment of the holy inquisitor; but in the act of setting foot at its entrance, the trap opened, and the world of the living heard no more of him. I examined some of the earth found in the pit below this trap; it was a compost of common earth, rottenness, ashes, and human hair, fetid to the smell, and horrible to the sight and to the thought of the beholder.
“But where popular fury reached its highest pitch was in the vaults of St. Pius V. I am anxious that you should note well that this pope was canonized by the Roman church especially for his zeal against heretics. I will now describe to you the manner how, and the place where, those vicars of Jesus Christ handled the living members of Jesus Christ, and show you how they proceeded for their healing. You descend into the vaults by very narrow stairs. A narrow corridor leads you to the several cells, which, for smallness and stench, are a hundred times more horrible than the dens of lions and tigers in the Colosseum. Wandering in this labyrinth of most fearful prisons, that may be called ‘graves for the living,’ I came to a cell full of skeletons without skulls, buried in lime, and the skulls, detached from the bodies, had been collected in a hamper by the first visitors. Whose were those skeletons? and why were they buried in that place and in that manner? I have heard some popish priests trying to defend the Inquisition from the charge of having condemned its victims to a secret death, say that the palace of the Inquisition was built on a burial-ground, belonging anciently to a hospital for pilgrims, and that the skeletons found were none other than those of pilgrims who had died in that hospital. But everything contradicts this papistical defence. Suppose that there had been a cemetery there, it could not have had subterranean galleries and cells, laid out with so great regularity; and even if there had been such—against all probability —the remains of bodies would have been removed on laying the foundation of the palace, to leave the space free for the subterranean part of the Inquisition. Besides, it is contrary to the use of common tombs to bury the dead by carrying them through a door at the side; for the mouth of the sepulchre is always at the top. And again, it has never been the custom in Italy to bury the dead singly in quick lime; but, in time of plague, the dead bodies have been usually laid in a grave until it was sufficiently full, and then quick lime has been laid over them, to prevent pestilential exhalations, by hastening the decomposition of the infected corpses. This custom was continued, some years ago, in the cemeteries of Naples, and especially in the daily burial of the poor. Therefore, the skeletons found in the Inquisition of Rome could not belong to persons who had died a natural death in a hospital; nor could any one, under such a supposition, explain the mystery of all the bodies being buried in lime except the head. It remains, then, beyond a doubt, that that subterranean vault contained the victims of one of the many secret martyrdoms of the butcherly tribunal. The following is the most probable opinion, if it be not rather the history of a fact:
“The condemned were immersed in a bath of slaked lime, gradually filled up to their necks. The lime by little and little enclosed the sufferers, or walled them up alive. The torment was extreme but slow. As the lime rose higher and higher, the respiration became more and more painful, because more difficult. So that what with the suffocation of the smoke, and the anguish of the compressed breathing, they died in a manner most horrible and desperate. Some time after their death the heads would naturally separate from the bodies, and roll away into the hollows made by the shrinking of the lime. Any other explanation of the feet that may be attempted will be found improbable and unnatural. You may make what use you please of these notes of mine, since I can warrant their truth. I wish that writers, speaking of this infamous tribunal of the Inquisition, would derive their information from pure history, unmingled with romance; for so great and so many the historical atrocities of the Inquisition, that they would more than suffice to arouse the detestation of a thousand worlds. I know that the popish impostor-priests go about saying that the Inquisition was never an ecclesiastical tribunal, but a laic. But you will have shown the contrary in your work, and may also add, in order quite to unmask these lying preachers, that the palace of the Inquisition at Rome is under the shadow of the palace of the Vatican; that the keepers are to this day, Dominican friars; and that the prefect of the Inquisition at Rome is the Pope in person.
“I have the honor to be your affectionate Servant,
“The Roman parliament decreed the erection of a pillar opposite the palace of the Inquisition, to perpetuate the memory of the destruction of that nest of abominations; but before that or any other monument could be raised, the French army besieged and took the city, restored the Pope, and with him the tribunal of the faith. Not only was Dr. Achilli thrown into one of its old prisons, on the 29th of July 1849, but the violence of the people having made the building less adequate to the purpose of safe keeping, he was transferred to the castle of St. Angelo, which had often been employed for the custody of similar delinquents, and there he lay in close confinement until the 9th of January, 1850, when the French authorities, yielding to influential representations from this country assisted him to escape in disguise as a soldier, thus removing an occasion of scandal, but carefully leaving the authority of the congregation of cardinals undisputed. Indeed they first obtained the verbal sanction of the commissary, who saw it expedient to let his victim go, and hush an outcry.
“Yet some have the hardihood to affirm that there is no longer any Inquisition; and as the Inquisitors were instructed to suppress the truth, to deny their knowledge of cases actually passing through their hands, and to fabricate falsehoods for the sake of preserving the secret, because the secret was absolutely necessary to the preservation of their office, so do the Inquisitors in partibus falsify and illude without the least scruple of conscience, in order to put the people of this country off their guard.
“That the Inquisition really exists, is placed beyond a doubt by its daily action as a visible institution at Rome. But if any one should fancy that it was abolished after the release of Dr. Achilli, let him hear a sentence contradictory, from a bull of the Pope himself, Pius IX, a document that was dated at Rome, August 22, 1851, where the pontiff, condemning the works of Professor Nuytz, of Turin, says, “after having taken the advice of the doctors in theology and canon law, after having collected the SUFFRAGES of our venerable brothers the cardinals of the congregation of the supreme and universal inquisition.” And so recently as March, 1852, by letters of the Secretariate of State, he appointed four cardinals to be “members of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition;” giving incontrovertible evidence that provision is made for attending to communications of Inquisitors in partibus from all parts of the world. As the old cardinals die off, their vacant seats are filled by others. The ‘immortal legion’ is punctually recruited.
“After all, have we in Great Britain, Ireland and the colonies, and our brethren of the foreign mission stations, any reason to apprehend harm to, ourselves from the Inquisition as it is? In reply to this question, let it be observed;
“1. That there are Inquisitors in partibus is not to be denied. That letters of these Inquisitors are laid before the Roman Inquisition is equally certain. Even in the time of Leo XII, when the church of Rome was far less active in the British empire than it is now, some particular case was always decided on Thursday, when the Pope, in his character of universal Inquisitor, presided in the congregation. It cannot be thought that now, in the height of its exultation, daring and aggression, this congregation has fewer emissaries, or that they are less active, or less communicative than they were at that time. We also see that the number is constantly replenished. The cardinals Della Genga-Sermattei; De Azevedo; Fornari; and Lucciardi have just been added to it.
“2. Besides a cardinal in England, and a delegate in Ireland, there is both in England and Ireland, a body of bishops, ‘natural Inquisitors,’ as they are always acknowledged, and have often claimed to be; and these natural Inquisitors are all sworn to keep the secret—the soul of the Inquisition. Since, then, there are Inquisitors in partibus, appointed to supply the lack of an avowed and stationary Inquisition, and since the bishops are the very persons whom the court of Rome can best command, as pledged for such a service, it is reasonable to suppose they act in that capacity.
“3. Some of the proceedings of these bishops confirm the assurance that there is now an Inquisition in activity in England. * * * The vigilance exercised over families, also the intermeddling of priests with education, both in families and schools, and with the innumerable relations of civil society, can only be traced back to the Inquisitors in partibus, whose peculiar duty, whether by help of confessors or familiars, is to worm out every secret of affairs, private or public, and to organize and conduct measures of repression or of punishment. Where the secular arm cannot be borrowed, and where offenders lie beyond the reach of excommunication, irregular methods must be resorted to, not rejecting any as too crafty or too violent. Discontented mobs, or individual zealots are to be found or bought. What part the Inquisitors in partibus play in Irish assassinations, or in the general mass of murderous assaults that is perpetrated in the lower haunts of crime, it is impossible to say. Under cover of confessional and Inquisitorial secrets, spreads a broad field of action—a region of mystery—only visible to the eye of God, and to those ’most reverend and most eminent’ guardians of the papacy, who sit thrice every week, in the Minerva and Vatican, and there manage the hidden springs of Inquisition on the heretics, schismatics, and rebels, no less than on ‘the faithful’ of realms. Who can calculate the extent of their power over those ‘religious houses,’ where so many of the inmates are but neophytes, unfitted by British education for the intellectual and moral abnegation, the surrender of mind and conscience, which monastic discipline exacts? Yet they must be coerced into submission, and kept under penal discipline. Who can tell how many of their own clergy are withdrawn to Rome, and there delated, imprisoned, and left to perish, if not ‘relaxed’ to death, in punishment of heretical opinions or liberal practices? We have heard of laymen, too, taken to Rome by force, or decoyed thither under false pretences there to be punished by the universal Inquisition; and whatever of incredibility may appear in some tales of Inquisitorial abduction, the general fact that such abductions have taken place, seems to be incontrovertible. And now that the Inquisitors in partibus are distributed over Christendom, and that they provide the Roman Inquisition with daily work from year’s end to year’s end, is among the things most certain,—even the most careless of Englishmen must acknowledge that we have all reason to apprehend much evil from the Inquisition as it is. And no Christian can be aware of this fact, without feeling himself more than ever bound to uphold the cause of christianity, both at home and abroad, as the only counteractive of so dire a curse, and the only remedy of so vast an evil.” Rev. Wm. Rule, London.
The Rev. E. A. Lawrence, writing of “Romanism at Rome,” gives us the following vivid description of the present state of the Roman Church.
“Next is seen at Rome the propaganda, the great missionary heart of the whole masterly system. Noiselessly, by the multiform orders of monks and nuns, as through so many veins and arteries, it sends out and receives back its vital fluid. In its halls, the whole world is distinctly mapped out, and the chief points of influence minutely marked. A kind of telegraphic communication is established with the remotest stations in South Africa and Siberia, and with almost every nook in our own land, to which the myrmidons of Papal power look with the most of fear. It is through means of this moral galvanic battery, set up in the Vatican, that the Church of Rome has gained its power of ubiquity—has so well nigh made itself omnipotent, as well as omnipresent.
“It is no mean or puny antagonist that strides across the path of a free, spiritual and advancing Protestantism. And yet, with a simple shepherd’s sling, and the smooth stones gathered from Siloa’s brook, God will give it the victory.
“Once more let us look, and we shall find at Rome, still working in its dark, malignant efficiency, the inquisition. Men are still made to pass through fires of this Moloch. This is the grand defensive expedient of the Papacy, and is the chief tribunal of the States. Its processes are all as secret as the grave. Its cells are full of dead men’s bones. They call it the Asylum for the poor—a retreat for doubting and distressed pilgrims, where they may have experience of the parental kindness of their father the Pope, and their mother the church.
“Dr. Achilli had a trial of this beneficient discipline, when thrown into the deep dungeon of St. Angelo. And how many other poor victims of this diabolical institution are at this moment pining in agony, heaven knows.
“In America, we talk about Rome as having ceased to persecute. It is A mistake. She holds to the principle as tenaciously as ever. She cannot dispense with it. Of the evil spirit of Protestantism she says, “This kind goeth not out, but by fire.” Her reign, is a reign of terror. Hence she must hold both the principle and the power of persecution, of compelling men to believe, or, if they doubt, of putting them to death for their own good. Take from her this power and she bites the dust.”
It may perchance be said that the remarks of the Rev. William Rule, quoted above, refer exclusively to the existing state of things is England, Ireland, and the colonies. But who will dare to say, after a careful investigation of the subject, that they do not apply with equal force to these United States?
Has America nothing to fear from the inquisitors—from the Jesuits? Is it true that the “Inquisition still exists in Rome—that its code is unchanged—that its emissaries are sent over all the world—that every nuncio and bishop is an Inquisitor,” and is it improbable that, even now, torture rooms like those described in the foregoing story, may be found in Roman Catholic establishments in this country? Yes, even here, in Protestant, enlightened America! Have we then nothing to fear from Romanism? But a few days since a gentleman of learning and intelligence when speaking of this subject, exclaimed, “What have we to do with the Jesuits? and what is the Inquisition to us? The idea that we have aught to fear from Romanism, is simply ridiculous!” In reply to this, allow me to quote the language of the Rev. Manuel J. Gonsalves, leader of the Madeira Exiles.
“The time will come when the American people will arise as one man, and not only abolish the confessional, but will follow the example of many of the European nations, who had no peace, or rest, till they banished the Jesuits. These are the men, who bask in the sunbeams of popery, to whom the pope has entrusted the vast interests of the king of Rome, in this great Republic. Nine tenths of the Romish priests, now working hard for their Master the pope, in this country, are full blooded Jesuits. The man of sin who is the head of the mystery of iniquity —through the advice of the popish bishops now in this country, has selected the Jesuitical order of priests, to carry on his great and gigantic operations in the United States of America. Those Jesuits who distinguish themselves the most in the destruction of Protestant Bible religion, and who gain the largest number of protestant scholars for popish schools and seminaries; who win most American converts to their sect are offered great rewards in the shape of high offices in the church. John Hughes, the Jesuit Bishop of the New York Romanists, was rewarded by Pope Pius 9th, with an Archbishop’s mitre, for his great, zeal and success, in removing God’s Holy Bible from thirty-eight public schools in New York, and for procuring a papal school committee, to examine every book in the hands of American children in the public schools, that every passage of truth, in those books of history unpalatable to the pope might be blotted out.” Has America then nothing to do with Romanism?
But another gentleman exclaims, “What if Romanism be on the increase in the United States! Is not their religion as dear to them, as ours is to us?” To this the Rev. M. J. Gonsalves would reply as follows. “The American people have been deceived, in believing that popery was A religion, not a very good one to be sure, but some kind of one. This has been their great mistake. We might as well call the Archbishop of the fallen angels, and his crew, a religious body of intelligent beings, because they believe in an Almighty God, and tremble,
Such is the language of one who knew so well what popery was, that he fled from it as from a hell upon earth.
In his further remarks upon the horrors of convent life in the United States, he fully confirms the statements in the foregoing narrative. He says, “It is time that American gentlemen, who are so much occupied in business, should think of the dangers of the confessional, and the miseries endured by innocent, duped, American, imprisoned females in this free country; and remember that these American ladies who have been duped and enticed by Jesuitical intrigue and craft, into their female convents, have no means of deliverance; they cannot write a letter to a friend without the consent and inspection of the Mother Abbess, who is always and invariably a female tyrant, a creature in the pay of the Bishop, and dependent upon the Bishop for her despotic office of power. The poor, unfortunate, imprisoned American female has no means of redress in her power. She cannot communicate her story of wrong and suffering to any living being beyond the walls of her prison. She may have a father, a mother, a dear brother, or a sister, who, if they knew one-sixteenth part of her wrongs and sufferings, would fly at once to see her and sympathize with her in her anguish. But the Jesuit confessor attached to the prison is ever on the alert. Those ladies who appear the most unhappy, and unreconciled to their prison, are compelled to attend the confessional every day; and thus the artful Jesuit, by a thousand cross questions, is made to understand perfectly the state of their minds. The Lady Porter, or door-keeper and jailor, is always a creature of the priest’s, and a great favorite with the Mother Abbess. Should any friends call to see an unhappy nun who is utterly unreconciled to her fate, the Lady Porter is instructed to inform those relatives that the dear nun they want to see so much, is so perfectly happy, and given up to heavenly meditations, that she cannot be persuaded to see an earthly relative. At the same time the Mother Abbess dismisses the relatives with a very sorrowful countenance, and regrets very much, in appearance, their disappointment. But the unhappy nun is never informed that her friends or relatives have called to inquire after her welfare. How amazing, that government should allow such prisons in the name of religion!”
In a late number of “The American and Foreign Christian Union,” we find the following account of conventual life from a report of a Missionary in Chile, South America.
“Now, my brother, let me give you an account related to me by a most worthy English family, most of the members of which have grown up in the country, confirmed also by common report, of the Convent of Capuchins, in Santiago.
“The number of inmates is limited to thirty-two young ladies. The admittance fee is $2000. When the nun enters she is dressed like a bride, in the most costly material that wealth can command. There, beside the altar of consecration, she devotes herself in the most solemn, manner to a life of celibacy and mortification of the flesh and spirit, with the deluded hope that her works will merit a brighter mansion in the realms above.
“The forms of consecration being completed, she begins to cast off her rich veil, costly vestments, all her splendid diamonds and brilliants—which, in many instances, have cost, perhaps, from ten to fifteen, or even twenty thousand dollars. Then her beautiful locks are submitted to the tonsure; and to signify her deadness forever to the world, she is clothed in a dress of coarse grey cloth, called serge, in which she is to pass the miserable remnant of her days. The dark sombre walls of her prison she can sever pass, and its iron-bound doors are shut forever upon their new, youthful, and sensitive occupant. Rarely, if ever, is she permitted to speak, and never, never, to see her friends or The loved ones of home—to enjoy the embraces of a fond mother, or devoted father, or the smiles of fraternal or sisterly affection. If ever allowed to speak at all, it is through iron bars where she cannot be seen, and in the presence of the abbess, to see that no complaint escapes her lips. However much her bosom may swell with anxiety at the sound of voices which were once music to her soul, and she may long to pour out her cries and tears to those who once soothed every sorrow of her heart; yet not a murmur must be uttered. The soul must suffer its own sorrows solitary and alone, with none to sympathize, or grant relief, and none to listen to its moans but the cold gloomy walls of her tomb. No, no, not even the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that great alleviator of all the sorrows of the heart, is allowed an entrance there.
“Nor is this all. Besides being condemned to a meagre, insufficient and unwholesome diet which they themselves most cook, the nuns are not allowed to speak much with each other, except to say, ’Que morir tenemos, ’we are to die,’ or ‘we must die,’ and to reply, ‘Ya los sabemos,’ ‘we know it,’ or ‘already we know it’
“They pass most of their time in small lonely cells, where they sleep in a narrow place dug out in the ground, in the shape of a coffin, without bed of any kind, except a piece of coarse serge spread down; and their daily dress is their only covering. Sleep! Did I say? Alas! ’Tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep, no more with his downy pinions lights on his unsullied with a tear:’ For every hour of the twenty-four they are aroused by the bell to perform their ‘Ave Maria’s,’ count their rosaries, and such other blind devotions as may be imposed. Thus they drag out a miserable existence, and when death calls the spirit to its last account, the other nuns dig the grave with their own hands, within the walls of the convent, and so perform the obsequies of their departed sister.
“Thus, I have briefly given you not fiction! but a faithful narrative of facts in regard to conventual life, and an establishment marked by almost every form of sin, and yet making pretence of ‘perfecting the saints,’ by the free and gentle influences of the gospel of Christ.
“Query 1st. What is done with all the money?
“2d. What is done with the rich vestments and jewels?
“3d. Where do the priests get all their brilliants to perform high mass and adorn their processions?
“4th. Where does all the hair of the saints come from, which is sold in lockets for high prices as sure preventives of evil?
“5th. Whose grave has been plundered to obtain relics to sell to the ignorant.
“6th. Where does the Romish Church obtain her surplus righteousness to sell to the needy, and not give it like our blessed Lord, ‘without money and without price?’
“7th. Who is responsible for the fanaticism that induces a young female to incarcerate herself?
“8th. Where is the authority in reason, in revelation, for such a life?
“9th. What is the average length of life?
“10th. How many die insane?
“A young lady lately cast herself from the tower, and was dashed in pieces, being led to do it, doubtless, in desperation. The convents of this city, of the same order, require the same entrance fee, $2000. Of course, none but the comparatively rich can avail themselves of this perfection of godliness.
“Who will say that this mode of life has not been invented in order to cut short life as rapidly as possible, that the $2000, with all the rich diamonds upon initiation, may be repeated as frequently as possible?
“O! how true it is, that Romanism is the same merciless, cruel, diabolical organisation, wherever it can fully develop itself, in all lands. How truly is it denominated by the pen of inspiration the ‘mystery of iniquity,’ especially that part of it relating to these secret institutions, and the whole order of the Jesuits.”
The editor of the “Christian Union”, in his remarks on the above, says, “Already the fair face of our country is disfigured by the existence here and there of conventual establishments. At present they do not show the hideous features which they, at least in some cases, assume in countries where papal influence and authority are supreme. The genius of our government and institutions necessarily exerts a restraining power, which holds them from excesses to which, otherwise, they might run. But they constitute a part of a system which is strongly at variance with the interests of humanity, and merely wait the occurrence of favorable circumstances to visit upon our land all the horrors which they have inflicted elsewhere.
“How many conventual establishments there are now in the nation, few Protestants, it is believed, know. And how many young females, guilty of no crime against society, and condemned by no law of the land, are shut up in their walls and doomed to a life which they did not anticipate when entering them, a life which is more dreadful to them than death, very few of the millions of our citizens conceive. The majority of our people have slept over the whole subject, and the indifference thus manifested has emboldened the priests to posh forward the extension of the system, and the workmen are now busy in various places in the construction of additional establishments. But such facts as are revealed in this article, from the pen of our missionary, in connection with things that are occurring around us, show that no time should be lost in examining this whole subject of convents and monasteries, and in legislating rightly about them.”
Again, when speaking of papal convents in the United States, the same talented writer observes, “The time has fully come when Protestants should lay aside their apathy and too long-cherished indifference in respect to the movements of Rome in this land. It is time for them to call to mind the testimony of their fathers, their bitter experiences from the papal See, and to take effective measures to protect the inheritance bequeathed to them, that they may hand it down to their children free from corruption, as pure and as valuable as when they received it. They should remember that Rome claims never to change, that what she was in Europe when in the zenith of her power, she will be here when fairly installed, and has ability to enforce her commands.
“Her numbers now on our soil, her nearly two thousand priests moving about everywhere, her colleges and printing-presses, her schools and convents, and enormous amounts of property held by her bishops, have served as an occasion to draw out something of her spirit, and to show that she is arrogant and abusive to the extent of her power.
“Scarcely a newspaper issues from her press, but is loaded with abuse of Protestants and of their religion, and at every available point assaults are made upon their institutions and laws; and Rome and her institutions and interests are crowded into notice, and special privileges are loudly clamored for.
“All Protestants, therefore, of every name, and of every religious and political creed, we repeat it, who do not desire to ignore the past, and to renounce all care or concern for the future, as to their children and children’s children, should lose no time in informing themselves of the state of things around them in regard to the papacy and its institutions. They should without delay devote their efforts and influence to the protection of the country against those Popish establishments and their usages which have been set up among us without the authority of law, and under whose crushing weight some of the nations of Europe have staggered and reeled for centuries, and have now but little of their former power and glory remaining, and under which Mexico, just upon our borders, has sunk manifestly beyond the power of recovery.
“Let each individual seek to awaken an interest in this matter in the mind of his neighbor. And if there be papal establishments in the neighborhood under the names of ‘schools,’ ‘retreats’, ‘religions communities,’ or any other designation, which are at variance with, or are not conformed to, the laws of the commonwealth in which they are situated, let memorials be prepared and signed by the citizens, and forwarded immediately to the legislature, praying that they may be subjected to examination, and required to conform to the laws by which all Protestant institutions of a public nature are governed.
“Let us exclude from our national territory all irresponsible institutions. Let us seek to maintain a government of law, and insist upon the equality of all classes before it.”
In closing these extracts, we beg leave to express ourselves in the words of the Rev. Dr. Sunderland, of Washington city, in a sermon delivered before the American and Foreign Christian Union, at its anniversary in May, 1856.
“But new it is asked, ’Why all this tirade against Roman Catholics?’ We repel the implication. It is not against the unhappy millions that are ground down under the iron heel of that enormous despotism. They are of the common humanity, our brethren and kinsmen, according to the flesh. They need the same light instruction and salvation that we need. Like ourselves they need the one God, the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; and from the heart we love and pity them. We would grant them all the privileges which we claim to ourselves. We can have no animosity towards them as men and candidates with ourselves for the coming judgment. But it is the system under which they are born, and live, and die, I repeat, which we denounce, and when we shall cease to oppose it, then let our right hand forget her cunning, and our tongue cleave to the roof of our mouth. What is it but a dark and terrible power on earth before which so many horrible memories start up? Why, sir, look at it! We drag the bones of the grim behemoth out to view, for we would not have the world forget his ugliness nor the terror he has inspired. ‘A tirade against Romanism,’ is it? O sir, we remember the persecutions of Justinian; we remember the days of the Spanish Inquisition; we remember the reign of ‘the Bloody Mary;’ we remember the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; we remember St. Bartholomew; we remember the murdered Covenanters, Huguenots, and Piedmontese; we remember the noble martyrs dying for the testimony of the faith along the ancient Rhine; we remember the later wrath which pursued the islanders of Madeira, till some of them sought refuge upon these shores; we remember the Madiai, and we know how the beast ever seeks to propagate his power, by force where he can, by deception where he must. And when we remember these things, we must protest against the further vigor and prosperity of this grand Babylon of all. Take it, then, tirade and all, for so