« PreviousContinue »
or other similar buildings at night, but without any straw allowed to them, very scantily fed, and exposed to all the severities of the weather. At Charenton the gang halted the first night after their march from Paris. The weather was bitterly cold, for it was freezing hard, and the wind blew keenly from the north-east. They arrived heated and exhausted with walking under the weight of their chains. After being shut up for some time in a stable to rest, they were all drawn up on one side of a large yard, enclosed, but open to the weather, and ordered to strip themselves of all they had on, and leaving their clothes there on the ground, to march to the opposite side of the yard. In this condition they were kept standing in the freezing air of that inclement night for two long hours, the guards during that time making a pretence of searching their clothes to see if they had any knives or other instrument which might be used as means of escape. After having been kept so long perishing in the cold, the convicts were ordered to walk back to the spot where they had deposited their clothes. But, O cruel sight!' says Marteilhe, the greater part of these unfortunates were so stiff with cold as to be quite unable to walk even that short distance to their clothes. Then it was that blows of sticks and strokes of the whip rained down upon them, and this horrid treatment failing to animate their poor bodies, frozen as they were with cold, some of them stretched stiff in death, others dying, these barbarous soldiers dragged them along by the collar round their necks like dogs, their limbs streaming with blood from the blows they had received. That night and the next day no less than eighteen of the party died.' Marteilhe attributes the saving of his own life and that of his co-religionist to their having embedded themselves in the warm dung of the stable, where horses had been recently kept, in which they passed the remainder of the night. Many of the survivors were so ill the next day from the effect of that terrible night that it became necessary to hire carts to carry them, though none were allowed this indulgence until it had been proved by the ordeal of the whip that they were really unable to walk. Upon the weakest of these, cold, blows, and sickness soon did their work, and reduced their numbers greatly before the gang reached Marseilles. But the abominable cruelty of the officer in charge was not the effect of mere wantonness; he had a cogent reason for thus thinning out the weaker members of his gang. By his contract with the Government he was to receive a certain sum per head for the convicts delivered at Marseilles. But he was bound himself to pay all charges, and the cost of hiring carts for conveying those who were too ill or weak to walk would not have been covered by the head-money paid
for them. He therefore saved the expense both of their food and carriage by letting them perish on the way.
With the arrival of Marteilhe and his companions at Marseilles, where they found a large body of their Protestant brethren on board the galleys, the worst part of those sufferings which they had so heroically endured came to a close, and their day of deliverance, long vainly expected, began to dawn. The negotiations which were concluded in the peace of Utrecht had raised their hopes; but when they learned that in that arrangement no mention had been made of their deliverance, they ceased to look to any human power for relief. But they were not aware at that time of the efforts that were being made to interest the Queen of England on their behalf. Meanwhile the Jesuits, who were better informed, and who feared that Louis might be induced to yield to the solicitations of Anne in favour of the Protestants, renewed their efforts to induce Marteilhe and his companions to make their submission to the Church. They left no means of insinuation or seduction untried, striving by fair language and specious promises to undermine the faith which had resisted the worst assaults of violence and cruelty. Having invited a deputation of the recusants to an amicable conference on board one of the galleys, the wily Fathers used all their ingenuity to prove to them that they were mistaken in supposing that the punishment they suffered was inflicted on account of their religion, or that it in any way lay at the door of the Church. The following may be instanced as a good specimen of the logic of persecu
"Why," said Father Garcia to me, "are you now at the galleys, and for what offence were you sentenced?" I answered, that being persecuted in my own country I wished to leave the kingdom, in order that I might profess my religion in freedom; and that having been arrested at the frontiers, I was condemned to the galleys. "Do not you see, then," said he, "what I just now told you, that you do not know what persecution means. Let me explain to you, then, that it consists in this: when you suffer ill-treatment in order to oblige you to renounce the religion which you profess. Now in your case religion has had nothing to do with the matter, and the proof is this. The King had forbidden his subjects to leave his kingdom without leave. You chose to do so, and you are punished for transgressing the King's orders. This concerns the police of the country, not the church nor religion." He then turned to another of our brethren who was present, asking the cause of his condemnation to the galleys. "It was because I took part in a meeting for the worship of God," answered he. "Another breach of the King's orders," rejoined the father. "The King had forbidden his subjects to meet
anywhere for public worship except in their parish or other churches. You did the contrary, and you are punished for disobedience to the King's commands." Another brother said that, "being sick, the curate came to his bedside to receive his declaration, whether he wished to live and die in the reformed religion or in the Roman Catholic; to which he answered, 'in the reformed. Upon his recovery he was arrested and sentenced to the galleys." "Another violation of his Majesty's decrees!" said father Garcia. "It is the King's pleasure that all his subjects should live and die in the Roman Church. You declared that you would do the contrary; that is a transgression of the King's orders. Thus you see," he continued, "each one of you has been guilty of disobedience to the King's authority. The Church has had no part in the matter. She interfered in no way in the proceedings against you; in fact, all was done, as it were, behind her back, and without her cognisance."'
This flimsy sophistry was at once dispelled by two simple questions, which Marteilhe, as spokesman for his companions, addressed to the father:
"Suppose," he asked, with an air of well-feigned simplicity, "we should require time to satisfy our minds on some scruples we still entertain, might we meanwhile be restored to liberty before making abjuration?" Assuredly not," answered the priest. "You will never quit the galleys unless you have first abjured with all formalities." "And if we made the abjuration required, might we then hope to be released speedily?" Within fifteen days afterwards on the word of a priest," replied Garcia. "You have the King's own word for it.'
Confuted out of his own mouth, and reproached with his equivocation, the priest broke up the conference in disgust.
While these poor confessors, though without any earthly hope of deliverance, thus clung firmly to their faith, agencies unknown to them were working in their behalf. The Marquis de Rochegude, an aged French refugee, who had already made many efforts on behalf of his co-religionists, undertook a mission of his own accord to the principal Protestant courts of Europe, and obtained from the kings of Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, and other powers, letters to the queen of England, recommending the cause of the persecuted Protestants to her powerful intercession. Armed with these credentials the Marquis came to England, and requested the minister, Lord Oxford, to procure him an audience of his royal mistress. Having placed himself in St. James's-park when the Queen was to pass by, he succeeded in attracting her notice. Ordering him to be called to her, she said, M. de Rochegude, I request you to let these poor men in
the French galleys be informed that they may look to be liberated very speedily.' The marquis lost no time in conveying this gracious message, and very soon afterwards an order came from the French Government to Marseilles, that a list should be returned of all the Protestants on board the galleys there. The total number was upwards of 300. In a few days an order came from Paris for the release of 136, specifying their names. That of Marteilhe was the last upon this list. Great as the joy was of those included in the warrant of release, they were deeply concerned for their remaining brethren, who, without any apparent cause had been overlooked. But the troubles even of the more fortunate class were not yet over. The insatiable rancour of their priestly persecutors pursued them still. They were filled with indignation, declared that the King had been surprised into making this order, and that to let these men go would be an everlasting stain on the Roman Church. They persuaded the Commandant, with whom they had much influence, to postpone the execution of the order until they could communicate with the Government. He consented, but the order was not revoked. They resorted then to other means, with a view to render the release nugatory. They induced the Commandant to clog the licence with so many and such onerous conditions, as to the mode in which the liberated prisoners should leave France, and the route they should take, as to make their departure apparently impossible. All these difficulties, however, were by a happy conjuncture of circumstances surmounted, and at length, on the 17th of June, 1713, Marteilhe, with thirty-five companions released from the chains which they had so patiently worn for thirteen long years of worse than Egyptian bondage, embarked in a vessel at Marseilles, to quit for ever the land of their persecution.
The adventures which they encountered both by land and sea on their route from Marseilles viâ Nice to Turin, where they had an audience of King Victor Amadeus, who warmly expressed his sympathy with them, and from thence to Geneva, were numerous and remarkable, but our space will not allow them to be noticed here. But upon their arrival at Geneva, in which the relatives and friends of several of the party resided, a reception awaited them which took them greatly by surprise. The news of their coming had preceded them, and as they came near the city, they found a great part of the population, headed by their magistrates and ministers, coming out to meet and welcome their arrival. The martyrs were received with open arms and tears of joy; honours and felicitations
citations were lavished upon them, and though excellent quarters had been assigned to them by the authorities, the inhabitants pleaded to be allowed to take their beloved brethren to their own hearths and homes, and happy was the citizen who secured the privilege of making one of these honoured confessors his guest. Some of them, indeed, had now finished their journey, and intended to make Geneva their home, but Marteilhe, with six companions, had still far to go, and after a short sojourn they again set off, loaded with demonstrations of affection, and provided with money and other necessaries for their journey by sympathising friends. At Berne, where they stopped a few days, the travellers met with a reception almost as warm and enthusiastic as they had experienced from the Genevese. They were entertained at the public charge, and every honour was paid to their heroic constancy in enduring affliction for the faith. At Frankfort, at Cologne, and at Rotterdam, where they successively stopped, on their journey to Amsterdam, nearly the same scene was enacted; in every place where the members of the Reformed Church were settled in any number, marks of honour, hospitality, and affection were lavished upon the travellers. At Amsterdam, the seat of so much zeal, and such warm-hearted sympathy for the reformed faith, the triumph culminated. Marteilhe declares that 'words would fail him to describe the ardent and generous tokens of affection which they received from their co-religionists' in that city. But in welcoming the released sufferers they were not unmindful of the brethren still left in bondage at Marseilles. Marteilhe himself was invited by the Consistory of the Walloon Church to be a member of the deputation which they had resolved to send to England for two purposes-to thank the Queen for the deliverance she had obtained for those who had been released, and to entreat her intercession for the 200 who were still pining in captivity.
He readily accepted this mission and came to London with his colleagues, where they were presented to Queen Anne, and had the honour of kissing the royal hand. 'Her Majesty assured them with her royal lips that she was truly glad of their deliverance, and that she hoped soon to effect the release of those who were still left in the galleys.' They had an interview also with the Duc d'Aumont, the French Ambassador at London, who received them with much courtesy, and promised to use his best efforts to procure the liberation of their companions, whose detention he ascribed to some official misunderstanding. His endeavours, however, if really made, had no effect; for it was not till after another year had elapsed, that in consequence of