ePub 版
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

abated ;

sides, snow-storms, to be enjoyed, must be seen as well as felt.

Although the road, as before remarked, was not a good one, yet the only serious obstacles to be encountered were, first, a long hill called “the ridge,” very difficult of ascent; one side of this hill, sinking almost perpendicularly, formed from the top a precipice of some eighty or ninety feet.

From this latter fact, however, we apprehended no danger, for there was an ample breadth of road on the top; it was only the climbing that we dreaded. The only other place where we had reason to fear any serious obstacle was where the way lay for a short distance through a narrow ravine. This ravine was sometimes so completely choked up by snow-drifts as to be quite impassable for several days. We had passed the ridge in safety, and, almost dead with cold, reached the entrance of the ravine, when, to our dismay, we found it closed against us; completely shut up with snow. Here then was a dilemma. The road at this point was intersected by another, which by a circuitous route of several miles would take us to our place of destination. But it was a road little used, and in order to travel it in safety we needed daylight; so that our only alternative, now, was to retrace our steps and endeavor to obtain lodging for the night at a log cabin, which we had passed about half a mile from the foot of the ridge.

We had just completed the descent of the hill on our return, when we met farmer Clark, his horses much fatigued from hard driving, preparing to ascend it. We informed him of the state of the road at the ravine, and advised him to return with us. He was evidently intoxicated, and received our advice with a jeering laugh. Just what he expected of coldwater men, he said ; he knew that we would back out, but he had started for home, and home (he declared with a horrid oath) he would be, snow or no snow, that very night. Saying this, he invited us to drink some brandy with him from a bottle which he drew from his pocket. Upon our refusing, he put it to his own lips, took a long draught, replaced the bottle, lashed his horses, and commenced ascending the hill. We, in a few minutes, were at the log cabin, comforiably seated by a good fire. As we saw no more of farmer Clark that night, we came to the conclusion that, upon reaching the ravine, and seeing the

condition that it was in, he had taken the other road, and had succeeded in reaching his home in safety. We found upon waking in the morning that the violence of the storm had

the wind had fallen, and the snow descended in large flakes. Towards noon the weather cleared up, and we were enabled to pursue our journey, which we did by the longer road, before mentioned. The journey, though long, and to the poor horse a fatiguing one, was to me one of exquisite enjoyment.

The country through which we now passed was one of valley and woodland, Jake and mountains, possessing just enough of the evidences of cultivation to take from it the appearance of absolute wildness. Such a country, viewed as we now did this, glittering under the rays of a noonday sun, all its rough edges and sharp corners rounded off, and softened down by the fleecy mantle which covered it ; the tall pines, their lower branches trailing the earth, and just enough of their dark foliage visible to give effect to the dazzling whiteness of the snow ; even the arms of the sturdy oak bending under the weight of their unwonted burden; all conspired to make it appear a scene of enchantment rather than of reality, and any attempt to describe it in mere words must inevitably be a failure.

On reaching the home of my friend Hunt, we were suprised to learn that farmer Clark had not yet returned. And when that day, and the greater part of the next, had passed without bringing any tidings of him, his family became seriously alarmed for his safety. The whole neighborhood was now aroused in search of him, but all to no purpose. Neither the people of the village, nor those who lived on the road he was supposed to have taken, had seen anything of him since the night of the storm.

We now recollected that when last seen by us he was in the act of ascending the ridge. Could it be that, intoxicated as he was, he had driven off the precipice ? Unwilling to alarm his friends with what might prove to be unnecessary fears, my friend Hunt and myself returned by ourselves to the spot.

On reaching the edge of the precipice our worst apprehensions were confirmed. The unfortunate man in his recklessness had driven too near the edge of the rocks. At this place there was a gradual slope of a few yards,



the rest of the descent being nearly perpendicular. On reaching this inclined plane, from which the snow had been driven by the wind, leaving a surface of smooth ice, the hinder part of the sleigh had swung round, and the horses, unable to retain their footing on the glassy surface, the whole had gone over the precipice together. The body of poor Clark was found deeply buried in the snow under the sleigh, which had fallen on him. The horses, too, were both killed by the fall. The fate of the wretched man (the result, as it was, of his intemperate habits) created quite a sensation at the time, and fearful as was the blow to his

family, it was not unattended by some beneficial results even to them. He had left two sons on the verge of manhood, who, under the influence of his bad example, were fast following in his footsteps. His len death was to them a fearful warning. They turned from the error of their ways, and have grown up worthy members of society.

Thus ended my experience of northern winters. I have been in many snow-storms since, some quite as severe as the one I have attempted to describe, but no one that has so indelibly impressed itself on my memory.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


ONE month, dark and dreary, passed over him in that horrible place. The Reformer was praying for death to end his misery. During that whole time he had been shut up in close darkness, had heard no pleasant word, or even seen the face of mankind. One day, however, as he was turning over the loathsome food just laid on the bottom of the cell, his hand came in contact with flint and steel. Near it was a box of tinder and a short candle. He eagerly struck a light.

A small piece of paper was lying in the midst of his food. Upon it was scrawled in a rude, unpractised hand:

“When I took my oath as a menial in the Holy Office, I swore to put aside my feelings as a man whenever they clashed with my duty. Hitherto I have kept that terrible oath, but now I am too weak to resist. I have gone to my home, and heard my wife's voice, and my own heart responded to her words. More than this, I have seen my only boy, playing happily in all the health and life which you renewed within him. This is too much. I will save a heretic! I will forswear my soul--and yet God will forgive that holy perjury.

To-morrow you will be examined before the. Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquenada himself, who has just come from Madrid to preside on that day. Be bold and collected. Watch my movements well, and strive for your life when the time comes. I shall be compelled to apply the torture to your limbs ; but think, in your pain, that it is not the real agony which they intend for you. I have so arranged them all-even the rack itself—that they will be nothing more than mockeries.”

“ Again, be bold and cool, and yet patient." Need we say that the Reformer spent the

rest of that night on his knees in thanksgiving and prayer ?

Time passed swiftly thus, and just as Father Francis was about to seek a little repose to nerve himself for the duties of the next day, an official entered his dungeon and summoned him into the presence of the Grand Inquisitor. The day had already come.

The room which he now entered was long and crowded with dark-robed forms, whose very silence might well strike terror into the nerves of an ordinary mortal. Nor were the figures more fearful than the horrid instruments of torture, each placed by the side of an official, who stood ready to perform the duties of his cffice. Among them, at their head indeed, the prisoner noticed one, whom he imagined to possess the form and air of Bartolemé.

The only person not disguised was the most terrible of all, Tomas de Torquenada, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. This man, who has so thoroughly interwoven himself with the history of the Inquisition, was small, slender, and possessing more of the physical peculiarities commonly attributed to men of his stamp. Yet bis eye, set, chill, even glowing in its fixed coldness, and his firmly bound mouth, made it impossible to mistake any other in his presence for the man whose name was whispered throughout Spain in terror, and has even descended to our own times, as another word for cruel bigotry.

By his side sat other Inquisitors of less note, all muffled in their customary robes. The only uncovered faces were thosc of the prisoner and Torquanada himself. He had no fear of betraying his feelings by his features.

The examination was opened by one of the associates. Every query was upon points of faith, and to all these Father Francis gave such answers from the first, as scaled his fate without farther question. He held the doctrines

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

thin board, though the part above the iron boot retained its former size.

The Inquisitors could hardly believe their senses, when they saw their victim retaining his calmness under one of the severest of tor. tures. They attributed it to the interference of Satan himself, and consulted in evident perplexity. Torquenada suddenly called Bartolemé to his side and gave him a brief order, then turned to Father Francis :

“Confess that you have leagued with Satan, and we spare the next torture.”

“God was my helper,” replied the Reformer, solemnly.

“ Away with him !" roared the Grand Inquisitor, losing self-command for the first time.

In an instant he was hurried from the room by Bartolemé and another. After many windings, they led him finally into perfect darkness, and there bound him hand and foot to the floor, so that he was unable to move a limb. While doing this, Bartolemé found an opportunity to whisper in his ear:

* The cord on your right arm is weak, but do not loose yourself until the last moment. Dash through the left door—then stop."

They then left them.

[ocr errors]

which are now received in substance among all Protestants. Sentence of death was unhesitatingly pronounced-death by fire at the next Auto de Fé.

Torquenada then spoke for the first time:

“Heretic and unholy priest! You have said enough for your own doom, but you must now say more. For a long time you have escaped the wrath of the Holy Office: you have been sheltered and protected by the influence of some one high in power, infected equally with yourself. What is his name?"

Hitherto, I have been protected by the hand of God, and he will not desert me now."

“ Tell this Holy Office," continued Torqne. nada, slowly and steadily, “ the name of the man who has up held you against the Church."

“ That there has been such a person,” replied Father Francis, with equal energy," it is useless for ine to deny, and I thank God that He has so disposed the heart of at least one Christian noble in this land. But I will never betray him into your power.”

A slight stnile came over Torquenada's face, but he only nodded to the nearest official. This man,whom Father Francis had rightly imagined to be Bartolemé, approached the condemned with his instrument of torture. It was that which history has recorded for its fiendish cruelty, as the torture of the boot. The foot of the sufferer is placed in an iron boot, and then heavy wedges of metal are driven down between the boot and limb. The torture is most exquisite, as flesh, sinew and bone are of course crushed together in a very few blows.

From the tenderness with which his foot was fastened into the boot, Father Francis knew that he was in the hands of Bartolemé, but as the end of the large black wedges were inserted, and an arm raised for the blow, he closed his eyes in anticipated torment, wholly unable to understand how the torture could be evaded. The blow came; it was only a sharp, quick pain, instead of the crushing agony he had feared. Another and another. The prisoner hardly flinched.

Bartolemé had substituted, for the jron wedges commonly used, a set of hollow instruments made of thin, elastic slips of wood, so skillfully painted and joined together that they could not well be distinguished from those they were intended to counterfeit. As they were driven in, instead of crushing the limb, they were of course compressed into the width of a


[ocr errors]

The condemned man lay for some moments in that posture without hearing any sound. The very silence became more painful than the darkness, for there was nothing upon which he could employ his mind in devising means to escape the danger.

Suddenly he heard a faint, regular noise, like the ticking of a large clock above his head. Then a light appeared in the top of the room, full thirty feet above him. Two heads were thrust out, eagerly watching something which then began to swing slowly down from the aperture. One of these men was Bartolemé.

The priest just noticed them and then fixed his attention upon the instrument they had set in motion. It swung regularly from side to side, like a pendulum, with a loud ticking sound. What it was, he could not at first see; but it was evident from the first that it was descending rapidly, and of course sweeping in longer arcs. The light from above flashed full upon it, and then Father Francis saw that it

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

was a heavy crescent of bright, keen steel, descending full upon him.

He now understood his danger, and quivered, as he recalled to memory the famous “ pendulum” torture, rarely practiced in the Inquisition, and only in the most extreme cases. This crescent edge of steel would descend more and more slowly, but still descend right upon the helpless body beneath, and only stop its hideous sweep when it grounded upon the floor. The bare idea of being thus dissevered, so agitated him, that he was upon the point of bursting the cord on his right arm and attempting to escape forth with, but he desisted, remembering the direction to wait until the last moment. Somewhat reassured, he watched the descending blade as coolly as he could command the strength.

By this time it was more than half way down. It was indeed a terrible sight—that broad, flashing edge, hovering in the air for a moment, then sweeping swiftly down to the middle of its arc, only to mount again and then descend still lower than before. He gazed upon it until a sudden insanity seized him, and he idly watched the coming death, then greeted it with a loud, silly laugh. It was now but a few feet above him, and he could plainly feel upon his cheek the wind of its rush. Yet he made no effort to free himself, but lay there, stupidly gazing upou it until a quick, astonished wave of Bartolemé's hand from above recalled him to his senses.

The time had come. He easily burst the rotten cord upon his right arm, then seized a knife, which Bartolemé had secretly left at his side, and in an instant freed himself. Not a moment too soon, for the keen edge just grazed his side as he arose, and inflicted a very slight wound.

The light above was suddenly extinguished. As the priest threw himself through the left door, he distinctly. heard his preserver slide down by the framework of the engine still in motion; then his quick, skillful leap to the ground. In another moment Bartolemé

grasped his hand, and drew him swiftly forward in the darkness.

They had gone but a few steps before the rescued man heard the dull, grinding crush of the steel upon the floor.

“ Thank the saints that your are not there!" whispered Bartolemé.

“I thank God, and you too,” replied Father Francis, fervently. “ Hush !”

Even Bartolemé, accustomed as he was to the place, found it difficult to thread his way in the darkness. At length, however, they stood in the court where the priest's eyes had been bandaged. The noise of footsteps was behind them, but Bartolemé coolly locked the door and threw away the key. In a few moments more, they had left the city behind, and were standing in the open field. Here Bartolemé slackened his

pace. “ I thought you would never break that cord. Do you know that a madness had seized you – such as almost always falls into the frightened souls of men under that horrible engine? Some rave and shout; some are stupid as you were. However, that is over now.

When I saw you handling the knife, I extinguished the light, and before my companion could seize me, slid down the sweeping frame. 'Twas a singular sensation I assure you, that came over me, when I balanced myself to strike the ground. No matter about that now; we are safe for the present. I have no fear of being taken before reaching home, for every arrangement has been already made, but we must cross the mountains into France this very night. Now, sir, I have more than paid my debt. You saved the life of of my child without increasing your own danger; I have saved yours at the hazard of my head and the certain persecution of the Holy Office hereafter. I must leave my coun. try-I have lost all means of support-I depend now only upon my hands, and a helpless woman with her child are hanging heavily upon them! Is not your debt paid ?"

" You speak too bitterly, my friend," calmly replied Francis.

“ A good deed is never unrewarded, nor shall you suffer for this. They said truly, that I have been upheld by one high in power: we will now go to him. Under his protection, you and your family will be screened from the Inquisition. I cannot share in your security. The faith which I have preachel for years, and for the sake of which God has delivered me from this peril, is yet unknown and despised in the world. That faith I must preach until I die.”

« 上一頁繼續 »