« السابقةمتابعة »
Before his trial led a very solitary life at his castle in the neighbourhood of Montremos, a town on the road between Lisbon and Badajos, the frontier garrison of Spain: I was shewn his castle, as I passed through that dismal country, about a mile distant from the road, in a bottom surrounded with cork-trees, avd never saw a more melancholy hahja tation. The circumstances which made against this gentleman were so strong, and the story was in such general circulation in the neighbourhood where he lived, that although he laid out the greatest part of à considerable income in acts of charity, no body ever entered his gates to thank him for his bounty, or solicit relief, except one poor father of the Jero. nymite convent in Montremos, who'was his confesó sor, and acted as his almoner at discretion.
A charge of so black a nature, involving the crime of incest as well as murder, at length reached the ears of justice, and a commission was sent to Món. tremos to make enquiry into the case: the supposed criminal made no attempt to escape, but readily attended the summons of the commissioners. Upon the trial it came out from the confession of the pri. soner, as well as from the deposition of witnesses, that Don Juan had lived from his infancy in the fa. mily of a rich merchant at Lisbon, who carried on a considerable trade and correspondence in the Brazils; Don Juan being allowed to take this mer. chant's name, it was generally supposed that he was his natural son, and a clandestine aftair of love having been carried on between him and the mer. chant's daughter Josepha, who was an only child, she became pregnant, and a medicine being administered to her by the hands of Don Juan, she died in a few hours after, with all the symptoms of a person who had taken poison. The mother of the young lady survived her but a few days, and the
father threw himself into a convent of mendicants, making over by deed of gift the whole of his property to the supposed murderer.
In this account there seemed a strange obscurity of facts, for some made strongly to the crimination of Don Juan, and the last-mentioned circumstance was of so contradictory a nature, as to throw the whole into perplexity; and therefore to compel the prisoner to a further clucidation of the case, it was thought proper to interrogate him by torture.
Whilst this was preparing, Don Juan, without betraying the least alarm upon what was going forward, told his judges that it would save them and himself some trouble, if they would receive bis confession upon certain points, to which he should truly speak, but beyond which all the tortures in the world could not force one syllable: he said that he was not the son, as it was supposed, of the merchant with whom he lived, nor allied to the deceased Josepha, any otherwise than by the tenderest ties of mutual affection and a promise of marriage, which, however, he acknowledged had not been solemnized: that he was the son of a gentleman of considerable fortune in the Brazils, who left him an infant to the care of the merchant in question; that the mer. chant, for reasons best known to himself, chose to call him by his own name, and this being done in his infancy, he was taught to believe that he was an orphan youth, the son of a distant relation of the person who adopted him; he begged his judges therefore to observe that he never understood Jose. pha to be his sister ; that as to her being with child by him, he acknowledged it, and prayed God forgiveness for an offence, which it had been his in. tention to repair by marrying her; that with respect to the medicine, he certainly did give it to her with his own hands, for that she was sick in consequence of her pregnancy, and being afraid of creating alarm or suspicion in her parents, had required him to order certain drugs from an apothecary, as if for himself, which he accordingly did, and he verily believed they were faithfully mixed, inasmuch as he stood by the man whilst hc prepared the medicine, and saw every ingredient separately put in.
The judyes thereupon asked him, if he would take it on his conscience to say, that the lady did not die by poison : Don Juan, bursting into tears for the first time, answered, to his eternal sorrow he knew that she did die hy poison.-Was that poison contained in the medicine she took ?-17 was.—Did he impute the crime of mixing the poi. son in the medicine to the apothecary, or did he take it on himself ?-Neither the apothecary, nor himself, was guilty.-Did the lady from a principle of shame (he was then asked) commit the act of suicide, and infuse the poison without his know. ledge?-He started into horror at the question, and took God to witness, that she was innocent of the deed.
The judges seemed now confounded, and for a time abstained from any further interrogatories, de bating the matter amongst themselves by whispers; when one of them observed to the prisoner, that, according to his confession, he had said she did die by poison, and yet by the answers he had now given, it should seem as if he meant to acquit every. person on whom suspicion could possibly rest; there was, however, one interrogatory left, which, ünnatural as it was, however, he would put to him for form's sake only, before they proceeded to greater extremities, and that question involved tho father or mother of the lady. Did he mean to im. pute the horrid intention of murdering their child to the parenisim. No, replied the prisoner in a
firm tone of voice, - I am certain no such intention ever entered the hearts of the unhappy parents, and I should be the worst of sinners, if I imputed it to them.'--The judges, upon this, declared with one voice that he was trifling with the court, and gave orders for the rack ; they would however for the last time demand of him, if he knew who it was that did poison Josepha : to which he answered without hesitation, that he did know, but that no tortures should force him to declare it; as to life, he was weary of it, and they might dispose of it as they saw fit; he could not die in greater tortures than he had lived
They now took this peremptory recusant, and stripping him of his upper garments, laid him on the rack; a surgeon was called in, who kept his fingers on his pulse ; and the executioners were di. rected to begin their tortures; they had given him one severe stretch by ligatures fixed to his extremi. ties and passed over an axle, which was turned by a windlass; the strain upon his muscles and joints by the action of this infernal engine was dreadful, and nature spoke her sufferings by a horrid crash in every limb; the sweat started in large drops upon his face and bosom, yet the man was firm amidst the agonies of the machine, not a groan escaped, aud the fiend who was superintendant of the hellish work, declared they might increase his tortureg upon the next tug, for that his pulse had not varied a stroke, nor abated of its strength in the smallest degree. · The tormentors had now begun a second opera. tion with more violence than the former, which their devilish ingenuity had contrived to vary so as to extort acuter pains from the application of the engine to parts that had not yet had their full share of the first agonyi when suddenly a munk rushed into the chamber, and called out to the judges to desist from torturing that innocent man, and take the confession of the murderer from his own lips. Upon a signal from the judges, the executioners let go the engine at once, and the joints snapped audia bly into their sockets with the elasticity of a bow. Nature sapk under the revulsion, and Don Juan fainted on the raek. The monk immediately with a loud voice exclaimedro Inhuman wretches, delegates of hell and agents of the devil, make ready your engine for the guilty, and take off your bloody hands from the innocent, for behold !' (and so say. ing he threw back his cowl) 'behold the father and the murderer of Josepha !
The whole assembly started with astonishment : the judges stood aghast, and even the dæmons of torture rolled their eye-balls on the monk with horror and dismay.
If you are willing,' says he to the judges, to receive my confession, whilst your tormentors are preparing their rack for the vilest criminal ever stretched upon it; hear me! If not, set your engine to work without further enquiry, and glut your appetites with human agonies, which once in your lives you may now inflict with justice.'
• Proceed,' said the senior judge.
« That guiltless sufferer, who now lies insensible before my eyes,' said the monk, is the son of an excellent father, why was once my dcarest friend : he was confided to my charge, being then an infant, and my friend followed his fortunes to our settle. ments in the Brazils: he resided there twenty years without visiting Portugal once in the time; he re. mitted to me many sums of money on his son's account; at this time a hellish thought arose in my mind, which the distress of my affairs and a passion for extravagance inspired, of converting the pro