Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/729

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
713
A SURVIVAL OF MEDIEVAL CREDULITY.

years. We need not report the details of his discourse; it is sufficient to say that he gave a full account of the deep-laid plot from its first conception to its final consummation at the Congress of Trent. Each new disclosure called forth cries of "Liar!" "Scoundrel!" "Vilifier!" "Villain!" and similar epithets, but nothing could disturb the cynical composure of the speaker. As a precautionary measure, all persons had been required to give up their canes and umbrellas at the entrance, otherwise the angry words would have been emphasized by blows. The shameless impostor coolly referred to the numerous presents received, among which was an Emmenthaler cheese, sent by the Marquis de Morès, with pious sayings carved in the rind. "It was an excellent cheese," he added, "and served to strengthen me in my fight against Freemasonry." The money remitted to Diana Vaughan in ten years amounted to more than half a million francs, and flowed into the pockets of Taxil and his confederates. He expressed his thanks to the clergy for their aid in carrying out his scheme, and attributed their co-operation chiefly to ignorance and imbecility, but partly also to dishonesty, declaring that among the many dupes there were not a few knaves. As he left the hall he was threatened with violence, and took refuge in a neighboring café, under the protection of the police. No one thought any longer of the pictures which were to form such a novel and attractive feature of the entertainment; indeed, this forgetfulness constituted an important although unprinted part of the programme in the minds of those who arranged it.

How difficult it is for constitutionally credulous persons, in whom this disposition has been nurtured by education, to take a rational view of things when a strong appeal is made to their prejudices, is evident from a statement published in the Osservatore Cattolico of Milan, in May, 1897, that Leo Taxil was held in durance vile by the Freemasons, one of whom personated him on the occasion just described. Another Catholic writer asserted that Diana Vaughan did not appear at the conference because Taxil had been bribed by the Freemasons to have her shut up in a lunatic asylum.

The history of Taxil's imposture has been circumstantially narrated in a book entitled Leo XIII und der Satanskult, by Dr. J. Ricks (Berlin: Hermann Walther, 1897, pp. xiv-301; price, three marks). The author, a doctor of divinity and pastor of a Lutheran church at Olvenstadt, near Magdeburg, has collected his materials from authentic sources and treated the whole subject with remarkable thoroughness and impartiality. His work is a valuable contribution to the voluminous annals of religious superstition and credulity.