Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/33

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Dec. 26, 1863.
25
ONCE A WEEK.

appears to you of such vast moment will have faded away, and be looked back on by you with a contemptuous smile. I will not preach to you of this, although it is as certain as that the weary body, when it has been refreshed by repose and food, no longer feels its weariness; because I know how difficult it is for youth to credit it, or to conceive it. But I will remind you, figliuolo mio, that there are other grounds on which this question should be decided, besides your own mere liking and inclination. There are duties of the most sacred kind in question. If you were to go for a soldier, as you say, for what cause would you be fighting?"

"There are many, your reverence, who say that it would be against the Austrians, who certainly have no right to rule over us in Italy; and that it would be for the good of the country, and to make Italy better and happier in all ways."

"Many who say!" retorted the priest, with infinite scorn in his voice; "but who are they who say so? Have you heard any of God's ministers say so? Have any of those who are your appointed guides and teachers, told you so? You cannot be expected to know much of politics or history. But you know that this country was governed by our Holy Father the Pope, and that his government has been turned out, and his property stolen by force. That cannot be right! You know that the king who has done this wrong, and who wants to take you to fight in his wrongful cause, is excommunicated. That cannot deserve the blessing of Heaven! If you do not know, it is my bounden duty to tell you, that the curses of excommunication will rest on all those who make themselves partakers of this infidel king's guilt, by taking his part, or fighting under his banner. Even taking your own view of the sorrows which have come upon you, as a consequence of refusing to be guided by your natural and appointed guides and friends, even admitting that there is no more prospect or hope for you in this world—if it were possible for an instant to suppose such folly—even if it were so, is that a reason for forfeiting all hope in the next world also? Because you see nothing but misery before you in this life, will you for that reason ensure misery in the life to come also I It is a small matter that this impious government hurries away the bodies of its unfortunate victims to slaughter on the field of battle! It carries them to die excommunicated, and lost for ever! Can you wonder at it, that we, who have the charge of your souls, should be earnest and instant to save you at all hazards from such a fate!"

The priest remained silent for awhile to give this tirade time to do its work. And Beppo remained silent also, intently striving to see his mental way among the conflicting notions and ideas that had found their entrance into his mind from different sources. But the priest's unfailing and most powerful ally in the work of subjugating a human soul—a sore conscience—was absent. It was easy to keep old Paolo Vanni in a state of subjection by the exhibition of similar threats and terrors. For he had that within which could only be drugged to sleep by sacerdotal soothing-syrup. And in the case of his son, the priest had all the advantage of a hazy and clouded intelligence to deal with. But it was curious to see how the clear conscience of honest rectitude struggled against the conclusion the priest sought to force upon it, even though the intelligence was unable to detect any one error in all his theory.

After musing for awhile, Beppo looked up with his clear blue honest eyes, not at the priest, but to the blue vault above him, and said:

"All that your reverence has said seems very true! And yet, somehow or other, I can't get to feel afraid God will be angry with me in this matter. I have no thought to do wrong!"

It did not in any way suit the priest's purpose to enter into a dissertation on any of the monstrous heresies and errors involved in this wholly irregular profession of faith. So he contented himself with saying:

"That is because He knows that you are about to be guided in the right path. The wish to do right, joined, my son, to docility towards those whom God has appointed to show you the right, is always sufficient to secure the blessing of a peaceful conscience. But, it happens in this case, as it generally does happen, that considerations of worldly prudence are also on the same side as duty towards Heaven. Remember what, when the Papal government is restored to this unhappy country, which will assuredly be the case very shortly,—in a few months, probably, as I understand,—will be the situation of those who have deserted their natural allegiance to fight for the usurper;—of them, and of their families! Surely you would not, even if there were no other consideration to influence you, you would not bring down ruin and disgrace upon your poor old father! We clergy have no commission to speak to our flocks about the intentions of the restored government. But I may tell you, Signor Beppo, between ourselves, and speaking as an old friend, rather than in my character of your pastor, that it will go very hard with the families of those who have assisted in the sacrilege of rebellion against the legitimate authority. Certainly, confiscation of all property, and most probably