« PreviousContinue »
to the foot of the throne of the Almighty. The Salve, which finishes complins, being over, I descended from my stall and prostrated myself. O God! thou knowest what were the feelings of thy poor servant, when all his brethren joined in earnest prayer to thine infinite mercy to bless and to protect him!
I was moved to tears; with the sighs heaved by my oppressed heart were wafted the most fervent prayers for the prosperity of the monastery that I was leaving. I besought more especially the God of mercy to bless my pilgrimage, to give me the grace to fulfil the object of it in such manner as should be agreeable to Him, and to preserve me from every act, every thought, that could displease him. I walked in the morning, perhaps for the last time, through the majestic cloisters of St. Urban. My whole being was thrilled with deep emotion. of the brotherhood advanced towards me; it was the reverend father abbot, who was going to the church. I durst not speak to him; it was forbidden by our rules: but at such moments how necessary it is to speak! I threw myself at the feet of the virtuous prelate; I had need of a fresh benediction: he pressed me long to his bosom, and I felt the tears that trickled from his eyes fall upon my cheeks.
ILLNESS-FEDERAL DIET-M. LUTZ.
Lucerne, July 2nd.
I was to have set out yesterday; the boat was ready; and the people were carrying my things on board, when
MEETING OF THE DIET.
a violent fever seized and threw me upon a bed of
The fever continues: it has made me very weak. The federal diet meets this year in this city. The diplomatic body is here. The kind and amiable Count Louis de Bombelles, our worthy ambassador, whom I have the honour to be long acquainted with, bestows upon me the marks of the kindest interest: at his request, M. de Lutz, of Berne, physician in chief of the federal army, is attending me. He is eminent in his profession. But I cannot help saying that I suffer a great deal.
The diet has to-day opened its session. I had received several tickets for the ceremony, which is rather curious, on account of the singular dresses of the ushers. But, though it was the day on which the fever leaves me a little ease, I did not comply with the invitation. Ah! what to a monk, above all to a monk of La Trappe, a pilgrim to the Holy Land, are all the vain ceremonies of the world!
EXECUTION OF A CRIMINAL FOR MURDER-CUSTOM AT LUCERNE IN REGARD TO CRIMINALS WHO WILL NOT CONFESS THEIR GUILTSHOCKING INSTANCE OF THIS KIND.
Lucerne, July 20th.
There is in the prison of this town a man sentenced to die for murder: he is to be executed on Saturday. I wrote to the minister of Lucerne, requesting permission
A CONDEMNED CRIMINAL.
to spend the last night with this unhappy man, and to accompany him to the place of execution. The worthy pastor called to see me, and told me that it is not customary to pass the night with a condemned criminal; that the man, for whom I wished to perform this act of charity, would receive the sacrament at six o'clock in the evening of the day before the execution; that next morning, at five o'clock, the ecclesiastics would repair to the prison; and that, if I chose to join the sad train, I could go with them to that scene of misery and tears.
The culprit had appeared to receive some consolation on learning that a monk of La Trappe would accompany him in his last moments; but I thought it right to consult on this point the canons, Widmer and Geiger, who, with great piety, combine virtue, intelligence, and an intimate acquaintance with the customs of the country. A few hours before the execution, I received the following letter from canon Geiger :
"Very reverend Father,
"I have just spoken with canon Widmer, and our opinion is this:-If you accompany the criminal, you will present a new object of curiosity to the whole population; all eyes will be directed to you and your monastic habit; of course attention will be diverted from the unhappy criminal, for whom all that population is now praying in silence. You mean to do good; you would perhaps do harm."
I felt it to be my duty to follow, without hesitation, the pious advice of these worthy ecclesiastics. Still I was somewhat mortified that I could not afford the culprit that consolation which he appeared to wish for.
He was conducted to the place of execution; on reaching the scaffold, he was blindfolded; from the top of the scaffold the minister of the town delivered an address to the people. The criminal was within hearing of part of it, and the fatal stroke fell upon his resigned head.
There prevails at Lucerne a very extraordinary custom, a custom that makes one shudder, and that exists nowhere else. The law directs that sentence of death shall not be pronounced upon any who have not confessed their crime. Convicted criminals, from whom no confession can be obtained, are punished with hard labour only. But what a horrible condition is tacked to the miserable life which is left them! At the next execution, the last condemned criminal is compelled to repair to the spot where the scaffold is erected, to catch the head as it falls, and to carry it to the grave in the presence of the whole population. Some months ago, an unfortunate young woman was convicted of infanticide, and executed. Her wretched accomplice, condemned only to forced labour, because he would not confess his crime, was therefore obliged, as the last person condemned, to take the head of her whom he had loved, whom he had seduced, whom he had ruined. At the sight of that pale and livid head, of that blood-stained hair, he started back in horror and affright. In vain he refused to obey; the application of the whip forced him to perform the task imposed by the law. Base and contemptible spirit! he should have prayed to God for pardon, have confessed his crime, and died.
GENEROSITY OF M. LUTZ
DISINTERESTED CONDUCT OF M. LUTZ-CHRISTIAN CHARITY.
Lucerne, August 17th, 1831.
Since I last wrote to you, my dear friend, I have been very ill: God tries me, but he supports me. With a burning fever is coupled a complaint in the eyes, which renders me nearly blind. The loss of sight, for a resigned Christian, facilitates inward devotion, keeps aloof from him a multitude of objects which might distract his attention his spirit beholds God, beholds itself; in this contemplation it finds happiness. O my God! thy blessed will be done! To be sure, thou hast said to my heart that I shall soon see again. I have read somewhere that atheism, combined with loss of sight, is the last degree of misfortune, and certainly imagination cannot conceive of any thing worse.
Though extremely weak, I have been mending for some days past, and I am firmly resolved to pursue my journey.
I cannot give you an idea of all the kindness, of all the charitable attentions, of which I have been the object during my illness. M. Lutz, after attending me with a zeal and assiduity worthy of all my gratitude, has crowned his benevolence by the most generous disinterestedness. When addressing to him my acknowledgments, I had thought it right to send him some money. "I am the physician of Berne, and not of Lucerne," he replied, "and I cannot receive any fee.