Charles Robert Maturin.

Melmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 3) online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryCharles Robert MaturinMelmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


37^



^^^]k-




^L I E> RARY

OF THE
U N I VLR.S.ITY
or ILLI NOIS



822>
\B2.o

C^«9 • ^



Brt9 Spec. Coil. UK





M E L M O T H



THE



WANDERER



TALE.



BY THE AUTHOR OF « BERTRAM/' &c.



IN FOUR VOLUMES.



VOL. HL



EDINBURGH :

PRINTED FOR ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND COMPANY,

AXD HrRST, aOBINSOX, AXD CO. CHEAPSIDZ,
LOKDOK.



1820.



•!;>•■»






V" ♦. *h '



v.?



MELMOTH



CHAPTER XIL

Jura:\'i lingua,, mentem injuratam gero. ■ ■

Who brought you first acquainted with the devil?
Shirley's St Patrick for Ireland.

I RAN on till I had no longer breath or
strength, (without perceiving that I was
in a dark passage), till I was stopt by a
door. In falling against it, I burst it open,
and found myself in a low dark room.
When I raised myself, for I had fallen on
my hands and knees, I looked round, and
saw something so singular, as to suspend
even my personal anxiety and terror for a
moment.

VOL. III. A



2 MELMOTH :

" The room was very small ; and I could
perceive by the rents, that I had not only
broken open a door, but a large curtain
which hung before it, whose ample folds
still afforded me concealment if I required
it. There was no one in the room, and I
had time to study its singular furniture at
leisure.

" There was a table covered with cloth ;
on it were placed a vessel of a singular con-
struction, a book, into whose pages I look-
ed, but could not make out a single letter.
I therefore wisely took it for a book of ma-
gic, and closed it with a feeling of excul-
patory horror. (It happened to be a
copy of the Hebrew Bible, marked with
the Samaritan points). There was a knife
too ; and a cock was fastened to the leg of
the table, whose loud crows announced his
impatience of further constraint *.

* Quilibet postea paterfamilias, cum gallo prae ma-
nibus, in medium primus prodit. * *



A TALK. 8

" I felt that this apparatus was some-
what singular — it looked like a prepara-
tion for a sacrifice. I shuddered, and
wrapt myself in the volumes of the dra-
pery which hung before the door my fall
had broken open. A dim lamp, suspended
from the ceiling, discovered to me all these
objects, and enabled me to observe what
followed almost immediately. A man of
middle age, but whose physiognomy had
something peculiar in it, even to the eye
of a Spaniard, from the clustering darkness
of his eye-brows, his prominent nose, and
a certain lustre in the balls of his eyes, en-



Deinde expiationem aggreditur et capiti suo ter
gallum allidit,, singulosque ictus his vocibus prose-
quitur. Hie Gallus sit permutio pro me, &c. *

* * * * ill- * "

Gallo delnde imponens manus, cum statim mactat_, &c.
Vide Buxtorf^ as quoted in Dr Magee (Bishop of
Raphoe's) work on the atonement. Cumberland in
his Observer, I think, mentions the discovery to have
been reserved for the feast of the Passover. It is just
as probable it was made on the day of expiation.



4 MELMOTH :

tered the room, knelt before the table, kiss-
ed the book that lay on it, and read from
it some sentences that were to precede, as I
imagined, some horrible sacrifice; — felt the
edge of the knife, knelt again, uttered
some words which I did not understand,
(as they were in the language of that book),
and then called aloud on some one by the
name of Manasseh-ben-Solomon. No one
answered. He sighed, passed his hand
over his eyes with the air of a man who is
asking pardon of himself for a short forget-
fulness, and then pronounced the name of
" Antonio." A young man immediately
entered, and answered, " Did you call me.
Father ?" — But Avhile he spoke, he threw
a hollow and wandering glance on the sin-
gular furniture of the room.

" I called you, my son, and why did you
not answer me ?" — " I did not hear you, fa-
ther — I mean, I did not think it was on
me you called. I heard only a name I
was never called by before. When you
said ' Antonio,' I obeyed you — I came." —



A TALE. O

" But t/iat is the name by which you
must in future be called and be known,
to me at least, unless you prefer another. —
You shall have your choice." — " My father,
I shall adopt whatever name you choose."
— " No; the choice of your new name
must be your own — you must, for the fu-
ture, either adopt the name you have heard,
or another."— " What other, Sir?"—" That
of parricide J' The youth shuddered with
horror, less at the words than at the ex-
pression that accompanied them ; and, af-
ter looking at his father for some time in
a posture of tremulous and supplicating
inquiry, he burst into tears. The father
seized the moment. He grasped the arms
of his son, " My child, I gave you life, and
you may repay the gift — my life is in your
power. You think mc a Catholic — 1 have
brought you up as one for the preserva-
tion of our mutual lives, in a country where
the confession of the true faith would in-
fallibly cost both. I am one of that un-
happy race every where stigmatized and



O MELMOTH :

spoken against, yet on whose industry and
talent the ungrateful country that anathe-
matizes us, depends for half the sources of
its national prosperity. I am a Jew, " an
Israelite," one of those to whom, even by
the confession of a Christian apostle, " per-
tain the adoption, and the glory, and the
covenants, and the giving of the law, and
the service of God, and the promises; whose
are the fathers, and of whom as concerning
the flesh — " Here he paused, not willing
to go on with a quotation that would have
contradicted his sentiments. He added,
" The Messias will come, whether suffer-
ing or triumphant *. I am a Jew. I call-
ed you at the hour of your birth by the
name of Manasseh-ben- Solomon. I called
on you by that name, which I felt had
clung to the bottom of my heart from that
liour, and which, echoing from its abyss,

* The Jews believe in two Messias, a suffering
and a triumphant one, to reconcile the prophecies
with their own expectations.



A TALE. 7

I almost hoped you would have reeogniz-
ed. It was a dream, but will you not, my
beloved child, realize that dream ? Will
you not? — will you not? The God of
your fathers is waiting to embrace you —
and your father is at your feet, imploring
you to follow the faith of your father A-
braham, the prophet Moses, and all the
holy prophets who are with God, and
who look down on this moment of your
soul's vacillation between the abominable
idolatries of those who not only adore
the Son of the cai*penter, but even im-
piously compel you to fall down before
the image of the woman his mother,
and adore her by the blasphemous name
of Mother of God, — and the pure voice of
those who call on you to worship the God
of your fathers, the God of ages, the eter-
nal God of heaven and earth, without son
or mother, without child or descendant, (as
impiously presumed in their blasphemous
creed), without even worshipper, save those
who, like me, sacrifice their hearts to him



S MELMOTH :

in solitude, at the risk of those hearts be-
ing PIERCED BY THEIR OWN CHILDREN.

" At these words, the young man, over-
come by all he saw and heard, and quite
unprepared for this sudden transition from
Catholicism to Judaism, burst into tears.
The father seized the moment, " My child,
you are now to profess yourself the slave
of these idolaters, who are cursed in the
law of Moses, and by the commandment
of God, — or to enrol yourself among the
faithful, whose rest shall be in the bosom
of Abraham, and who, reposing there, shall
see the unbelieving crawling over the burn-
ing ashes of hell, and supplicate you in
vain for a drop of water, according to the
legends of their own prophet. And does
not such a picture excite your pride to de-
ny them a drop?"—" I would not deny
them a drop," sobbed the youth, " I would
give them these tears." — " Reserve them
for your father's grave," added the Jew,
" for to the grav^e you have doomed me. —
I have lived, sparing, watching, temporiz* .



A TALE. y

ing, with these accursed idolaters, for you.
And now — and now you reject a God who
is alone able to save, and a father kneeling
to implore you to accept that salvation." —
" No, I do not," said the bewildered youth.
— " What, then, do you determine ?— I am
at your feet to know your resolution. Be-
hold, the mysterious instruments of your
initiation are ready. There is the uncor-
rupted book of INIoses, the prophet of God,
as these idolaters themselves confess.
There are all the preparations for the year
of expiation — determine w^hether those
rites shall now dedicate you to the true
God, or seize your father, (who has put his
life into your hands), and drag him by the
throat into the prisons of the Inquisition.
You may — you can-— will you V

" In prostrate and tremulous agony, the
father held up his locked hands to his
child. I seized the moment — despair had
made me reckless. I understood not a
word of what was said, except the refe-
rence to the Inquisition. I seized on that

A 2



10 MELMOTH :

last word — I grasped, in my despair, at the
heart of father and child. I rushed from
behind the curtain, and exclaiming, " If
he does not betray you to the Inquisition,
/ will:' I fell at his feet. This mix-
ture of defiance and prostration, my squa-
lid figure, my inquisitorial habit, and my
bursting on this secret and solemn in-
terview, struck the Jew with a horror he
vainly gasped to express, till, rising from
my knees, on which I had fallen from my
weakness, I added, " Yes, I will betray
you to the Inquisition, unless you instant-
ly promise to shelter me from it." The
Jew glanced at my dress, perceived his
danger and mine, and, with 2i physical pre-
sence of mind unparalleled, except in a
man under strong impressions of mental
excitation and personal danger, bustled a-
bout to remove every trace of the expiato-
ry sacrifice, and of my inquisitorial cos-
tume, in a moment. In the same breath
he called aloud for Rehekah, to remove the
vessels fijom the table ; bid Antonio quit



A TALE. a

the apartment, and hastened to clothe me
in some dress that he had snatched from a
wardrobe collected from centuries ; while
he tore off my inquisitorial dress with a
violence that left me actually naked, and
the habit in rags.

" There was something at once fear-
ful and ludicrous in the scene that follow
ed, Rebekah, an old Jewish woman, came
at his call ; but, seeing a third person, re-
treated in terror, while her master, in his
confusion, called her in vain by her Cluis-
tiaji name of Maria. Obliged to remove
the table alone, he overthrew it, and broke
the leg of the unfortunate animal fasten-
ed to it, who, not to be without his share
in the tumult, uttered the most shrill and
intolerable screams, while the Jew, snatch-
ing up the sacrificial knife, repeated eager-
ly, " Statim mactat gallum," and put the
wretched bird out of its pain ; then, trem-
bling at this open avowal of his Judaism,
he sat down amid the ruins of the over
thrown table, the fragments of the broken



12 MELMOTH:

vessels, and the remains of the martyred
cock. He gazed at me with a look of stu-
pified and ludicrous inanity, and demand-
ed in delirious tones, what " my lords the
Inquisitors had pleased to visit his humble
but highly-honoured mansion for ?" I
was scarce less deranged than he was ;
and, though we both spoke the same lan-
guage, and were forced by circumstances
into the same strange and desperate confi-
dence with each other, we really needed,
for the first half-hour, a rational interpreter
of our exclamations, starts of fear, and
bursts of disclosure. At last our mutual
terror acted honestly between us, and we
understood each other. The end of the
matter was, that, in less than an hour, I
felt myself clad in a comfortable garment,
seated at a table amply spread, watched
over by my involuntary host, and watch-
ing him in turn with red wolfish eyes,
which glanced from his board to his per-
son, as if I could, at a moment's hint of
danger from his treachery, have chang-



A TALE. 13

ed my meal, and feasted on his life-blood.
No such danger occurred, — my host was
more afraid of me than I had reason to be
of him, and for many causes. He was a
Jew innate, an impostor, — a wretch, who,
drawing sustenance from the bosom of our
holy mother the church, had turned her
nutriment to poison, and attempted to in-
fuse that poison into the lips of his son.
I was but a fugitive from the Inquisition,
— a prisoner, who had a kind of instinc-
tive and very venial dislike to giving the
Inquisitors the trouble of lighting the fag-
gots for me, which would be much better
employed in consuming the adherent to
the law of Moses. In fact, impartiality
considered, there was every thing in my
favour, and the Jew just acted as if he felt
so, — but all this I ascribed to his terrors of
the Inquisition.

" That night I slept,—! know not how
or where. I had wild dreams before I
slept, if I did sleep ; and after, — such vi-
sions,— such things, passed in dread and



14 MELMOTH :

stem reality before me. I have often in
my memory searched for the traces of the
first night I passed under the roof of the
Jew, but can find nothing,— nothing except
a conviction of my utter insanity. It might
not have been so, — I know not how it was.
I remember his lighting me up a narrow
stair, and my asking him, was he lighting
me down the steps of the dungeons of the
Inquisition ? — his throwing open a door,
and my asking him, was it the door of the
torture-room ? — his attempting to undress
me, and my exclaiming, " Do not bind
me too tight, — I know I must suffer, but
be merciful ;" — his throwing me on the
bed, while I shrieked, " Well, you have
bound me on the rack, then ? — strain it
hard, that I may forget myself the sooner ;
but let your surgeon not be near to watch
my pulse, — let it cease to throb, and let
me cease to suffer." I remember no more
for many days, though I have struggled
to do so, and caught from time to time
glimpses of thoughts better lost. Oh, Sir,



A TALE. 15

there are some criininals of the imagina-
tioiij whom if we could plunge into the
oubliettes of its magnificent but lightly-
based fabric, its lord would reign more
happy. * * *

* # * *

" Many days elapsed, indeed, before the
Jew began to feel his immunity somewhat
dearly purchased, by the additional main-
tenance of a troublesome, and, I fear, a
deranged inmate. He took the first op-
portunity that the recovery of my intel-
lect offered, of hinting this to me, and in-
quired mildly what 1 purposed to do, and
where I meant to go. This question for
the first time opened to my view that
range of hopeless and interminable desola-
tion that lay before me, — the Inquisition
had laid waste the whole track of life, as
with fire and sword. I had not a spot to
stand on, a meal to earn, a hand to grasp,
a voice to greet, a roof to crouch under,
in the whole realm of Spain.

" You are not to learn, Sir, that the power



16 31ELM0TH:

of the Inquisition, like that of death, sepa-
rates you, by its single touch, from all mor-
tal relations. From the moment its grasp
has seized you, all human hands unlock their
hold of yours, — you have no longer father,
mother, sister, or child. The most devot-
ed and affectionate of all those relatives,
who, in the natural intercourse of human
life, would have laid their hands under
your feet to procure you a smoother pas-
sage over its roughnesses, would be the
first to grasp the faggot that was to reduce
you to ashes, if the Inquisition were to
demand the sacrifice. I knew all this ;
and I felt, besides, that, had I never been
a prisoner in the Inquisition, I was an iso-
lated being, rejected by father and mother,
— the involuntary murderer of my brother,
the only being on earth who loved me, or
whom I could love or profit by, — that be-
ing who seemed to flash across my brief
human existence, to illuminate and to
blast. The bolt had perished with the vic-
tim. In Spain it was impossible for me



A TALE. 17

to live without detection, unless I plung-
ed myself into an imprisonment as pro-
found and hopeless as that of the Inquisi-
tion. And, if a miracle were wrought to
convey me out of Spain, ignorant as I was
of the language, the habits, and the modes
of obtaining subsistence, in that or any
other country, how could I support my-
self even for a day. Absolute famine
stared me in the face, and a sense of de-
gradation accompanying my consciousness
of my own utter and desolate helplessness,
was the keenest shaft in the quiver,
whose contents were lodged in my heart.
My consequence was actually lessened in
my own eyes, by ceasing to become the
victim of persecution, by which I had
suffered so long. While people think it
"vcorth their while to torment us, we are
never without some dignity, though pain-
ful and imaginary. Even in the Inquisi-
tion I belonged to somebody, — I was
watched and guarded; — now, I was the



18 MELMOTH :

outcast of the whole earth, and I wept
with equal bitterness and depression at
the hopeless vastness of the desert I had
to traverse.

" The Jew, not at all disturbed by these
feelings, went daily out for intelligence,
and returned one evening in such raptures,
that I could easily discover he had ascer-
tained his own safety at least, if not mine.
He informed me that the current report in
Madrid was, that I had perished in the
fall of the burning ruins on the night of
the fire. He added, that this report had
received additional currency and strength
from the fact, that the bodies of those who
had perished by the fall of the arch, were,
when discovered, so defaced by fire, and
so crushed by the massive fragments, as
to be utterly undistinguishable ; — their re-
mains had been collected, however, and
mine were supposed to be among the num-
ber. A mass had been performed for
them, and their cinders, occupying but a



A TALE. 19

single coffin *, were interred in the vaults
of the Dominican church, while some of
the first families of Spain, in the deepest
mourning, and their faces veiled, testified
their grief in silence for those whom they
would have shuddered to acknowledge
their mortal relationship to, had they been
still living. Certainly a lump of cinders
was no longer an object even of religi-
ous hostility. My mother, he added, was
among the number of mourners, but with
a veil so long and thick, and attendance so
few, that it would have been impossible
to have known the Duchess di Mon^ada,
but for the whisper that her appearance
there had been enjoined for penance. He
added, what gave me more perfect satis-
faction, that the holy office was very glad



* This extraordinary fact occurred after the dread-
ful fire which consumed sixteen persons in one house,
in Stephen's Green, Dublin, 1816. The writer of
this heard the screams of sufferers whom it was im«
possible to save, for an hour and a half



20 MEL MOTH :

to accredit the story of my death ; they
wished me to be believed dead, and what
the Inquisition wishes to be believed, is
rarely denied belief in Madrid. This sign,
ing my certificate of death, was to me the
best security for life. In the communica-
tiveness of his joy, which had expanded
his heart, if not his hospitality, the Jew,
as I swallowed my bread and water, (for
my stomach still loathed all animal food),
informed me that there was a procession to
take place that evening, the most solemn
and superb ever witnessed in Madrid.
The holy office was to appear in all the
pomp and plenitude of its glory, accompa-
nied by the standards of St Dominic and
the cross, while all the ecclesiastical orders
in Madrid were to attend with their ap-
propriate insignia, invested by a strong
military guard, (which, for some reason or
other, was judged necessary or proper),
and, attended by the whole populace of
Madrid, was to proceed to the principal
church to humihate themselves for the re-



A TALE. 21

cent calamity they had undergone, and
implore the saints to be more personally
active in the event of a future conflagra-
tion.

" The evening came on — the Jew left
me ; and, under an impression at once un-
accountable and irresistible, I ascended
to the highest apartment in his house,
and, with a beating heart, listened for the
toll of the bells that was to announce the
commencement of the ceremony. I had
not long to wait. At the close of twilight,
every steeple in the city was vibrating
with the tolls of their well-plied bells. I
was in an upper room of the house.
There was but one window ; but, hiding
myself behind the blind, which I withdrew
from time to time, I had a full view of the
spectacle. The house of the Jew looked
out on an open space, through which the
procession was to pass, and which was al-
ready so filled, that I wondered how the
procession could ever make its way through
such a wedged and impenetrable mass. A t



22 MELMOTH :

last, I could distinguish a motion like that
of a distant power, giving a kind of inde-
finite impulse to the vast body that rolled
and blackened beneath me, like the ocean
under the first and far-felt agitations of the
storm.

" The crowd rocked and reeled, but did
not seem to give way an inch. The pro-
cession commenced. I could see it ap-
proach, marked as it was by the crucifix,
banner, and taper — (for they had reserved
the procession till a late hour, to give it the
imposing effect of torch-light.) And I saw
the multitude at a vast distance give way
at once. Then came on the stream of the
procession, rushing, like a magnificent
river, between two banks of human bo-
dies, who kept as regular an4 strict dis-
tance, as if they had been ramparts of
stone, — the banners, and crucifixes, and
tapers, appearing like the crests of foam
on advancing billows, sometimes rising,
sometimes sinking. At last they came on,
and the whole grandeur of tlie procession



A TALE. 23

burst on my view, and nothing was ever
more imposing, or more magnificent. The
habits of the ecclesiastics, the glare of the
torches struggling with the dying twihght,
and seeming to say to heaven, We have a
sun though yours is set ;— the solemn and
resolute look of the whole party, who trod
as if their march were on the bodies of
kings, and looked as if they would have
said. What is the sceptre to the cross ? —
the black crucifix itself, trembling in the
rear, attended by the banner of St Domi-
nick, with its awful inscription. — It was a
sight to convert all hearts, and I exulted I
was a Catholic. Suddenly a tumult seem-
ed to arise among the crowd — I knew not
from what it could arise — all seemed so
pleased and so elated.

" I drew away the blind, and saw, by
torch-light, among a crowd of officials who
clustered round the standard of St Domi-
nick, the figure of my companion. His
story was well known. At first a faint
hiss was heard, then a wikl and smothered



24 MELMOTH :

howl. Then I heard voices among the
crowd repeat, in audible sounds, " What
is this for ? Why do they ask why the
Inquisition has been half-burned ? — why
the virgin has withdrawn her protection ?
— why the saints turn away their faces
from us? — when a parricide marches a-
mong the officials of the Inquisition. Are
the hands that have cut a father's throat
fit to support the banner of the cross?"
These were the words but of a few at first,
but the whisper spread rapidly among the
crowd ; and fierce looks were darted, and
hands were clenched and raised, and some
stooped to the earth for stones. The pro-
cession went on, however, and every one
knelt to the crucifixes as they advanced,
held aloft by the priests. But the mur-
murs increased too, and the words, " par-
ricide, profanation, and victim," resounded
on every side, even from those who knelt
in the mire as the cross passed by. The
murmur increased — it could no longer be
mistaken for that of adoration. The fore-



A TALE. 25

most priests paused in terror ill concealed
— and this seemed the sio'nal for the terri-
ble scene that was about to follow. All
officer belonging to the guard at this time
ventured to intimate to the chief Inquisi-
tor the danger that might be apprehended,
but was dismissed with the short and sul-
len answer, " Move on — the servants of
Christ have nothing to fear." The proces-
sion attempted to proceed, but their pro-
gress was obstructed by the multitude,
who now seemed bent on some deadly


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCharles Robert MaturinMelmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 15)