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VOL. n.





/^a o

V. 2.





W HEN, after some days interval, the
Spaniard attempted to describe his feelings
on the receipt of his brother's letter, the
sudden resuscitation of heart, and hope, and
existence, that followed its perusal, he trem-
bled,— uttered some inarticulate sounds,- —
wept ; — and his agitation appeared to Mel-
moth, with his uncontinental feelings, so
violent, that he entreated him to spare the



"aescription of his feelings, and proceed
with his narrative.

" You are right," said the Spaniard, dry-
ing his tears, " joy is a convulsion, but
ffrief is a habit, and to describe what we
never can communicate, is as absurd as to
talk of colours to the blind. I will hasten
on, not to tell of my feelings, but of the
results which they produced. A new world
of hope was opened to me. I thought I
saw liberty on the face of heaven when I
walked in the garden. I laughed at the
jar of the doors as they opened, and said
to myself, " You shall soon expand to me
for ever." I behaved with uncommon
complacency to the community. But I did
not, amid all this, neglect the most scru-
pulous precautions suggested by my bro-
ther. Am I confessing the strength or
the weakness of my heart ? In the midst
of all the systematic dissimulation that I
was prepared and eager to carry on, the
only circumstance that gave me real com-
punction, was my being obliged to destroy


the letters of that dear and generous
youth who had risked every thing for my
emancipation. In the mean time, I pur-
sued my preparations with industry incon-
ceivable to you, who have never been in a

" Lent was now begun, — all the com-
munity were preparing themselves for the
great confession. They shut themselves
up, — they prostrated themselves before the
shrines of the saints, — they occupied them-
selves whole hours in taking minutes of
their consciences, and magnifying the tri-
vial defects of conventual discipline into
offences in the eye of God, in order to
give consequence to their penitence in
the hearing of the confessor, — in fact,
they would have been glad to accuse
themselves of a crime, to escape from the
monotony of a monastic conscience*
There was a kind of silent bustle in the
house, that very much favoured my pur-
poses. Hour after hour 1 demanded pa-
per for my confession. I obtained it, but
my frequent demands excited suspicion, —


they little knew what I was writing.
Some said, for every thing excites inquiry
in a convent, " He is writing the history
of his family ; he will discharge it into the
ears of the confessor, along with the se-
crets of his own soul." Others said, " He
has been in a state of alienation for some
time, he is giving an account to God for
it, — we shall never hear a word about it."
Others, who were more judicious, said,
'•' He is weary of the monastic life, he is
writing an account of his monotony and
ennui, doubtless that must be very long;"
and the speakers yawned as they uttered
these words, which gave a very strong attes-
tation to what they said. The Superior
watched me in silence. He was alarmed,
and with reason. He consulted with some
of the discreet brethren, whom I mention-
ed before, and the result was a restless
vigilance on their part, to which I supplied
^n incessant fuel, by my absurd and per-
petual demand for paper. Here, 1 ac-
knowledge, I committed a great oversight.


It was impossible for the most exaggerated
conscience to charge itself, even in a con-
vent, with crimes enough to fill all the
paper I required. 1 was filling them all
the time with their crimes, not my own.
Another great mistake I made, was being
wholly unprepared for the great confession
when it came on. I received intimations
of this as we v.alked in the garden, — I
have before mentioned that I had assumed
an amicability of habit toward them. They
would say to me, " You have made ample
preparations for the great confession. " " I
have prepared myself" " But we expect
great edification from its results." " I
trust you will receive it." — 1 said no
more, but I was very much disturbed at
these hints. Others would say, " My
brother, amid the multitudinous offences
that burden your conscience, and which
you have found necessary to employ quires
of paper to record, would it not be a re-
lief to you to open your mind to the Su-
perior, and ask for a few previous mo-


ments of consolation and direction from
JiimJ' To this I answered, " I thank you,
and will consider of it." — I was thinking
all the time of something else.

" It was a few nights before the time of
the great confession, that I had to entrust
the last packet of my memorial to the
porter. Our meetings had been hitherto
unsuspected. I had received and answer-
ed my brother's communications, and our
correspondence had been conducted with a
secrecy unexampled in convents. But this
last night, as I put my packet into the
porter's hand, I saw a change in his appear-
ance that terrified me. He had been a
comely, robust man, but now, even by the
moon-light, I could perceive he was wast-
ed to a shadow, — his hands trembled as he
took the papers from me, — his voice faul-
tered as he promised his usual secrecy.
The change, which had been observed by
the whole convent, had escaped me till
that night ; my mind had been too much
occupied by my own situation. I noticed


it then, however, and I said, " But what
is the matter ?" " Can you then ask ? I
am withered to a spectre by the terrors of
the office 1 have been bribed to. Do you
know what I risk ? — incarceration for life,
or rather for death, — perhaps a denuncia-
tion to the Inquisition. Every Hne I de-
liver from you, or to you, seems a charge
against my own soul, — I tremble when I
meet you. I know that you have the
sources of life and death, temporal and
eternal, in your hands. The secret in
which I am an agent should never be in-
trusted but to one, and you are another.
As I sit in my place, I think every step
in the cloister is advancing to summon me
to the presence of the Superior. When I
attend in the choir, amid the sounds of
devotion your voice swells to accuse me.
When I lie down at night, the evil spirit
is beside my bed, reproaching me with
perjury, and reclaiming his prey ; — his
emissaries surround me wherever I move,
— I am beset by the tortures of hell. The


saints from their shrines frown on me, — I
see the painting of the traitor Judas on
every side I turn to. When I sleep for a
moment, 1 am awakened by my own cries.
I exclaim, " Do not betray me, he has
not yet violated his vows, I was but an a-
gent, — I was bribed, — do not kindle those
fires for me." I shudder, — I start up in a
cold sweat. My rest, my appetite, are
gone. Would to God you were out of
this convent ; — and O ! would that I had
never been instrumental to your release,
then both of us might have escaped dam-
nation to all eternity. I tried to pacify
him, to assure him of his safet^f, but no-
thing could satisfy him but my solemn
and sincere assurance that this was the
last packet I would ever ask him to deliver.
He departed tranquillized by this assur-
ance ; and I felt the dangers of my at-
tempt multiplying around me every hour.
" This man v/as faithful, but he was ti-
mid ; and what confidence can we have in
a being whose right hand is held out to


you, while his left trembles to be employ-
ed in transferring your secret to your ene-
my. This man died a few weeks after. I
beheve I owed his dying fidelity to the
delirium that seized on his last moments.
But what 1 suffered during those mo-
ments I — his death under such circumstan-
ces, and the unchristian joy I felt at it,
were only in my mind stronger evidences
against the unnatural state of life that
could render such an event, and such feel-
ings, almost necessary. It was on the even-
ing after this, that I w^as surprised to see
the Superior, with four of the monks, en-
ter my cell. I felt this visit boded me no
good. I trembled all over, while 1 receiv-
ed them with deference. The Superior
seated himself opposite to me, arranging
his seat so as that 1 was opposite the light.
1 did not understand what this precaution
meant, but 1 conceive now, that he wished
to watch every change in my countenance,
while his was concealed from me. The
four monks stood at the back of his chair ;
A 2


their arms were folded, their lips closed,
their eyes half shut, their heads declined —
they looked like men assembled reluctant-
ly to witness the execution of a criminal.
The Superior began, in a mild voice, " My
son, you have been intently employed on
your confession for some time — that was
laudable. But have you, then, accused
yourself of every crime your conscience
charges you with ?" " I have, my father."
** Of all, you are sure?" " My father, I
have accused myself of all I was conscious
of Who but God can penetrate the abyss-
es of the heart ? I have searched mine as
far as I could." " And you have recorded
all the accusations you found there ?" " I
have." ** And you did not discover among
them the crime of obtaining the means of
writing out your confession, to abuse them
to a very different purpose?" — This was
coming to the point. I felt it necessary
to summon my resolution — and I said,
with a venial equivocation, " That is a
crime of which my conscience does not ac-

A TALE. 11

cuse iner " My son, do not dissemble
with your conscience, or with me. I
should be even above it in your estima-
tion ; for if it errs and deceives you, it is
to me you should apply to enlighten and
direct it. But I see it is in vain to at-
tempt to touch your heart. I make my
last appeal to it in these plain words. A
few moments only of indulgence await
you — use them or abuse them, as you will.
I have to ask you a ^^w plain questions,
which, if you refuse to answer, or do not
answer truly, your blood be on your own
head." I trembled, but I said, « My father,
have I then refused to answer your ques-
tions ?" '* Your answers are all either inter-
rogations or evasions. They must be direct
and simple to the questions I am about to
propose in the presence of these brethren.
More depends on your answer than you
are aware of The warning voice breaks
forth in spite of me." — Terrified at these
words, and humbled to the wish to propi-
tiate them, I rose from my chair — then

12 ' ivielmoth:

gasping, I leant on it for support. I said,
" My God ! wlmt is all this terrible prepa-
ration for? Of what am I guilty? Why
am 1 summoned by this warning voice so
often, whose warnings are only so many
mysterious threatenings ? Why am I not
told of my offence ?"

'* The four monks, who had never spo-
ken or lifted up their heads till that mo-
ment, now directed their livid eyes at me,
and repeated, a I together, in a voice that
seemed to issue from the bottom of a se-
pulchre, " Your crime is — " The Supe-
rior gave them a signal to be silent, and
this interruption increased my consterna-
tion. It is certain, that when we are con-
scious of guilt, we always suspect that a
greater degree of it will be ascribed to us
by others. Their consciences avenge the
palhations of our own, l.y the most hor-
rible exaggerations. I did not know of
wbat crime they might be disposed to ac-
cuse me ; and already 1 felt the accusation
of my clandestine correspondence as dust

A TALE. 13

in the balance of their resentment. I had
heard the crimes of convents were some-
times unutterably atrocious; and 1 fielt as
anxious now for a distinct charge to be
preferred against me, as 1 had a few mo-
ments before to evade it. These indefinite
fears were soon exchanged for real ones, as
the Superior proposed his questions. '* You
liave procured a large quantity of paper —
how did you employ it?" 1 recovered
myself, and said, " As 1 ought to do."
" How, in unburdening your conscience?"
" Yes, in unburdening my conscience."
'* That is false ; the greatest sinner on
earth could not have blotted so many pages
with the record of his crimes." " 1 have
often been told in the convent, 1 ictm' the
greatest sinner on earth." " You equi\o-
cate again, and convert your ambiguities
into reproaches — this will not do — you
must answer plainly : For what purpose did
you procure so much paper, and how have
you employed it?' " 1 i ave told you al-
ready." " It was, then, employed in your


confession ?" — I was silent, but bowed as-
sentingly. — " You can, then, shew us the
proofs of your application to your duties.
Where is the manuscript that contains
your confession ?" I blushed and hesitat-
ed, as I showed about half-a-dozen blotted
and scrawled pages as my confession. It
was ridiculous. It did not occupy more
than a tenth part of the paper which I had
received. " And this is your confession ?'*
" It is." " And you dare to say that you
have employed all the paper entrusted to
you for that purpose." — I w^as silent.
«* Wretch!" said the Superior, losing all
patience, " disclose instantly for what pur-
pose you have employed the paper grant-
ed you. Acknowledge instantly that it
was for some purpose contrary to the in-
terests of this house." — At these words I
was roused. I saw again the cloven foot
of interest peeping from beneath the mo-
nastic garb. I answered, " Why am I
suspected if tjou are not guilty .? What
could I accuse you of? What could I

A TALE. 15

complain of if there were no cause ? Your
own consciences must answer this question
for me." At these words, the monks were
again about to interpose, when the Supe-
rior, silencing them by a signal, went on
with his matter-of-fact questions, that para-
lyzed all the energy of passion. " You will
not tell me what you have done with the
paper committed to you ?" — I was silent.
— " I enjoin you, by your holy obedience,
to disclose it this moment." — His voice rose
in passion as he spoke, and this operated
as a signal on mine. I said, " You have
no right, my father, to demand such a de-
claration." " Right is not the question now.
I command you to tell me. I require
your oath on the altar of Jesus Christ, and
by the image of his blessed Mother."
" You have no right to demand such an
oath. I know the rules of the house — I
am responsible to the confessor." " Do
you, then, make a question between right
and power ? You shall soon fee], within


these walls, they are the same." " I make
no question perhaps they are the same."
" And you will not tell what you have
done with those papers, blotted, doubtless,
with the most infernal calumnies?" " I
will not." " And you will take the con-
sequences of your obstinacy on your own
head ?" " I will." And the four monks
chorussed again, all in the same unnatural
tone, " The consequences be on his own
head." But while they spoke thus, two
of them whispered in my ears, •' Deliver
up your papers, and all is well. The
whole convent knows you have been
writing." I answered, *• I have nothing
to give up — nothing on the faith of a
monk. I have not a single page in my
possession, but what you have seized on."
The monks, who had whispered in a con-
ciliatory tone to me before, quitted me.
They conversed in whispers with the Su-
perior, who, darting on me a terrible look,
exclaimed, *' And you will not give up

A TALE. 17

your papers ?" " I have nothing to give
up : Search my person — search my cell —
every thing is open to you." " Every
thing shall be soon," said the Superior in
fury. In a moment the examination com-
menced. There was not an article of fur-
niture in my cell that was not the object
of their investigation. My chair and table
were overturned, shaken, and finally bro-
ken, in the attempt to discover whether
any papers had been secreted in them.
The prints were snatched from the walls,
— held up between them and the hght. —
Then the very frames were broken, to try
if any thing was concealed in them. Then
they examined my bed; — they threw all
the furniture about the floor, they unrip-
ped the mattress, and tore out the straw ;
one of them, during this operation, actual-
ly applied his teeth to facilitate it, — and
this malice of activity formed a singular
contrast to the motionless and rigid torpor
with which they had clothed themselves
but a few moments before* All this time.


I stood in the centre of the floor, as I was
ordered, without turning to right or left.
Nothing was found to justify their suspi-
cions. They then surrounded me; and
the examination of my person was equally
rapid, minute, and indecorous. Every
thing I wore was on the floor in a mo-
ment : The very seams of my habit were
ript open ; and, during the examination, I
covered myself with one of the blankets
they had taken from my bed. When it
was over, I said, " Have you discovered
any thing?" The Superior answered, in
a voice of rage, strugghng proudly, but
vainly, with disappointment, " I have
other means of discovery — prepare for
them, and tremble when they are resorted
to." At these words he rushed from my
cell, giving a sign to the four monks to
follow him. I was left alone. I had no
longer any doubt of my danger. I saw
myself exposed to the fury of men who
would risk nothing to appease it. I watch-
ed, waited, trembled, at every step I heard

A TALE. 19

in the gallerj^ — at the sound of every door
that opened or shut near me. Hours went
on in this agony of suspense, and terminat-
ed at last without an event No one came
near me that night — the next was to be
that of the great confession. In the course
of the day, I took my place in the choir,
trembling, and watching every eye. 1 felt
as if every countenance was turned on me,
and every tongue said in silence, " Thou
art the man." Often I wished that the
storm I felt was gathering around me,
would burst at once. It is better to hear
the thunder than to watch the cloud. It
did not burst, however, then. And when
the duties of the day were over, I retired
to my cell, and remained there, pensive,
anxious, and irresolute.

" The confession had begun; and as I
heard the penitents, one by one, return
from the church, and close the doors of
their cells, I began to dread that 1 was to
be excluded from approaching the holy
chair, and that this exclusion from a sacred


and indispensible right, was to be the com-
mencement of some mysterious course of
rigour. I waited, however, and was at
last summoned. This restored my cou-
rage, and I went through my duties more
tranquilly. After I had made my confes-
sion, only a few simple questions were
proposed to me, as. Whether I could ac-
cuse myself of any inii:ard breach of con-
ventual duty ? of any thing I had reserv-
ed'^ any thing in my conscience? he- —
and on my ansv/ering them in the nega-
tive, was suffered to depart. It was on
that very night the porter died. My last
packet had gone some days before, — all
was safe and well. Neither voice or line
could bear witness against me now, and
hope began to revisit me, as 1 reflected
that my brother's zealous industry would
discover some other means for our future

" All was profound calm for a few days,
but the storm was to come soon enough.
On the fourth evening after the confession^

A TALE. 21

1 was sitting alone in iny cell, when I
heard an unusual bustle in the convent.
The bell was rung, — the new porter seem-
ed in great agitation, — the Superior hur-
ried to the parlour first, then to his cell, —
then Sonne of the elder monks were sum-
moned. The younger whispered in the
galleries, — shut their doors violently, — all
seemed in agitation. In a domestic build-
ing, occupied by the smallest family, such
circumstances would hardly be noticed,
but, in a convent, the miserable monotony
of what may be called their internal exist-
ence, gives an importance, — an interest, to
the most trivial external circumstance in
common life. 1 felt all this. I said to m)''-
self, " Som.ething is going on." — 1 added,
" Something is going on against me." I
was right in both my conjectures. Late in
the evening I was ordered to attend the
Superior in his own apartment, — 1 said
I was ready to go. Two minutes after the
order was reversed, and I was desired to
remain in my cell, and await the approacli


of the Superior,—! answered I was willing
to obey. But this sudden change of orders
filled me'with an indefinite fear ; and in all
the changes of my life, and vicissitude of
my feelings, I have never felt any fear so
horrible. " I walked up and down, I re-
peated incessantly, " IVIy God protect me !
my God strengthen me !" Then I dreaded
to ask the protection of God, doubting
whether the cause in which I was engaged
merited his protection. My ideas, how-
ever, were all scattered by the sudden en-
trance of the Superior and the four monks
who had attended him on the visit pre-
vious to the confession. At their entrance
I rose,— no one desired me to sit down.
The Superior advanced with a look of
fury, and, dashing some papers on my
table, said, " Is that your writing?" I
threw a hurried and terrified eye over the
papers, — they were a copy of my memo-
rial. I had presence of mind enough to
say, " That is not my writing." " Wretch !
you equivocate, it is a copy of your writ-

A TALE. 23

ing." — I was silent. — " Here is a proof of
it," he added, throwing down another pa-
per. It was a copy of the memoir of the
advocate, addressed to me, and which, by
the influence of a superior court, they
had not the power of withholding from
me. I was expiring with anxiety to exa-
mine it, but I did not dare to glance at it.
The Superior unfolded page after page.
He said, " Read, wretch ! read, — look in-
to it, examine it line by line." I approach-
ed trembling, — I glanced at it, — in the
very first lines I read hope. My courage
revived. — I said, " My father, I acknow-
ledge this to be the copy of my memorial.
I demand your permission to read the an-
swer of the advocate, you cannot refuse
me this right." " Read it," said the Supe-
rior, and he flung it towards me.

" You may readily believe. Sir, that,
under such circumstances, I could not read
with very steady eyes ; and my penetra-
tion was not at all quickened by the four
monks disappearing from the cell, at a sig-


nal I did not see. The Superior and I
were now alone. He walked up and down
my cell, while I appeared to hang over
the advocate's memoir. Suddenly he stop-
ped ; — he struck his hand with violence on
the table, — the pages I was trembling over
quivered from the violence of the blow, — I
started from my chair. " Wretch," said the
Superior, " when have such papers as those
profaned the convent before ? When, till
your unhallowed entrance, were we in-
sulted with the memoirs of legal advo-
cates ? How comes it that you have dared
to " " Do what, my father?" " Re-
claim your vows, and expose us to all the
scandal of a civil court and its proceed-
ings." " I weighed it all against my own
misery." " Misery ! is it thus you speak
of a conventual life, the only life that can
promise tranquillity here, or ensure salvation
hereafter." These words, uttered by a man
convulsed by the most frantic passion, were
their own refutation, JNly courage rose in
proportion to his fury ; and besides, I was

A TALE. 2o

driven to a point, and forced to act on my
defence. The sight of the papers added
to my confidence. I said, " My father,
it is in vain to endeavour to diminisli my
repugnance to the monastic life ; tlie proof
that that repugnance is invincible lies be-
fore you. If 1 have been guilty of a step
that violates the decorum of a convent, I
am sorry, — but I am not reprehensible.

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