Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
Chap 1
Chap 2
Chap 3
Chap 4
Chap 5
Chap 6
Chap 7
Chap 8
Chap 9
Chap 10
Chap 11
Chap 12
Chap 13
Chap 14
Chap 15
Chap 16
Chap 17
Chap 18
Chap 19
Chap 20
Chap 21
Chap 22
Chap 23
Chap 24
Chap 25
Chap 26
Chap 27
Chap 28
Chap 29
Chap 30
Chap 31
Chap 32
Chap 33
Chap 34
Chap 35
Chap 36
Chap 37
Chap 38
Chap 39

CHAPTER V

“I have heard,” said the Squire, “that from hell there is no retention.” — CERVANTES
 

 For some hours after this exclamation, Melmoth lay silent, his memory returning,—his senses gradually defecated,—the intellectual lord slowly returning to his abdicated throne.—
 
  “I remember all now,” he cried, starting up in his bed with a sudden vehemence, that terrified his old nurse with the apprehension of returning insanity; but when she approached the bed, candle in hand, cautiously veiling her eyes with the other, while she threw the full glare of the light on the face of the patient, she saw in a moment the light of sanity in his eyes, and the strength of health in his movements. To his eager inquiries of how he had been saved, how the storm had terminated, and whether any but himself had survived the wreck, she could not deny herself the gratification of answering, though conscious of his weakness, and solemnly charged neither to let him speak or hear, as she valued the recovery of his reason. She had faithfully observed the charge for several days,—a dreadful trial!—and now she felt like Fatima in Cymon, who, when threatened by the magician with the loss of speech, exclaims, “Barbarian, will not my death then satisfy you?’
 
  She began her narrative, the effect of which was, to lull Melmoth into a profound repose before half of it was concluded; he felt the full benefit of the invalids mentioned in Spenser, who used to hire Irish story-tellers, and found those indefatigable persons still pursuing the tale when they awoke. At first Melmoth listened with eager attention; soon he was in the situation of him described by Miss Baillie,

“Who, half asleep, but faintly hears,
  The gossip’s tale hum in his ears.’
  “I have heard,” said the Squire, “that from hell there is no retention.” — CERVANTES

For some hours after this exclamation, Melmoth lay silent, his memory returning,—his senses gradually defecated,—the intellectual lord slowly returning to his abdicated throne.—
 “I remember all now,” he cried, starting up in his bed with a sudden vehemence, that terrified his old nurse with the apprehension of returning insanity; but when she approached the bed, candle in hand, cautiously veiling her eyes with the other, while she threw the full glare of the light on the face of the patient, she saw in a moment the light of sanity in his eyes, and the strength of health in his movements. To his eager inquiries of how he had been saved, how the storm had terminated, and whether any but himself had survived the wreck, she could not deny herself the gratification of answering, though conscious of his weakness, and solemnly charged neither to let him speak or hear, as she valued the recovery of his reason. She had faithfully observed the charge for several days,—a dreadful trial!—and now she felt like Fatima in Cymon, who, when threatened by the magician with the loss of speech, exclaims, “Barbarian, will not my death then satisfy you?’
 She began her narrative, the effect of which was, to lull Melmoth into a profound repose before half of it was concluded; he felt the full benefit of the invalids mentioned in Spenser, who used to hire Irish story-tellers, and found those indefatigable persons still pursuing the tale when they awoke. At first Melmoth listened with eager attention; soon he was in the situation of him described by Miss Baillie,

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

 Soon after his lengthened respiration gave token that she was only “vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;” while, as she closed the curtain, and shaded the light, the images of her story were faintly painted on his dream, that still seemed half a waking one.
  In the morning Melmoth sat up, gazed round, remembered every thing in a moment, though nothing distinctly, but felt the most intense anxiety to see the stranger saved from the shipwreck, who, he remembered the gouvernante had told him, (while her words seemed to falter on the threshold of his closing senses), was still alive, and an inmate in his house, but weak and ill from the bruises he had received, and the exhaustion and terror he had undergone. The opinions of the household on the subject of this stranger were various. The knowledge of his being a Catholic had conciliated their hearts, for the first act of his recovered reason was to request that a Catholic priest might be sent for, and the first use of his speech was to express his satisfaction that he was in a country where he might enjoy the benefits of the rites of his own church. So far all was well; but there was a mysterious haughtiness and reserve about him, that somewhat repelled the officious curiosity of his attendants. He spoke often to himself in a language they did not understand; they hoped relief from the priest on this point, but the priest, after listening long at the invalid’s door, pronounced the language in which he was soliloquizing not to be Latin, and, after a conversation of some hours with him, refused to tell what language the stranger spoke to himself in, and forbid all inquiry on the subject. This was bad enough; but, still worse, the stranger spoke English with ease and fluency, and therefore could have no right, as all the household argued, to torment them with those unknown sounds, that, sonorous and powerful as they were, seemed to their ears like an evocation of some invisible being.
 “He asks for what he wants in English,” said the harassed housekeeper, “and he can call for candle in English, and he can say he’ll go to bed in English; and why the devil can’t he do every thing in English?—He can say his prayers too in English to that picture he’s always pulling out of his breast and talking to, though it’s no saint, I am sure, he prays to, (from the glimpse I got of it), but more like the devil,—Christ save us!” All these strange rumours, and ten thousand more, were poured into Melmoth’s ears, fast and faster than he could receive them. “Is Father Fay in the house,” said he at last, understanding that the priest visited the stranger every day; “if he be, let me see him.” Father Fay attended him as soon as he quitted the stranger’s apartment.
 He was a grave and decent priest, well “spoken of by those that were without” the pale of his own communion; and as he entered the room, Melmoth smiled at the idle tattle of his domestics. “I thank you for your attention to this unfortunate gentleman, who, I understand, is in my house.’—“It was my duty.’—“I am told he sometimes speaks in a foreign tongue.” The priest assented. “Do you know what countryman he is?” “He is a Spaniard,” said the priest. This plain, direct answer, had the proper effect on Melmoth, of convincing him of its veracity, and of there being no mystery in the business, but what the folly of his servants had made.
 The priest proceeded to tell him the particulars of the loss of the vessel. She was an English trader bound for Wexford or Waterford, with many passengers on board; she had been driven up the Wicklow coast by stress of weather, had struck on the night of the 19th October, during the intense darkness that accompanied the storm, on a hidden reef of rocks, and gone to pieces. Crew, passengers, all had perished, except this Spaniard. It was singular, too, that this man had saved the life of Melmoth. While swimming for his own, he had seen him fall from the rock he was climbing, and, though his strength was almost exhausted, had collected its last remains to preserve the life of a being who, as he conceived, had been betrayed into danger by his humanity. His efforts were successful, though Melmoth was unconscious of them; and in the morning they were found on the strand, locked in each other’s hold, but stiff and senseless. They shewed some signs of life when an attempt was made to remove them, and the stranger was conveyed to Melmoth’s house. “You owe your life to him,” said the priest, when he had ended. “I shall go and thank him for it this moment,” said Melmoth; but as he was assisted to rise, the old woman whispered to him with visible terror, “Jasus’ sake, dear, don’t tell him ye’re a Melmoth, for the dear life! he has been as mad as any thing out of Bedlam, since some jist mintioned the name before him the ither night.” A sickening recollection of some parts of the manuscript came over Melmoth at these words, but he struggled with himself, and proceeded to the apartment of the stranger.
 The Spaniard was a man about thirty, of a noble form and prepossessing manners. To the gravity of his nation was super-added a deeper tint of peculiar melancholy. He spoke English fluently; and when questioned on it by Melmoth, he remarked with a sigh, that he had learnt it in a painful school. Melmoth then changed the subject, to thank him with earnest gratitude for the preservation of his life. “Senhor,” said the Spaniard, “spare me; if your life was no dearer to you than mine, it would not be worth thanks.” “Yet you made the most strenuous exertions to save it,” said Melmoth. “That was instinct,” said the Spaniard. “But you also struggled to save mine,” said Melmoth. “That was instinct too at the moment,” said the Spaniard; then resuming his stately politeness, “or I should say, the influence of my better genius. I am wholly a stranger in this country, and must have fared miserably but for the shelter of your roof.’
 Melmoth observed that he spoke with evident pain, and he confessed a few moments afterwards, that though he had escaped without any serious injury, he had been so bruised and lacerated, that he still breathed with difficulty, and hardly possessed the use of his limbs. As he concluded the account of his sufferings during the storm, the wreck, and the subsequent struggle for life, he exclaimed in Spanish, “God! why did the Jonah survive, and the mariners perish?” Melmoth, imagining he was engaged in some devotional ejaculation, was going to retire, when the Spaniard detained him. “Senhor, I understand your name is—” He paused, shuddered, and with an effort that seemed like convulsion, disgorged the name of Melmoth. “My name is Melmoth.” “Had you an ancestor, a very remote one, who was—at a period perhaps beyond family-tradition—It is useless to inquire,” said the Spaniard, covering his face with both his hands, and groaning aloud. Melmoth listened in mingled excitement and terror. “Perhaps, if you would proceed, I could answer you—go on, Senhor.” “Had you,” said the Spaniard, forcing himself to speak, abruptly and rapidly, “had you, then, a relative who was, about one hundred and forty years ago, said to be in Spain.” “I believe—yes, I fear—I had.” “It is enough, Senhor—leave me—to-morrow perhaps—leave me now.” “It is impossible to leave you now,” said Melmoth, catching him in his arms before he sunk on the floor. He was not senseless, for his eyes were rolling with terrible expression, and he attempted to articulate. They were alone. Melmoth, unable to quit him, called aloud for water; and while attempting to open his vest, and give him air, his hand encountered a miniature portrait close to the heart of the stranger. As he touched it, his touch operated on the patient with all the force of the most powerful restorative. He grasped it with his own cold hand with a force like that of death, and muttered in a hollow but thrilling voice, “What have you done?” He felt eagerly the ribbon by which it was suspended, and, satisfied that his terrible treasure was safe, turned his eyes with a fearful calmness of expression on Melmoth, “You know all, then?’—“I know nothing,” said Melmoth faultering. The Spaniard rose from the ground, to which he had almost fallen, disengaged himself from the arms that supported him, and eagerly, but staggeringly, hurrying towards the candles, (it was night), held up the portrait full before Melmoth’s eye. It was a miniature likeness of that extraordinary being. It was painted in a coarse and unartist-like style, but so faithfully, that the pencil appeared rather held by the mind than by the fingers.
 “Was he—was the original of this—your ancestor?—Are you his descendant?—Are you the depository of that terrible secret which—” He again fell to the ground convulsed, and Melmoth, for whose debilitated state this scene was too much, was removed to his own apartment.
 It was several days before he again saw his visitor; his manner was then calm and collected, till he appeared to recollect the necessity of making an apology for his agitation at their last meeting. He began—hesitated—stopped; tried in vain to arrange his ideas, or rather his language; but the effort so obviously renewed his agitation, that Melmoth felt an exertion on his part necessary to avert its consequences, and began most inauspiciously to inquire into the motive of his voyage to Ireland. After a long pause, the Spaniard said, “That motive, Senhor, a few days past I believed it was not in mortal power to compel me to disclose. I deemed it incommunicable as it was incredible. I conceived myself to be alone on the earth, without sympathy and beyond relief. It is singular that accident should have placed me within the reach of the only being from whom I could expect either, and perhaps a development of those circumstances which have placed me in a situation so extraordinary.” This exordium, delivered with a composed but thrilling gravity, had an effect on Melmoth. He sat down and prepared to listen, and the Spaniard began to speak; but after some hesitation, he snatched the picture from his neck, and trampling on it with true continental action, exclaimed, “Devil! devil! thou choakest me!” and crushing the portrait, glass and all, under his feet, exclaimed, “Now I am easier.’
 The room in which they sat was a low, mean, wretchedly furnished apartment; the evening was tempestuous, and as the windows and doors rattled in the blast, Melmoth felt as if he listened to some herald of “fate and fear.” A deep and sickening agitation shook his frame; and in the long pause that preceded the narrative of the Spaniard, the beating of his heart was audible to him. He rose, and attempted to arrest the narration by a motion of his hand; but the Spaniard mistook this for the anxiety of his impatience, and commenced his narrative, which, in mercy to the reader, we shall give without the endless interruptions, and queries, and anticipations of curiosity, and starts of terror, with which it was broken by Melmoth.

Tale of the Spaniard

“I am, Senhor, as you know, a native of Spain, but you are yet to learn I am a descendant of one of its noblest houses,—a house of which she might have been proud in her proudest day,—the house of Monšada. Of this I was not myself conscious during the first years of my life; but during those years, I remember experiencing the singular contrast of being treated with the utmost tenderness, and kept in the most sordid privacy. I lived in a wretched house in the suburbs of Madrid with an old woman, whose affection for me appeared prompted as much by interest as inclination. I was visited every week by a young cavalier and a beautiful female; they caressed me, called me their beloved child, and I, attached by the grace with which my young father’s capa was folded, and my mother’s veil adjusted, and by a certain air of indescribable superiority over those by whom I was surrounded, eagerly returned their caresses, and petitioned them to take me home with them; at these words they always wept, gave a valuable present to the woman I lived with, whose attention was always redoubled by this expected stimulant, and departed.
  “I observed their visits were always short, and paid late in the evening; thus a shadow of mystery enveloped my infant days, and perhaps gave its lasting and ineffaceable tinge to the pursuits, the character, and the feelings of my present existence. A sudden change took place;—one day I was visited, splendidly dressed, and carried in a superb vehicle, whose motion made me giddy with novelty and surprise, to a palace whose front appeared to me to reach the heavens. I was hurried through several apartments, whose splendour made my eyes ache, amid an army of bowing domestics, to a cabinet where sat an old nobleman, whom, from the tranquil majesty of his posture, and the silent magnificence that surrounded him, I felt disposed to fall down and worship as we do those saints, whom, after traversing the aisles of an immense church, we find niched in some remote and solitary shrine. My father and mother were there, and both seemed awed by the presence of that aged vision, pale and august; their awe increased mine, and as they led me to his feet, I felt as if about to be sacrificed. He embraced me, however, with some reluctance and more austerity; and when this ceremony was performed, during which I trembled, I was removed by a domestic, and conducted to an apartment where I was treated like the son of a grandee; in the evening I was visited by my father and mother; they shed tears over me as they embraced me, but I thought I could perceive they mingled the tears of grief with those of fondness. Every thing around appeared so strange, that perhaps I felt something appropriate in this change. I was so much altered myself, that I expected an alteration in others, and the reverse would have struck me as a phenomenon.
  “Change followed change with such rapidity, that it produced on me an effect like that of intoxication. I was now twelve years old, and the contracted habits of my early life had had their usual effect, of exalting my imagination, while they impaired every other faculty. I expected an adventure whenever the door opened, and that was but seldom, to announce the hours of devotion, food, and exercise. On the third day after I was received into the palace of Monšada, the door was opened at an unusual hour, (a circumstance that made me tremble with anticipation), and my father and mother, attended by a number of domestics, entered, accompanied by a youth whose superior height and already distinguished figure, made him appear my senior, though he was in fact a year younger.
  “Alonzo,” said my father to me, “embrace your brother.” I advanced with all the eagerness of youthful affection, that feels delight from new claims on its store, and half wishes those new claims were endless; but the slow step of my brother, the measured air with which he extended his arms, and declined his head on my left shoulder for a moment, and then raising it, viewed me with eyes in whose piercing and haughty lustre there was not one beam of fraternity, repelled and disconcerted me. We had obeyed our father, however, and embraced. “Let me see you hand in hand together,” said my father, as if he would have enjoyed the sight. I held out my hand to my brother, and we stood thus linked for a few moments, my father and mother remaining at some distance to gaze on us; during these few moments, I had leisure to glance from my parents to my brother, and judge of the comparative effect our appearance thus contrasted might produce on them. The contrast was by no means favourable to me. I was tall, but my brother was much taller; he had an air of confidence, of conquest I might say; the brilliancy of his complexion could be equalled only by that of his dark eyes, which turned from me to our parents, and seemed to say, “Chuse between us, and reject me if you dare.’
  “My father and mother advanced and embraced us both. I clung round their necks; my brother submitted to their caresses with a kind of proud impatience, that seemed to demand a more marked recognition.
  “I saw no more of them,—that evening the whole household, which perhaps contain two hundred domestics, were in despair. The Duke de Monšada, that awful vision of anticipated mortality whom I had seen but once, was dead. The tapestry was torn from the walls; every room was filled with ecclesiastics; I was neglected by my attendants, and wandered through the spacious rooms, till I by chance lifted up a curtain of black velvet, and saw a sight which, young as I was, paralyzed me. My father and mother, dressed in black, sat beside a figure which I believed to be my grandfather asleep, but his sleep was very profound; my brother was there too, in a mourning dress, but its strange and grotesque disfigurement could not conceal the impatience with which he wore it, and the flashing eagerness of his expression, and the haughty brilliancy of his eye, shewed a kind of impatience of the part he was compelled to act.—I rushed forward;—I was withheld by the domestics;—I asked, “Why am I not permitted to be here, where my younger brother is?” An ecclesiastic drew me from the apartment. I struggled with him, and demanded, with an arrogance which suited my pretensions better than my prospects, “Who I was?” “The grandson of the late Duke of Monšada,” was the answer. “And why am I thus treated?” To this no answer. I was conveyed to my apartment, and closely watched during the interment of the Duke of Monšada. I was not permitted to attend his funeral. I saw the splendid and melancholy cavalcade depart from the palace. I ran from window to window to witness the funeral pomp, but was not allowed to accompany it. Two days after I was told a carriage waited for me at the gate. I entered it, and was conveyed to a convent of Ex-Jesuits, (as they were well known to be, though no one in Madrid dared to say so), where an agreement had been made for my board and education, and where I became an inmate that very day. I applied myself to my studies, my teachers were pleased, my parents visited me frequently, and gave the usual marks of affection, and all was well; till one day as they were retiring, I heard an old domestic in their suite remark, how singular it was, that the eldest son of the (now) Duke de Monšada should be educated in a convent, and brought up to a monastic life, while the younger, living in a superb palace, was surrounded by teachers suited to his rank. The word “monastic life” thrilled in my ears; it furnished me with an interpretation not only of the indulgence I had experienced in the convent, (an indulgence quite inconsistent with the usual severity of their discipline), but of the peculiar language in which I had been always addressed by the Superior, the brethren, and the boarders. The former, whom I saw once a week, bestowed the most flattering praises on the progress I had made in my studies, (praises that covered me with blushes, for I well knew it was very moderate compared with that of the other boarders), and then gave me his benediction, but never without adding, “My God! thou wilt not suffer this lamb to wander from thy fold.’
  “The brethren always assumed before me an air of tranquillity, that eulogized their situation more powerfully than the most exaggerated eloquence. The petty squabbles and intrigues of the convent, the bitter and incessant conflicts of habits, tempers, and interests, the efforts of incarcerated minds for objects of excitement, the struggles to diversify endless monotony, and elevate hopeless mediocrity;—all that makes monastic life like the wrong side of tapestry, where we see only uncouth threads, and the harsh outlines, without the glow of the colours, the richness of the tissue, or the splendour of the embroidery, that renders the external surface so rich and dazzling; all this was carefully concealed. I heard something of it, however, and, young as I was, could not help wondering how men who carried the worst passions of life into their retreat, could imagine that retreat was a refuge from the erosions of their evil tempers, the monitions of conscience, and the accusations of God. The same dissimulation was practised by the boarders; the whole house was in masquerade from the moment I entered it. If I joined the latter at the time of recreation, they went through the few amusements allowed them with a kind of languid impatience, as if it was an interruption of better pursuits to which they were devoted. One of them, coming up to me, would say, “What a pity that these exercises are necessary for the support of our frail nature! what a pity we cannot devote its whole powers to the service of God!” Another would say, “I never am so happy as in the choir! What a delightful eulogy was that pronounced by the Superior on the departed Fre Jose! How thrilling was that requiem! I imagined the heavens opened, and angels descending to receive his soul, as I listened to it!’
  “All this, and much more, I had been accustomed to hear every day. I now began to understand it. I suppose they thought they had a very weak person to deal with; but the bare-faced coarseness of their manoeuvres only quickened my penetration, which began to be fearfully awake. I said to them, “Are you, then, intended for the monastic life?” “We hope so.” “Yet I have heard you, Oliva, once (it was when you did not think I overheard you) I heard you complain of the length and tediousness of the homilies delivered on the eves of the saints.’—“I was then under the influence of the evil spirit doubtless,” said Oliva, who was a boy not older than myself; “Satan is sometimes permitted to buffet those whose vocation is but commencing, and whom he is therefore more afraid to lose.” “And I have heard you, Balcastro, say you had not taste for music; and to me, I confess, that of the choir appears least likely to inspire a taste for it.” “God has touched my heart since,” replied the young hypocrite, crossing himself; “and you know, friend of my soul, there is a promise, that the ears of the deaf shall be opened.” “Where are those words?” “In the Bible.” “The Bible?—But we are not permitted to read it.” “True, dear Monšada, but we have the word of our Superior and the brethren for it, and that is enough.” “Certainly; our spiritual guides must take on themselves the whole responsibility of that state, whose enjoyments and punishments they reserve in their own hands; but, Balcastro, are you willing to take this life on their word, as well as the next, and resign it before you have tried it?” “My dear friend, you only speak to tempt me.” “I do not speak to tempt,” said I, and was turning indignantly away, when the bell ringing, produced its usual effect on us all. My companions assumed a more sanctified air, and I struggled for a more composed one.
  “As we went to the church, they conversed in whispers, but those whispers were intended to reach my ear. I could hear them say, “It is in vain that he struggles with grace; there never was a more decided vocation; God never obtained a more glorious victory. Already he has the look of a child of heaven;—the monastic gait, —the downcast look;—the motion of his arms naturally imitates the sign of the cross, and the very folds of his mantle arrange themselves, by a divine instinct, into those of a Monk’s habit.” And all this while my gait was disturbed, my countenance flushed, and often lifted to heaven, and my arms employed in hastily adjusting my cloak, that had fallen off my shoulder from my agitation, and whose disordered folds resembled any thing but those of a Monk’s habit. From that evening I began to perceive my danger, and to meditate how to avert it. I had no inclination for the monastic life; but after vespers, and the evening exercise in my own cell, I began to doubt if this very repugnance was not itself a sin. Silence and night deepened the impression, and I lay awake for many hours, supplicating God to enlighten me, to enable me not to oppose his will, but clearly to reveal that will to me; and if he was not pleased to call me to a monastic life, to support my resolution in undergoing every thing that might be inflicted on me, sooner than profane that state by extorted vows and an alienated mind. That my prayers might be more effectual, I offered them up first in the name of the Virgin, then in that of the Patron-saint of the family, and then of the Saint on whose eve I was born. I lay in great agitation till morning, and went to matins without having closed my eyes, I had, however, I felt, acquired resolution,—at least I thought so. Alas! I knew not what I had to encounter. I was like a man going to sea with a day’s provision, and imagining he is victualled for a voyage to the poles. I went through my exercises (as they were called) with uncommon assiduity that day; already I felt the necessity of imposition,—fatal lesson of monastic institutions. We dined at noon; and soon after my father’s carriage arrived, and I was permitted to go for an hour on the banks of the Manzanares. To my surprise my father was in the carriage, and though he welcomed me with a kind of embarrassment, I was delighted to meet him. He was a layman at least,—he might have a heart.
  “I was disappointed at the measured phrase he addressed me in, and this froze me at once into a rigid determination, to be as much on my guard with him, as I must be within the walls of the convent. The conversation began, “You like your convent, my son?” “Very much,” (there was not a word of truth in my answer, but the fear of circumvention always teaches falsehood, and we have only to thank our instructors). “The Superior is very fond of you.” “He seems so.” “The brethren are attentive to your studies, and capable of directing them, and appreciating your progress.” “They seem so.” “And the boarders—they are sons of the first families in Spain, they appear all satisfied with their situation, and eager to embrace its advantages.” “They seem so.” “My dear son, why have you thrice answered me in the same monotonous, unmeaning phrase?” “Because I thought it all seeming.” “How, then, would you say that the devotion of those holy men, and the profound attention of their pupils, whose studies are alike beneficial to man, and redounding to the glory of the church to which they are dedicated—” “My dearest father,—I say nothing of them,—but I dare to speak of myself,—I can never be a monk,—if that is your object—spurn me,—order your lacqueys to drag me from this carriage,—leave me a beggar in the streets to cry “fire and water,’ [1]—but do not make me a monk.” My father appeared stunned by this apostrophe. He did not utter a word. He had not expected such a premature development of the secret which he imagined he had to disclose, not to hear disclosed. At this moment the carriage turned into the Prado; a thousand magnificent equipages, with plumed horses, superb caparisons, and beautiful women bowing to the cavaliers, who stood for a moment on the foot-board, and then bowed their adieus to the “ladies of their love,” passed before our eyes. I saw my father, at this moment, arrange his superb mantle, and the silk net in which his long black hair was bound, and give the signal to his lacqueys to stop, that he might mingle among the crowd. I caught this moment,—I grasped his mantle.—“Father, you find this world delightful then,—would you ask me to resign it,—me, who am your child.’—“But you are too young for it, my son.” “Oh, then, my father, I am surely much too young for another world, to which you would force me.” “Force you, my child, my firstborn!” And these words he uttered with such tenderness, that I involuntarily kissed his hands, while his lips eagerly pressed my forehead. It was at this moment that I studied, with all the eagerness of hope, my father’s physiognomy, or what artists would call his physique.

1. “Fire for the cigars, and iced-water for drink.’—A cry often heard in Madrid.

“He had been my parent before he was sixteen; his features were beautiful, his figure the most graceful and lover-like I ever beheld, and his early marriage had preserved him from all the evils of youthful excess, and spared the glow of feature, and elasticity of muscle, and grace of juvenility, so often withered by vice, almost before they have bloomed. He was now but twenty-eight, and looked ten years younger. He was evidently conscious of this, and as much alive to the enjoyments of youth, as if he were still in its spring. He was at the same moment rushing into all the luxuries of youthful enjoyment and voluptuous splendour, and dooming one, who was at least young enough to be his son, to the frozen and hopeless monotony of a cloister. I laid hold of this with the grasp of a drowning man. But a drowning man never grasped a straw so weak as he who depends on the worldly feeling of another for the support of his own.
 “Pleasure is very selfish; and when selfishness pleads to selfishness for relief, it is like a bankrupt asking his fellow-prisoner to go bail for him. This was my conviction at the moment, yet still I reflected, (for suffering supplies the place of experience in youth, and they are most expert casuists who have graduated only in the school of misfortune), I reflected, that a taste for pleasure, while it renders a man selfish in one sense, renders him generous in another. The real voluptuary, though he would not part with his slightest indulgence to save the world from destruction, would yet wish all the world to be enjoying itself, (provided it was not at his expence), because his own would be increased by it. To this I clung, and intreated my father to indulge me with another view of the brilliant scene before us. He complied, and his feelings, softened by this compliance, and exhilarated by the spectacle, (which interested him more than me, who observed it only for its effect on him), became more favourable than ever. I availed myself of this, and, while returning to the convent, threw the whole power of my nature and intellect into one (almost) shrieking appeal to his heart. I compared myself to the unhappy Esau, deprived of his birthright by a younger brother, and I exclaimed in his language, “Hast thou no blessing for me! Bless me, even me also, Oh my father!” My father was affected; he promised my intreaty every consideration; but he hinted some difficulty to be encountered on my mother’s part, much on that of her Director, who (I afterwards found) governed the whole family, and still more remotely hinted at something insurmountable and inexplicable. He suffered me, however, to kiss his hand at parting, and vainly struggled with his emotions when he felt it damp with my tears.
 “It was not till two days after, that I was summoned to attend my mother’s Director, who was waiting for me in the parlour. I deemed this delay the result of a long family debate, or (as it seemed to me) conspiracy; and I tried to prepare myself for the multifarious warfare in which I had now to engage with parents, directors, superiors, and monks, and boarders, all sworn to win the day, and not caring whether they carried their point by storm, sap, mine, or blockade. I began to measure the power of the assailants, and to try to furnish myself with weapons suited to their various modes of attack. My father was gentle, flexible, and vacillating. I had softened him in my favour, and I felt that was all that could be done with him. But the Director was to be encountered with different arms. As I went down to the parlour, I composed my looks, my gait, I modulated my voice, I adjusted my dress. I was on my guard, body, mind, mien, clothes, every thing. He was a grave, but mild-looking ecclesiastic; one must have had the treachery of Judas to suspect him of treachery. I felt disarmed, I even experienced some compunction. “Perhaps,” said I, “I have all this while armed myself against a message of reconciliation.” The Director began with some trifling inquiries about my health, and my progress in study, but he asked them in a tone of interest. I said to myself, it would not be decorous for him to enter on the subject of his visit too soon;—I answered him calmly, but my heart palpitated with violence. A silence ensued, and then suddenly turning towards me, he said, “My dear child, I understand your objections to a monastic life are insurmountable. I do not wonder at it; its habits must appear very unconciliating to youth, and, in fact, I know not to what period of life abstinence, privation, and solitude, are particularly agreeable; it was the wish of your parents doubtless; but’—This address, so full of candour, almost overpowered me; caution and every thing else forsook me as I exclaimed, “But what then, my father?” “But, I was going to observe, how rarely our own views coincide with those which others entertain for us, and how difficult it is to decide which are the least erroneous.” “Was that all?” said I, shrinking with disappointment. “That was all; for instance, some people, (of whom I once happened to be one), might be fanciful enough to imagine, that the superior experience and proved affection of parents should qualify them to decide on this point better than their children; nay, I have heard some carry their absurdity so far, as to talk of the rights of nature, the obligations of duty, and the useful coercion of restraint; but since I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with your resolution, I am beginning to be of opinion, that a youth, not thirteen years of age, may be an incomparable judge in the last resort, particularly when the question bears a trifling relation to his eternal as well as temporal interest; in such a case, he has doubtless the double advantage of dictating both to his spiritual and natural parents.” “My father, I beg you to speak without irony or ridicule; you may be very clever, but I merely wish you to be intelligible and serious.” “Do you wish me, then, to speak seriously?” and he appeared to collect himself as he asked this question. “Certainly.” “Seriously, then, my dear child, do you not believe that your parents love you? Have you not received from your infancy every mark of affection from them? Have you not been pressed to their bosoms from your very cradle?” At these words I struggled vainly with my feelings, and wept, while I answered, “Yes.” “I am sorry, my dear child, to see you thus overpowered; my object was to appeal to your reason, (for you have no common share of reasoning power),—and to your reason I appeal;—can you suppose that parents, who have treated you with such tenderness, who love you as they do their own souls, could act (as your conduct charges them) with causeless and capricious cruelty towards you? Must you not be aware there is a reason, and that it must be a profound one? Would it not be more worthy of your duty, as well as your superior sense, to inquire into, than contend with it?” “Is it founded upon any thing in my conduct, then?—I am willing to do every thing,—to sacrifice every thing.’—“I understand,—you are willing to do every thing but what is required of you,—and to sacrifice every thing but your own inclination.” “But you have hinted at a reason.” The Director was silent. “You urged me to inquire into it.” The Director was silent still. “My father, I adjure you, by the habit you wear, unmuffle this terrible phantom to me; there is nothing I cannot encounter’—“Except the commands of your parents. But am I at liberty to discover this secret to you?” said the Director, in a tone of internal debate. “Can I imagine that you, who have in the very outset outraged parental authority, will revere parental feelings?” “My father, I do not understand you.” “My dear child, I am compelled to act with a caution and reserve unsuited to my character, which is naturally as open as yours. I dread the disclosure of a secret; it is repugnant to my habits of profound confidence; and I dread disclosing any thing to a character impetuous like yours. I feel myself reduced to a most painful situation.” “My father, act and speak with candour, my situation requires it, and your own profession demands it from you. My father, remember the inscription over the confessional which thrilled my very blood to read, “God hears thee.” Remember God hears you always, and will you not deal sincerely with one whom God has placed at your mercy?” I spoke with much agitation, and the Director appeared affected for a moment; that is, he passed his hand over his eyes, which were as dry as—his heart. He paused for several minutes, and then said, “My dear child, dare I trust you? I confess I came prepared to treat you like a boy, but I feel I am disposed to consider you as a man. You have the intelligence, the penetration, the decision of a man. Have you the feelings of one?” “Try me, my father.” I did not perceive that his irony, his secret, and his parade of feeling, were all alike theatrical, and substitutionary for real interest and sincerity. “If I should be inclined to trust you, my dear child,’—“I shall be grateful.” “And secret.” “And secret, my father.” “Then imagine yourself’—“Oh! my father, let me not have to imagine any thing—tell me the truth.” “Foolish boy,—am I then so bad a painter, that I must write the name under the figure.” “I understand you, my father, and shall not interrupt you again.” “Then imagine to yourself the honour of one of the first houses in Spain; the peace of a whole family,—the feelings of a father,—the honour of a mother,—the interests of religion,—the eternal salvation of an individual, all suspended in one scale. What do you think could outweigh them?” “Nothing,” I replied ardently. “Yet, in the opposite scale you throw nothing,—the caprice of a boy not thirteen years old;—this is all you have to oppose to the claims of nature, of society, and of God.” “My father, I am penetrated with horror at what you have said,—does all this depend on me?” “It does,—it does all depend on you.” “But how, then,—I am bewildered,—I am willing to make a sacrifice,—tell me what I am to do.” “Embrace, my dear child, the monastic life; this will accomplish the views of all who love you, ensure your own salvation, and fulfil the will of God, who is calling you at this moment by the voices of your affectionate parents, and the supplications of the minister of heaven, who is now kneeling before you.” And he sunk on his knees before me.
 “This prostration, so unexpected, so revolting, and so like the monastic habit of artificial humiliation, completely annihilated the effect of his language. I retreated from his arms, which were extended towards me. “My father, I cannot,—I will never become a monk.” “Wretch! and you refuse, then, to listen to the call of your conscience, the adjuration of your parents, and the voice of God?” The fury with which he uttered these words,—the change from a ministering angel to an infuriated and menacing demon, had an effect just contrary to what he expected. I said calmly, “My conscience does not reproach me,—I have never disobeyed its calls. My parents have adjured me only through your mouth; and I hope, for their sakes, the organ has not been inspired by them. And the voice of God, echoed from my own heart, bids me not to obey you, by adulterating his service with prostituted vows.” As I spoke thus, the Director changed the whole character of his figure, his attitude, and his language;—from the extreme of supplication or of terror, he passed in a moment, with the facility of an actor, to a rigid and breathless sternness. His figure rose from the ground before me like that of the Prophet Samuel before the astonished eyes of Saul. He dropt the dramatist, and was the monk in a moment. “And you will not take the vows?” “I will not, my father.” “And you will brave the resentment of your parents, and the denunciations of the church.” “I have done nothing to deserve either.” “But you will encounter both, to cherish your horrid resolution of being the enemy of God.” “I am not the enemy of God for speaking the truth.” “Liar and hypocrite, you blaspheme!” “Stop, my father, these are words unbecoming your profession, and unsuited to this place.” “I acknowledge the justice of the rebuke, and submit to it, though uttered by the mouth of a child.’—And he dropped his hypocritical eyes, folded his hands on his breast, and murmured, “Fiat voluntas tua. My dear child, my zeal for the service of God, and the honour of your family, to which I am attached equally by principle and affection, have carried me too far,—I confess it; but have I to ask pardon of you also, my child, for a redundance of that affection and zeal for your house, which its descendant has proved himself destitute of?” The mingled humiliation and irony of this address had no effect on me. He saw it had not; for after slowly raising his eyes to watch that effect, he saw me standing in silence, not trusting my voice with a word, lest I should utter something rash and disrespectful,—not daring to lift up my eyes, lest their expression should speak without making language necessary.
 “I believe the Director felt his situation rather critical; his interest in the family depended on it, and he attempted to cover his retreat with all the expertness and fertility of manoeuvre which belong to an ecclesiastical tactician. “My dear child, we have been both wrong, I from zeal, and you from—no matter what; our business is to exchange forgiveness with each other, and to implore it of God, whom we have both offended. My dear child, let us prostrate ourselves before him, and even while our hearts are glowing with human passion, God may seize that moment to impress the seal of his grace on both, and fix it there for ever. Often the earthquake and the whirlwind are succeeded by the still, small voice, and God is there.—Let us pray.” I fell on my knees, resolved to pray in my heart; but in a short time, the fervour of his language, the eloquence and energy of his prayers, dragged me along with him, and I felt myself compelled to pray against every dictate of my own heart. He had reserved this display for the last, and he had judged well. I never heard any thing so like inspiration; as I listened, and involuntarily, to effusions that seemed to issue from no mortal lips, I began to doubt my own motives, and search my heart. I had disdained his taunts, I had defied and conquered his passion, but as he prayed, I wept. This going over the same ground with the heart, is one of the most painful and humiliating of all exercises; the virtue of yesterday becomes the vice of to-day; we ask with the desponding and restless scepticism of Pilate, “What is truth?” but the oracle that was so eloquent one moment, is dumb the next, or if it answers, it is with that ambiguity that makes us dread we have to consult again—again—and for ever—in vain.
 “I was now in a state quite fit for the Director’s purpose; but he was fatigued with the part he had played with so little success, and took his leave, imploring me to continue my importunities to Heaven to direct and enlighten me, while he himself would supplicate all the saints in heaven to touch the hearts of my parents, and reveal to them some means of saving me from the crime and perjury of a forced vocation, without involving themselves in a crime, if possible, of blacker dye and greater magnitude. Saying so he left me, to urge my parents, with all his influence, to pursue the most rigorous measures to enforce my adoption of the conventual life. His motives for doing so were sufficiently strong when he visited me, but their strength was increased tenfold before his departure. He had reckoned confidently on the power of his remonstrances; he had been repulsed; the disgrace of such a defeat rankled in the core of his heart. He had been only a partizan in the cause, but he was now a party. What was a matter of conscience before, was now a matter of honour with him; and I rather believe that the Director laid a greater stress on the latter, or made a great havock of confusion between both in his mind. Be that as it may, I passed a few days after his visit in a state of indescribable excitement. I had something to hope, and that is often better than something to enjoy. The cup of hope always excites thirst, that of fruition disappoints or quenches it. I took long walks in the garden alone. I framed imaginary conversations to myself. The boarders observed me, and said to each other, according to their instructions, “He is meditating on his vocation, he is supplicating for illuminating grace, let us not disturb him.” I did not undeceive them; but I reflected with increasing horror on a system that forced hypocracy to a precocity unparalleled, and made the last vice of life the earliest of conventual youth. But I soon forgot reflection, to plunge into reverie. I imagined myself at the palace of my father; I saw him, my mother, and the Director, engaged in debate. I spoke for each, and felt for all. I supplied the passionate eloquence of the Director, his strong representations of my aversion to the habit, his declaration that further importunity on their part would be as impious as it was fruitless. I saw all the impression I once flattered myself I had made on my father revived. I saw my mother yield. I heard the murmur of doubtful acquiescence,—the decision, the congratulations. I saw the carriage approaching,—I heard the convent doors fly open. Liberty,—liberty,—I was in their arms; no, I was at their feet. Let those who smile at me, ask themselves whether they have been indebted most to imagination or reality for all they have enjoyed in life, if indeed they have ever enjoyed any thing. In these internal dramas, however, I always felt that the persons did not speak with the interest I wished; and the speeches I put into their mouths would have been spoken with ten thousand times more animation by myself. Still I felt the most exquisite enjoyment in these reveries, and perhaps it was not diminished by the thought how I was deceiving my companions the whole time. But dissimulation always teaches dissimulation; and the only question is, whether we shall be the masters of the art or its victims? a question soon decided by our self-love.
 “It was on the sixth day that I heard, with a beating heart, a carriage stop. I could have sworn to the sound of its wheels. I was in the hall before I was summoned. I felt I could not be in the wrong, nor was I. I drove to my father’s palace in a delirium,—a vision of repulse and of reconciliation, of gratitude and of despair. I was ushered into a room, where were assembled my father, my mother, and the Director, all seated, and silent as statues. I approached, I kissed their hands, and then stood at a small distance breathless. My father was the first to break silence, but he spoke very much with the air of a man who was repeating a part dictated to him; and the tone of his voice contradicted every word he prepared to utter. “My son, I have sent for you, no longer to contend with your weak and wicked obstinacy, but to announce to you my own resolution. The will of Heaven and of your parents has devoted you to its service, and your resistance can only make us miserable, without in the least frustrating that resolution.” At these words, gasping for breath, my lips involuntarily unclosed; my father imagined this was an attempt to reply, though in fact I was not capable of uttering a syllable, and hastened to prevent it. “My son, all opposition in unavailing, all discussion fruitless. Your destiny is decided, and though your struggles may render it wretched, they cannot reverse it. Be reconciled, my child, to the will of Heaven and your parents, which you may insult, but cannot violate. This reverend person can better explain to you the necessity of your obedience than I can.” And my father, evidently weary of a task which he had reluctantly undertaken, was rising to go away, when the Director detained him. “Stay, Senhor, and assure your son before you depart, that, since I last saw him, I have fulfilled my promise, and urged every topic on your mind, and that of the duchess, that I thought might operate for his best interests.” I was aware of the hypocritical ambiguity of this expression; and, collecting my breath, I said, “Reverend father, as a son I seek not to employ an intercessor with my own parents. I stand before them, and if I have not an intercessor in their hearts, your mediation must be ineffectual altogether. I implored you merely to state to them my invincible reluctance.” They all interrupted me with exclamations, as they repeated my last words,—’Reluctance! invincible! Is it for this you have been admitted to our presence? Is it for this we have borne so long with your contumacy, only to hear it repeated with aggravations?” “Yes, my father,—yes, for this or nothing. If I am not permitted to speak, why am I suffered in your presence?” “Because we hoped to witness your submission.” “Allow me to give the proofs of it on my knees;’—and I fell on my knees, hoping that my posture might soften the effect of the words I could not help uttering. I kissed my father’s hand,—he did not withdraw it, and I felt it tremble. I kissed the skirt of my mother’s robe,—she attempted to withdraw it with one hand, but with the other she hid her face, and I thought I saw tears bursting through her fingers. I knelt to the Director too, and besought his benediction, and struggled, though with revolting lips, to kiss his hand; but he snatched his habit from my hand, elevated his eyes, spread out his fingers, and assumed the attitude of a man who recoils in horror from a being who merits the extreme of malediction and reprobation. Then I felt my only chance was with my parents. I turned to them, but they shrunk from me, and appeared willing to devolve the remainder of the task on the Director. He approached me. “My child, you have pronounced your reluctance to the life of God invincible, but may there not be things more invincible even to your resolution? The curses of that God, confirmed by those of your parents, and deepened by all the fulminations of the church, whose embraces you have rejected, and whose holiness you have desecrated by that rejection.” “Father, these are terrible words, but I have no time now but for meanings.” “Besotted wretch, I do not understand you,—you do not understand yourself.” “Oh! I do,—I do!” I exclaimed. And turning to my father, still on my knees, I cried, “My dear father, is life,—human life, all shut up from me?” “It is,” said the Director, answering for my father. “Have I no resource?” “None.” “No profession?” “Profession! degenerate wretch!” “Let me embrace the meanest, but do not make me a monk.” “Profligate as weak.” “Oh! my father,” still calling on my father, “let not this man answer for you. Give me a sword,—send me into the armies of Spain to seek death,—death is all I ask, in preference to that life you doom me to.” “It is impossible,” said my father, gloomily returning from the window against which he had been leaning; “the honour of an illustrious family,—the dignity of a Spanish grandee—” “Oh! my father, of how little value will that be, when I am consuming in my early grave, and you die broken-hearted on it, over the flower your own voice has doomed to wither there.” My father trembled. “Senhor, I entreat,—I command you to retire; this scene will unfit you for the devotional duties you must perform this evening.” “And you leave me then?” I cried as they departed. “Yes,—yes,’—repeated the Director; “leave you burdened with the curse of your father.” “Oh no!” exclaimed my father; but the Director had hold of his hand, and pressed it strongly. “Of your mother,” he repeated. I heard my mother weep aloud, and felt it like a repeal of that curse; but she dared not speak, and I could not. The Director had now two victims in his hands, and the third at his feet. He could not avoid showing his triumph. He paused, collected the full power of his sonorous voice, and thundered forth, “And of God!” And as he rushed from the room, accompanied by my father and mother, whose hands he grasped, I felt as if struck by a thunderbolt. The rushing of their robes, as he dragged them out, seemed like the whirlwind that attends the presence of the destroying angel. I cried out, in my hopeless agony of destitution, “Oh! that my brother were here to intercede for me,’—and, as I uttered these words, I fell. My head struck against a marble table, and I sunk on the floor covered with blood.
 “The domestics (of whom, according to the custom of the Spanish nobility, there were about two hundred in the palace) found me in this situation. They uttered outcries,—assistance was procured,—it was believed that I had attempted to kill myself; but the surgeon who attended me happened to be a man both of science and humanity, and having cut away the long hair clotted with blood, and surveyed the wound, he pronounced it trifling. My mother was of his opinion, for within three days I was summoned to her apartment. I obeyed the summons. A black bandage, severe head-ache, and an unnatural paleness, were the only testimonies of my accident, as it was called; and the Director had suggested to her that this was the time to FIX THE IMPRESSION. How well religious persons understand the secret of making every event of the present world operate on the future, while they pretend to make the future predominate over the present. Were I to outlive the age of man, I should never forget my interview with my mother. She was alone when I entered, and seated with her back to me. I knelt and kissed her hand. My paleness and my submission seemed to affect her,—but she struggled with her emotions, overcame them, and said in a cold dictated tone, “To what purpose are those marks of exterior reverence, when your heart disowns them?” “Madam, I am not conscious of that.” “Not conscious! How then are you here? How is it that you have not, long before this, spared your father the shame of supplicating his own child,—the shame, still more humiliating, of supplicating him in vain; spared the Father Director the scandal of seeing the authority of the church violated in the person of its minister, and the remonstrances of duty as ineffectual as the calls of nature? And me,—oh! why have you not spared me this hour of agony and shame?” and she burst into a flood of tears, that drowned my soul as she shed them. “Madam, what have I done that deserves the reproach of your tears? My disinclination to a monastic life is no crime?” “In you it is a crime.” “But how then, dear mother, were a similar choice offered to my brother, would his rejection of it be deemed a crime?” I said this almost involuntarily, and merely by way of comparison. I had no ulterior meaning, nor the least idea that one could be developed by my mother, except a reference to an unjustifiable partiality. I was undeceived, when she added, in a voice that chilled my blood, “There is a great difference between you.” “Yes, Madam, he is your favourite.” “No, I take Heaven to witness,—no;” and she, who had appeared so severe, so decisive, and so impenetrable before, uttered these words with a sincerity that penetrated to the bottom of my heart;—she appeared to be appealing to Heaven against the prejudices of her child. I was affected—I said, “But, Madam, this difference of circumstances is inexplicable.” “And would you have it explained by me? “By any one, Madam.” “By me!” she repeated, not hearing me; then kissing a crucifix that hung on her bosom, “My God! the chastisement is just, and I submit to it, though inflicted by my own child. You are illegitimate,” she added, turning suddenly towards me; “you are illegitimate,—your brother is not; and your intrusion into your father’s house is not only its disgrace, but a perpetual monitor of that crime which it aggravates without absolving.” I stood speechless. “Oh! my child,” she continued, “have mercy on your mother. Has not this confession, extorted from her by her own son, been sufficient to expiate her offence?” “Go on, Madam, I can bear any thing now.” “You must bear it, for you have forced me to this disclosure. I am of rank far inferior to your father,—you were our first child. He loved me, and forgiving my weakness as a proof of my devotion to him, we were married, and your brother is our lawful child. Your father, anxious for my reputation, since I was united to him, agreed with me, as our marriage was private, and its date uncertain, that you should be announced as our legitimate offspring. For years your grandfather, incensed at our marriage, refused to see us, and we lived in retirement,—would that I had died there. A few days before his death he relented, and sent for us; it was no time to acknowledge the imposition practised on him, and you were introduced as the child of his son, and the heir of his honours. But from that hour I have never known a moment’s peace. The lie I had dared to utter before God and the world, and to a dying parent,—the injustice done to your brother,—the violation of natural duties and of legal claims,—the convulsions of my conscience, that heavily upbraided me, not only with vice and perjury, but with sacrilege.” “Sacrilege!” “Yes; every hour you delay the assumption of the habit is a robbery of God. Before you were born, I devoted you to him, as the only expiation of my crime. While I yet bore you in my bosom without life, I dared to implore his foregiveness only on the condition of your future intercession for me as a minister of religion. I relied on your prayers before you could speak. I proposed to intrust my penitence to one, who, in becoming the child of God, had atoned for my offence in making him the child of sin. In imagination I knelt already at your confessional,—heard you, by the authority of the church, and the commission of Heaven, pronounce me forgiven. I saw you stand beside my dying bed,—I felt you press the cross to my cold lips, and point to that heaven where I hoped my vow had already secured a seat for you. Before your birth I had laboured to lift you to heaven, and my recompence is, that your obstinacy threatens to drag us both into the gulph of perdition. Oh! my child, if our prayers and intercessions are available to the delivery of the souls of our departed relatives from punishment, hear the adjuration of a living parent, who implores you not to seal her everlasting condemnation!” I was unable to answer, my mother saw it, and redoubled her efforts. “My son, if I thought that my kneeling at your feet would soften your obduracy, I would prostrate myself before them this moment.” “Oh! madam, the sight of such unnatural humiliation ought to kill me.” “And yet you will not yield—the agony of this confession, the interests of my salvation and your own, nay, the preservation of my life, are of no weight with you.” She perceived that these words made me tremble, and repeated, “Yes, my life; beyond the day that your inflexibility exposes me to infamy, I will not live. If you have resolution, I have resolution too; nor do I dread the result, for God will charge on your soul, not on mine, the crime an unnatural child has forced me to—and yet you will not yield.—Well, then, the prostration of my body is nothing to that prostration of soul you have already driven me to. I kneel to my own child for life and for salvation,” and she knelt to me. I attempted to raise her; she repelled me, and exclaimed, in a voice hoarse with despair, “And you will not yield?” “I do not say so.” “And what, then, do you say?—raise me not, approach me not, till you answer me.” “That I will think.” “Think! you must decide.” “I do, then, I do.” “But how?” “To be whatever you would have me.” As I uttered these words, my mother fell in a swoon at my feet. As I attempted to lift her up, scarce knowing if it was not a corse I held in my arms, I felt I never could have forgiven myself if she had been reduced to that situation by my refusing to comply with her last request. * * * *

* * * *

“I was overpowered with congratulations, blessings, and embraces. I received them with trembling hands, cold lips, a rocking brain, and a heart that felt turned to stone. Everything passed before me as in a dream. I saw the pageant move on, without a thought of who was to be the victim. I returned to the convent—I felt my destiny was fixed—I had no wish to avert or arrest it—I was like one who sees an enormous engine (whose operation is to crush him to atoms) put in motion, and, stupified with horror, gazes on it with a calmness that might be mistaken for that of one who was coolly analysing the complication of its machinery, and calculating the resistless crush of its blow. I have read of a wretched Jew, [1] who, by the command of a Moorish emperor, was exposed in an area to the rage of a lion who had been purposely kept fasting for eight and forty hours. The horrible roar of the famished and infuriated animal made even the executioners tremble as they fastened the rope round the body of the screaming victim. Amid hopeless struggles, supplications for mercy, and shrieks of despair, he was bound, raised, and lowered into the area. At the moment he touched the ground, he fell prostrate, stupefied, annihilated. He uttered no cry—he did not draw a breath—he did not make an effort—he fell contracting his whole body into a ball, and lay as senseless as a lump of earth.—So it fared with me; my cries and struggles were over,—I had been flung into the area, and I lay there. I repeated to myself, “I am to be a monk,” and there the debate ended. If they commended me for the performance of my exercises, or reproved me for my deficiency, I showed neither joy nor sorrow,—I said only, “I am to be a monk.” If they urged me to take exercise in the garden of the convent, or reproved me for my excess in walking beyond the allotted hours, I still answered, “I am to be a monk.” I was showed much indulgence in these wanderings. A son—the eldest son of the Duke de Monšada, taking the vows, was a glorious triumph for the ex-Jesuits, and they did not fail to make the most of it. They asked what books I would like to read,—I answered, “what they pleased.” They saw I was fond of flowers, and vases of porcelain, filled with the most exquisite produce of their garden, (renewed every day), embellished my apartment. I was fond of music,—that they perceived from my involuntary joining in the choir. My voice was good, and my profound melancholy gave an expression to my tones, which these men, always on the watch to grasp at any thing that may aggrandize them, or delude their victims, assured me were like the tones of inspiration.

1. Vide Buffa—Anachronism prepense.

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

 “That next day—Oh! that I could describe it!—but it is impossible—the profound stupefaction in which I was plunged prevented my noticing things which would have inspired the most uninterested spectator. I was so absorbed, that though I remember facts, I cannot paint the slightest trace of the feelings which they excited. During the night I slept profoundly, till I was awoke by a knock at my door.—“My dear child, how are you employed?” I knew the voice of the Superior, and I replied, “My father, I was sleeping.” “And I was macerating myself at the foot of the altar for you, my child,—the scourge is red with my blood.” I returned no answer, for I felt the maceration was better merited by the betrayer than the betrayed. Yet I was mistaken; for in fact, the Superior felt some compunction, and had undergone this penance on account of my repugnance and alienation of mind, more than for his own offences. But Oh! how false is a treaty made with God, which we ratify with our own blood, when he has declared there is but one sacrifice he will accept, even that of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! Twice in the night, I was thus disturbed, and twice answered in the same language. The Superior, I make no doubt, was sincere. He thought he was doing all for God, and his bleeding shoulders testified his zeal. But I was in such a state of mental ossification, that I neither felt, heard, or understood; and when he knocked a second and third time at the door of my cell to announce the severity of his macerations, and the efficacy of his intercessions with God, I answered, “Are not criminals allowed to sleep the night before their execution?” At hearing these words, which must have made him shudder, the Superior fell prostrate before the door of my cell, and I turned to sleep again. But I could hear the voices of the monks as they raised the Superior, and bore him to his cell. They said, “He is incorrigible—you humiliate yourself in vain—when he is ours, you shall see him a different being—he shall then prostrate himself before you.” I heard this, and slept on. The morning came—I knew what it would bring—I dramatized the whole scene in my own mind. I imagined I witnessed the tears of my parents, the sympathy of the congregation. I thought I saw the hands of the priests tremble as they tossed the incense, and even the acolytes shiver as they held their robes. Suddenly my mind changed: I felt—what was it I felt?—a union of malignity, despair, and power, the most formidable. Lightning seemed flashing from my eyes as I reflected,—I might make the sacrificers and the sacrificed change places in one moment,—I might blast my mother as she stood, by a word,—I might break my father’s heart, by a single sentence,—I might scatter more desolation around me, than it was apparently possible for human vice, human power, or human malignity, more potent than both, to cause to its most abject victim.—Yes!—on that morning I felt within myself the struggles of nature, feeling, compunction, pride, malevolence, and despair.—The former I had brought with me, the latter had been all acquired in the convent. I said to those who attended me that morning, “You are arraying me for a victim, but I can turn the executioners into the victims if I please’—and I laughed. The laugh terrified those who were about me—they retreated—they represented my state to the Superior. He came to my apartment. The whole convent was by this time alarmed—their credit was at stake—the preparations had all been made—the whole world was determined I was to be a monk, mad or not.
 “The Superior was terrified, I saw, as he entered my apartment. “My son, what means all this?” “Nothing, my father—nothing but a sudden thought that has struck me.” “We will discuss it another time, my son; at present—” “At present,” I repeated with a laugh that must have lacerated the Superior’s ears—“At present I have but one alternative to propose—let my father or my brother take my place—that is all. I will never be a monk.” The Superior, at these words, ran in despair round the cell. I followed him, exclaiming, in a voice that must have filled him with horror, “I exclaim against the vows—let those who forced me to it, take the guilt on themselves—let my father, in his own person, expiate his guilt in bringing me into the world—let my brother sacrifice his pride—why must I be the only victim of the crime of the one, and the passions of the other?” “My son, all this was arranged before.” “Yes, I know that—I know that by a decree of the Almighty I was doomed to be cursed even in my mother’s womb, but I will never subscribe that decree with my own hand.” “My son, what can I say to you—you have passed your noviciate.” “Yes, in a state of stupefaction.” “All Madrid is assembled to hear you take your vows.” “Then all Madrid shall hear me renounce them, and disavow them.” “This is the very day fixed on. The ministers of God are prepared to yield you to his arms. Heaven and earth,—all that is valuable in time, or precious in eternity, are summoned, are waiting for the irrevocable words that seal your salvation, and ensure that of those you love. What demon has taken possession of you, my child, and seized the moment you were coming to Christ, to cast you down, and tear you? How shall I—how shall the fraternity, and all the souls who are to escape from punishment by the merit of your prayers, answer to God for your horrible apostacy?” “Let them answer for themselves—let every one of us answer for ourselves—that is the dictate of reason.” “Of reason, my deluded child,—when had reason any thing to do with religion?” I had sat down, folded my arms on my breast, and forbore to answer a word. The Superior stood with his arms crossed, his head declined, his whole figure in an air of profound and mortified contemplation. Any one else would have imagined him seeking God in the abysses of meditation, but I felt he was only seeking him where he is never to be found,—in the abyss of that heart which is “deceitful and desperately wicked.” He approached—I exclaimed, “Come not near me!—you will renew again the story of my submission—I tell you it was artificial;—of my regularity in devotional exercises—it was all mechanism or imposture;—of my conformity to discipline—it was all practised with the hope of escaping from it ultimately. Now, I feel my conscience discharged and my heart lightened. Do you hear, do you understand me? These are the first words of truth I ever uttered since I entered these walls—the only ones that will, perhaps, ever be uttered within them—aye, treasure them up, knit your brows, and cross yourself, and elevate your eyes as you will. Go on with your religious drama. What is there you see before you so horrible, that you recoil, that you cross yourself, that you lift your eyes and hands to heaven?—a creature whom despair has driven to utter desperate truth! Truth may be horrible to the inmates of a convent, whose whole life is artificial and perverted,—whose very hearts are sophisticated beyond the hand even of Heaven (which they alienate by their hypocrisy) to touch. But I feel I am at this moment an object of less horror in the sight of the Deity, than if I were standing at his altar, to (as you would urge me) insult him with vows, which my heart was bursting from my bosom to contradict, at the moment I uttered them.’
 “At these words, which I must have uttered with the most indecent and insulting violence, I almost expected the Superior would have struck me to the earth,—would have summoned the lay-brothers to bear me to confinement,—would have shut me up in the dungeon of the convent, for I knew there was such a place. Perhaps I wished for all this. Driven to extremity myself, I felt a kind of pride in driving others to it in return. Any thing of violent excitement, of rapid and giddy vicissitude, or even of intense suffering, I was prepared for, and equal to, at that moment. But these paroxysms soon exhaust themselves and us by their violence.

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

* * * *

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

* * * *

[ Chapter V - [ To be continued ] ]

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