« PreviousContinue »
A good, motherly, likeable old lady was Donna Francisca ; and well was it for our author to have such a friend. How much he was indebted to her, will appear from the following extract, in continuation of the preceding :
“ It was not so with the other prisoners. There being no subsistence allowed them at Daman, the Magistrates provided for them from the charity of any one who might please to help them ; and as there were but two persons in the town who regularly gave them food twice a week, the most part of the prisoners, getting nothing on the other days, were reduced to so pitiable a condition, that the sight of them contributed not a little to lessen my sense of my own sufferings. I gave all that I could spare from my own allowance; but there were wretches in the other apartment, separated from me only by a wall, who were pressed with hunger, to the point of subsisting on their own excrements. I learned on this occasion that some years before, about fifty Malabar Corsairs being taken and shut up in this prison, the horrible hunger that they suffered drove more than forty of them to strangle themselves with their turbans.
“ The extremity to which my poor fellow-prisoners were reduced, so excited my compassion, that I wrote to the Governor, and the principal persons of the town, who afterwards had the goodness to send relief to those miserable victims of the Sacred Office."
Of course, we do not regard hunger as the only evil that can fall to the lot of man; but we have little sympathy with those who represent it as a trifling evil. It is all very well for young poets and young lovers to talk lightly of such matters; and perhaps, after all, for a man who has had a good breakfast in the morning, and a mutton chop and a glass (or two) of sherry for tiffin, it is not so mighty an evil to have but a scanty dinner. But we know from experience that it is not a small matter to have half rations for days and weeks together; and we can tell all such as may doubt this assertion, that their doubts will bably be removed, if ever it be their fortune to be constrained to make the experiment.
It will be remembered that our author's arrest took place on the 24th of August, 1673. If he had been sent at once to Goa, he might have been tried, and got out of prison, three months after, at the Auto da Fe in December ; but this would not have suited the plans of his friends, the Governor and the black priest ; and their friend, the Commissary, kept him at Daman until this was over. It was therefore not until the first day of the following year, that he was sent to Goa, heavily ironed. He landed there on the 14th, and on the 16th was brought into the august presence of the Grand Inquisitor, his irons having been first taken off. Here his bearing, we must confess, was not particularly dignified. He threw himself on his knees before his judge, wept
bitterly, and declared his willingness to make a full confession. The judge quietly told him to compose himself, that there was no occasion for any such haste, and that he had at that moment more pressing business than his to attend to.
He then rang a silver bell, which brought in the Alcaide, to whose care he was committed. This functionary, after searching him, conducted him into a cell ten feet square, and there left him. His treatment here was not intolerable, except as regarded the strictness and the solitude of his confinement. His diet was meagre indeed, but not insufficient. But no books, or means of employment or relaxation, were allowed to him, or to any of the prisoners of the Inquisition. Even priests were not allowed the use of a breviary, or any other book.
The mode of examination in the Courts of the Inquisition has become proverbial; but probably many use the phrase " Inquisitorial proceedings,” who have but a vague idea of the course of procedure which gave rise to it. M. Dellon enables us to throw some light on the subject.
Any person accused before the Holy Office, could not be convicted, unless his guilt were established by the testimony of no fewer than seven witnesses. Now this promised fairly. But how was the promise kept? These witnesses were never brought face to face with the accused. He never learned their names, or the substance of the testimony that they gave against him. They might be, for aught he knew, existent or non-existent; and we confess that we are not charitable enough to suppose that the latter might not frequently be the case. When the accused was brought before the Court, no indictment was laid against him. He was asked if he knew of any offence that he had committed. If he could remember any instance in which he had offended against the laws, and if he made a full confession of his offence, then his confession was compared with the depositions that had been made regarding him, and the process ended; but if his confession related to another matter altogether, or if it did not cover the full ground occupied by the depositions, he was sent back to his solitary cell, to bethink himself in preparation for another examination, This might go on for an indefinite period at the discretion of the Inquisitors; and when they despaired of being able to make the accusation and the confession coincide, they had recourse to torture of the intensest kind. When a prisoner acknowledged the crime of which he had been accused, he was required to name the persons that he supposed might be the witnesses against him. He probably named many before the actual seven occurred to him; and thus valuable hints were given to the Inquisitors. The persons named must have had more or less complicity with the crime of the person accused, and the knowledge of this fact might be turned to good account, if it should betide that those persons themselves should fall into “difficulties.” Thus could a net be gradually stretched round any member of the community, a net whose cords were less visible than the threads of the gossamer, but stronger than the cable, or say stronger than even the strength of pure innocence could break through. Such, in brief, were “inquisitorial proceedings.”
And such were the proceedings to which our author was subjected. We have already said that the Inquisitor, having a constitutional or professional aversion to what is in common language called " a scene," cut short the first audience, and sent away our author, in charge of the Alcaide. Having great confidence in the goodness of his cause, he was anxious for a hearing, and, after repeated solicitations, his request was granted, and he was again brought before the Inquisitor on the 31st of January, 1674. He again threw himself on his knees, but was peremptorily ordered to be seated. He was required to take an oath that he would speak the truth, and that he would reveal nothing of what should occur. He was then asked, if he knew the cause of his arrest, and if he was willing to “make a clean breast of it.” He related what we have already stated as to the remarks he had made, on the subject of baptism, and of images, but said nothing of what he had advanced as to the fallibility of the Inquisition, because, he assures us, ke forgot all about it. He was then asked if he had no more to confess, and having replied in the negative, he was exhorted, in the name of Jesus Christ, to complete his self-accusation, “that he ' might experience the goodness and mercy which are shewn • by this tribunal towards those who evince true repentance
of their crimes by a sincere and voluntary confession.” His deposition, and the exhortation of the judge, having been taken down by the secretary, were then read over to him. He signed them, and was led off to his cell.
At his second appearance, which took place on the 15th February, he added nothing to his former confession ; but apparently to test the sincerity of his catholicity, he was ordered to kneel down, and repeat the Pater, the Ave Maria, the Credo, the commandments of God and of the Church, and the Salve Regina. He was then exhorted as before, and remanded to his cell.
We have seen that, from the first, our author did not shew more than an average amount of “pluck,” in breasting the tide of calamity ; but from this time his spirit broke down ompletely : “On my return from this second audience, I abandoned myself wholly to grief, seeing that there were required of me things which seemed to me impossible, since my memory suggested nothing of what I was required to confess. I attempted then to starve myself to death. I took indeed the provisions that were brought to me, because I could not refuse them without subjecting myself to be caned by the guards, who are very careful to observe, when they get back the plates, whether the prisoners have eaten enough to maintain them. But my despair found means to deceive them. I passed whole days without eating any thing, and in order that they might not notice it, I threw into the basin a part of what had been brought me.”
This fasting and mortification, however, though suicidally intended, produced, in our author's estimation, a blessed result. It led him to reflexion on his past conduct, and to prayers addressed to the blessed virgin. In answer to these prayers, as he seems to represent it, the conversation in which he had maligned the holy office, by denying their infallibility, and even asserting that they had erred in a particular instance, was brought to his recollection. And now the morning of hope once more chased the night of despair from his mind. This then was what the reverend Inquisitor meant, when he urged him to make further and fuller confessions. He had but to add this to his confessions, and be free! But alas, hope told a flattering tale. It was not until the 16th of March, that he was able to obtain another hearing. He told his tale, and was informed that this was not what he had been accused of. His deposition this time was not even written down; and he was once more sent to his cell. His condition now was clearly a bad one. His heart sickened, and his reason reeled under the influence of hope deferred. He did not again dare directly violate “the canon of the Almighty 'gainst self-slaughter, yet he could not support the life which he was doomed to lead ; and so he hit upon a rather ingenious compromise. We must detail it at length :
“I feigned to be sick and to have fever. Immediately a Pandit, or native doctor, was brought, who from the throbbing of my pulse through excitement, did not doubt that it was a real fever. He ordered bleeding, which was repeated five times in as many days, and as my intention in submitting to this remedy was very different from that of the doctor, who was laboring to restore my health, while I only desired to end my sad and miserable life, as soon as the people were withdrawn, and my door was shut, I untied the bandage, and let the blood run long enough to fill a cup containing at least eighteen ounces. I repeated this process as often as I was bled ; and as I took almost no nourishment, it is not difficult to judge that I was reduced to extreme weakness."
When the work of depletion was nearly accomplished, the jailor reported the matter to the Inquisitor, who directed that a Confessor should be brought to him. He did not dare die without confession; and therefore he consented. But he did not dare confess without revealing the course that he had been pursuing. The revelation made, the confessor gave him good counsel; and he promised, and sincerely, not any more to attempt suicide, but to take all means in his power for the recovery of his health. At the intercession too of the confessor, a little indulgence was granted him, in the shape of a fellow prisoner, whom he calls a black, (by which term he probably means not a negro, but only a native or a black Portuguese) shut up in the same cell with him! That cell was but ten feet square; but still it is not good for man to be alone, and he enjoyed the company of his cell-mate for four months.
This society restored his spirits and improved his health. He was then deprived of it, and fell back into the same state as before.
He knew that it would not avail him to feign sickness now. But he remembered that, when his effects were taken from him, he had managed to retain a few pieces of money, which he had previously sewed into a riband and tied round his leg like a garter under his stocking. Taking one of these coins, and breaking it in two, he ground one of the halves on an earthen pot, until he made it fit to do duty as a lancet. With this he tried to open the arteries of his arm. In this he could not succeed, but he opened the veins in both arms. The blood flowed copiously, and he was found weltering in a bath of it, fainted but alive.
He was taken before the Inquisitor, and laid at length on the floor, being unable to stand or sit. He was ordered to be handcuffed ; and this was done at once. Strange as it may seem, and contrary to all rules for the treatment of the insane and the excited, this did not tend materially to soothe his chafed spirit. He dashed his head against the pavement, and would soon have succeeded in finding that death which he sought, had not the attendants seen the necessity of adopting gentler measures. He was removed into another cell, and again had a black companion given him to share it with him. This was the last attempt that he made on his life. But it was long ere he recovered sufficient strength to appear again before the court,
At length, about eighteen months after his first arrest, and therefore about July, 1675, he was brought to a fourth audience. Having declared that he could accuse himself of nothing in addition to what he had already confessed, the Promoter (or public prosecutor) of the holy office now presented himself, and at last he was regularly and formally accused. He was allow