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My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV.

Two days afterwards I again saw my father. I had rested well the previous night, and was free from fever; before him I preserved the same calm and even cheerful deportment, so that no one could have suspected I had recently suffered, and still continued to suffer so much. "I am in hopes," observed my father, "that within a very few days we shall see you at Turin. Your mother has got your old room in readiness, and we are all expecting you to come. Pressing affairs now call me away, but lose no time, I entreat you, in preparing to rejoin us once more." His kind and affecting expressions added to my grief. Compassion and filial piety, not unmingled with a species of remorse, induced me to feign assent; yet afterwards I reflected how much more worthy it had been, both of my father and myself, to have frankly told him that most probably, we should never see each other again, at least in this world. Let us take farewell like men, without a murmur and without a tear, and let me receive the benediction of a father before I die. As regarded myself, I should wish to have adopted language like that; but when I gazed on his aged and venerable features, and his grey hairs, something seemed to whisper me, that it would be too much for the affectionate old man to bear; and the words died in my heart. Good God! I thought, should he know the extent of the EVIL, he might, perhaps, run distracted, such is his extreme attachment to me: he might fall at my feet, or even expire before my eyes. No! I could not tell him the truth, nor so much as prepare him for it; we shed not a tear, and he took his departure in the same pleasing delusion as before. On returning into my dungeon I was seized in the same manner, and with still more aggravated suffering, as I had been after the last interview; and, as then, my anguish found no relief from tears.

I had nothing now to do but resign myself to all the horrors of long captivity, and to the sentence of death. But to prepare myself to bear the idea of the immense load of grief that must fall on every dear member of my family, on learning my lot, was beyond my power. It haunted me like a spirit, and to fly from it I threw myself on my knees, and in a passion of devotion uttered aloud the following prayer:- "My God! from thy hand I will accept all--for me all: but deign most wonderfully to strengthen the hearts of those to whom I was so very dear! Grant thou that I may cease to be such to them now; and that not the life of the least of them may be shortened by their care for me, even by a single day!"

Strange! wonderful power of prayer! for several hours my mind was raised to a contemplation of the Deity, and my confidence in His goodness proportionately increased; I meditated also on the dignity of the human mind when, freed from selfishness, it exerts itself to will only that which is the will of eternal wisdom. This can be done, and it is man's duty to do it. Reason, which is the voice of the Deity, teaches us that it is right to submit to every sacrifice for the sake of virtue. And how could the sacrifice which we owe to virtue be completed, if in the most trying afflictions we struggle against the will of Him who is the source of all virtue? When death on the scaffold, or any other species of martyrdom becomes inevitable, it is a proof of wretched degradation, or ignorance, not to be able to approach it with blessing upon our lips. Nor is it only necessary we should submit to death, but to the affliction which we know those most dear to us must suffer on our account. All it is lawful for us to ask is, that God will temper such affliction, and that he will direct us all, for such a prayer is always sure to be accepted.