Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 24.

John Gerard
" On the third day immediately after dinner came my gaoler to me, and with sorrowful mien told me that the Lords Commissioners had come, and with them the Queen's Attorney General, and that I must go down to them.

" ' I am ready,' I replied ; ' I only ask you to allow me to say a Pater and Ave in the lower dungeon.'

" This he allowed, and then we went together to the house of the Lieutenant, which was within the Tower walls. There I found five men, none of whom had before examined me except Wade, who was there for the purpose of accusing me on all points.

" The Queen's Attorney General then took a sheet of paper, and began to write a solemn form of juridical examination."

The examination of Father Gerard on this occasion is preserved in the Public Record Office. 1 The Commissioners were Sir Richard Barkeley, Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Edward Coke, then Attorney General, Thomas Fleming, a Privy Councillor, Sir Francis Bacon, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and William Wade or Waad, afterwards Justice Young's successor, and subsequently Lieutenant of the Tower, then Secretary to the Lords of the Council.

" The examination of John Gerard, priest, taken this 14th day of April 1597.

" Being demanded whether he received any letters from the parts beyond the seas or no, confesseth that within these four or five days he received 2 from Antwerp (as he supposeth) letters inclosed and sealed up. But how many letters were inclosed therein he knoweth not, and saith that the said letters were directed to him by the name of Standish ; and being demanded from whom those letters were sent,3 saith that he knoweth not from whom the same were sent, and denieth that he read them or that he knoweth the contents of the same, and at the first he said that he burnt them, but afterwards retracted that and confesseth that he sent them over to whom the same appertained, but 4 refuseth to declare to whom the same were delivered over, and refuseth also to declare who brought the same to him, or by whom he conveyed them over. He confesseth that he received within this year past other letters from the parts beyond the seas, and two or three of them he confesseth he did read, and saith that those letters contained matter concerning maintenance of scholars beyond sea, but refuseth to declare who sent those letters or by whom the same were brought, and saith that some of those letters were sent from St. Omers; and two or three other letters which he received from the parts beyond the seas he conveyed over to some other within this realm, but denieth that he knew the contents of those letters and refuseth to tell who sent or brought the same or to whom the same were conveyed, but saith that the same were sent over to him to whom the said last letters which he received were conveyed unto. And being demanded whether he sent not those letters to Garnet his Superior, saith that he will name no name; but saith that those letters came to him because he had more opportunity to receive them and to convey them over. And confesseth that the party to whom he sent those letters is a priest, and being demanded how it is possible that he should know to whom the said last letters appertained, considering that he saith that he neither knoweth from whom the same were sent, nor knoweth the contents of the same, especially the said letters being' directed to himself by the name ot Standish, saith that he 5 thinketh that some within this realm have greater 6 care and authority to provide for such scholars as be beyond sea than he, and saith that he sent those last letters as he had done other to that person, taking the same to contain no other matter but only concerning maintenance of scholars and such as be sent from hence for the like matters. And being demanded whether he opened not the outermost sealed of those last letters, confesseth that he did ; and being also demanded to whom the letters within inclosed were directed, saith that he remembereth not 8 the name, but saith that he thinketh it was to the said former person, and saith that there was nothing written within the outermost paper, and thinketh that there were two letters within that which he conveyed over. And saith that the letters within were not directed as the outermost was, but saith that he remembereth not 9 by what name the same were directed.

"I refuse not for any disloyal mind I protest as I look to be saved but for that I take these things not to have concerned any matter of State with which I would not have dealt nor any other but matters of devotion as before.

"And being demanded whether this subscription is his usual manner of writing, 10 saith that he useth the same in his subscriptions to his examinations, and saith that the cause thereof is that he would bring no man to trouble and that he will not acknowledge his own hand, and saith that he never wrote any letter to any man in this hand, saving once to Mr. Topcliffe. And being demanded what was the cause that moved him to have escaped out of prison of late, saith that the cause was that he might have more opportunity to have won souls. And being demanded who procured the counterfeit keys for him by means whereof he should have escaped, refuseth to tell who it was, for that as he saith he will not discover anything against any other that may bring them to trouble.

 " Examined by us, "John Gerrard. Ry. Barkeley. Edw. Coke. Tho. Fflemynge. Fr. Bacon. W. Waad."

 Endorsed —" Jo. Jerrard."

On the back of a playing card (the seven of spades) which is attached to the original document, is written in Sir Edward Coke's handwriting :

" Polewhele 1 Walpole 1 Pat Cullen 1 Annias 31 Willms 1 Squier,  Jarrard 1"

Polewhele, Patrick Cullen or O'Collun, Williams, and Squire were all executed for high treason, the latter on the accusation of having, at Father Walpole's instigation, poisoned the pommel of Elizabeth's saddle. Annias apostatized after two years' imprisonment.

We now return to the impression that remained on Father Gerard's memory of this examination, when he wrote his Life some twenty years afterwards.

" They did not ask anything at that time about private Catholics, but only about matters of State, to which I answered as before in general terms, namely, that all such things were strictly forbidden to us of the Society; that I had consequently never mixed myself up with political matters, sufficient proof whereof I said was to be found in the fact that though they had had me in custody for three years, and had constantly examined me, they had never been able to produce a single line of my writing, nor a single trustworthy witness, to show that I had ever injured the State in a single point.

" They then inquired what letters I had lately received from our fathers abroad. Here it was I first divined the reason of my being transferred to the Tower. I answered, however, that if I had ever received any letters from abroad, they never had any connection with matters of State, but related solely to the money matters of certain Catholics who were living beyond seas.

"' Did not you,' said Wade, ' receive lately a packet of letters ; and did you not deliver them to such a one for Henry Garnet ? '

"' If I have received any such,' I answered, ' and delivered them as you say, I only did my duty. But I never received nor delivered any, but what related to the private money matters of certain religious or students, who are pursuing their studies beyond seas, as I have before said.'

"' Well,' said they, ' where is he to be found to whom you delivered the letters, and how is he called ?'

"' I do not know,' I answered, ' and if I did know, I neither could nor would tell you,' and then I alleged the usual reasons.

"'You tell us,' said the Attorney General, 'that you do not wish to offend against the State. Tell us, then, where this Garnet is. For he is an enemy of the State, and you are bound to give information of such people.'

"' He is no enemy of the State,' I replied, ' but, on the contrary, I am sure that he would be ready to lay down his life for the Queen and the State. However, I do not know where he is, and if I did know I would not tell you.'

"'But you shall tell us,' said they, 'before we leave this place.'

"' Please God,' said I, 'that shall never be.'

" They then produced the warrant which they had for putting me to the torture, and gave it me to read ; for it is not allowed in this prison to put any one to the torture without express warrant. I saw the document was duly signed, so I said, ' By the help of God I will never do what is against justice and against the Catholic faith. You have me in your power; do what God permits you, for you certainly cannot go beyond.'

"Then they began to entreat me not to force them to do what they were loth to do, and told me they were bound not to desist from putting me to the torture day after day, as long as my life lasted, until I gave the information they sought from me.

" ' I trust in God's goodness,' I answered, 'that He will never allow me to do so base an act as to bring innocent persons to harm. Nor, indeed, do I fear what you can do to me, since all of us are in God's hands.'

" Such was the purport of my replies, as far as I can remember.

"Then we proceeded to the place appointed for the torture. We went in a sort of solemn procession, the attendants preceding us with lighted candles, because the place was underground and very dark, especially about the entrance. 11 It was a place of immense extent, and in it were ranged divers sorts of racks, and other instruments of torture. Some of these they displayed before me, and told me I should have to taste them every one. Then again they asked me if I was willing to satisfy them on the points on which they had questioned me. ' It is out of my power to satisfy you,' I answered ; and throwing myself on my knees, I said a prayer or two.

" Then they led me to a great upright beam or pillar of wood which was one of the supports of this vast crypt. At the summit of this column were fixed certain iron staples for supporting weights. Here they placed on my wrists gauntlets of iron, and ordered me to mount upon two or three wicker steps; T then raising my arms, they inserted an iron bar through the rings of the gauntlets and then through the staples in the pillar, putting a pin through the bar so that it could not slip. My arms being thus fixed above my head, they withdrew those wicker steps 12 spoke of, one by one, from beneath my feet, so that I hung by my hands and arms. The tips of my toes, however, still touched the ground, 13 so they dug away the ground beneath ; for they could not raise me higher, as they had suspended me from the topmost staples in the pillar.

" Thus hanging by my wrists, I began to pray, while those gentlemen standing round asked me again if I was willing to confess. I replied, ' I neither can nor will,' but so terrible a pain began to oppress me that I was scarce able to speak the words. The worst pain was in my breast and belly, my arms and hands. It seemed to me that all the blood in my body rushed up my arms into my hands ; and I was under the impression at the time that the blood actually burst forth from my fingers and at the back of my hands. This was, however, a mistake; the sensation was caused by the swelling of the flesh over the iron that bound it.

" I felt now such intense pain (and the effect was probably heightened by an interior temptation), that it seemed to me impossible to continue enduring it. It did not, however, go so far as to make me feel any inclination or real disposition to give the information they wanted. For as the eyes of our merciful Lord had seen my imperfection, He did ' not suffer me to be tempted above what I was able, but with the temptation made also a way of escape.' Seeing me, therefore, in this agony of pain and this interior distress, His infinite mercy sent me this thought: 'The very furthest and utmost they can do is to take away thy life ; and often hast thou desired to give thy . life for God : thou art in God's hands, Who knoweth well what thou sufferest, and is all-powerful to sustain thee.' With this thought our good God gave me also out of His immense bounty the grace to resign myself and offer myself utterly to His good pleasure, together with some hope and desire of dying for His sake. From that moment I felt no more trouble in my soul, and even the bodily pain seemed to be more bearable than before, although I doubt not that it really increased from the continued strain that was exercised on every part of my body.

" Hereupon those gentlemen, seeing that I gave them no further answer, departed to the Lieutenant's house, and there they waited, sending now and then to know how things were going on in the crypt. There were left with me three or four strong men, to superintend my torture. My gaoler also remained, I fully believe out of kindness to me, and kept wiping away with a handkerchief the sweat that ran down from my face the whole time, as indeed it did from my whole body. So far, indeed, he did me a service ; but by his words he rather added to my distress, for he never stopped entreating and beseeching me to have pity on myself, and tell these gentlemen what they wanted to know ; and so many human reasons did he allege, that I verily believed he was either instigated directly by the devil under pretence of affection for me, or had been left there purposely by the persecutors to influence me by his show of sympathy. In any case, these shafts of the enemy seemed to be spent before they reached me, for though annoying, they did me no real hurt, nor did they seem to touch my soul or move it in the least. I said, therefore, to him, ' I pray you to say no more on that point, for I am not minded to lose my soul for the sake of my body.' Yet I could not prevail with him to be silent. The others also who stood by said, ' He will be a cripple all his life, if he lives through it; but he will have to be tortured daily till he confesses.* But I kept praying in a low voice, and continually uttered the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

" I had hung in this way till after one of the clock as I think, when I fainted. How long I was in the faint I know not—perhaps not long ; for the men who stood by lifted me up, or replaced those wicker steps under my feet, until I came to myself; and immediately they heard me praying they let me down again. This they did over and over again when the faint came on, eight or nine times before five of the clock. Somewhat before five came Wade again, and drawing near, said, 'Will you yet obey the commands of the Queen and the Council ?'

"' No,' said I, ' what you ask is unlawful, therefore I will never do it.'

" ' At least, then,' said Wade, ' say that you would like to speak to Secretary Cecil.'

" ' I have nothing to say to him,' I replied, ' more than I have said already; and if I were to ask to speak to him, scandal would be caused, for people would imagine that I was yielding at length, and was willing to give information.'

" Upon this Wade suddenly turned his back in a rage and departed, saying in a loud and angry tone, ' Hang there, then, till you rot!'

" So he went away, and I think all the Commissioners then left the Tower ; for at five of the clock the great bell of the Tower sounds, as a signal for all to leave who do not wish to be locked in all night. Soon after this they took me down from my cross, and though neither foot nor leg was injured, yet I could hardly stand.

" I was helped back to my cell by the gaoler, and meeting on the way some of the prisoners who had the range of the Tower, I addressed the gaoler in their hearing, saying I wondered how those gentlemen could insist so on my telling them where Father Garnet was, since every one must acknowledge it to be a sin to betray an innocent man, a thing I would never do, though I should die for it. This I said out loud, on purpose that the authorities might not have it in their power to publish a report about me, that I had made a confession, as they often did in other cases. I had also another reason, which was that word might reach Father Garnet (through these persons spreading abroad what they heard me say), that it was about him I was chiefly examined, in order that he might look to himself. I noticed that my gaoler was very unwilling I should speak thus before the others, but I did not stint for that. My gaoler appeared sincerely to compassionate my state, and when we reached my cell he laid me a fire, and brought me some food, as supper time had nearly come. I scarcely tasted anything, but laid myself on my bed, and remained quiet there till the next morning.

" Early next morning, however, soon after the Tower gates were opened, my gaoler came up to the cell and told me that Master Wade had arrived, and that I must go down to him. I went down, therefore, that time in a sort of cloak with wide sleeves, for my hands were so swollen that they would not have passed through ordinary sleeves. When I had come to the Lieutenant's house, Wade addressed me thus: ' I am sent to you on the part of the Queen and of Master Secretary Cecil, the first of whom assures you on the word of a Sovereign, the other on his word of honour, that they know for certain that Garnet is in the habit of meddling in political matters, and that he is an enemy of the State. Consequently, unless you mean to contradict them flatly, you ought to submit your judgment, and produce him.'

"' They cannot possibly know this,' I replied, ' by their own experience and of certain knowledge, since they have no personal knowledge of the man. Now I have lived with him, and know him well, and I know him to be no such character as you say.'

"' Well, then,' returned he, ' you will not acknowledge it, nor tell us what we ask ?'

" ' No, certainly not,' said I, ' I neither can nor will.'

"' It would be better for you if you did,' he replied. And thereupon he summoned from the next room a gentleman who had been there waiting, a tall and commanding figure, whom he called the Superintendent of Torture. I knew there was such an officer, but this man was not really in that charge, as I heard afterwards, but was Master of the Artillery in the Tower. However, Wade called him by this name to strike the greater terror into me, and said to him, ' I deliver this man into your hands. You are to rack him twice to-day, and twice daily until such time as he chooses to confess.' The officer then took charge of me, and Wade departed.

"Thereupon we descended with the same solemnity as before into the place appointed for torture, and again they put the gauntlets on the same part of my arms as before : indeed, they could not be put on in any other part, for the flesh had so risen on both sides that there were two hills of flesh with a valley between, and the gauntlets would not meet anywhere but in the valley.

Here, then, were they put on, not without causing me much pain. Our good Lord, however, helped me, and I cheerfully offered Him my hands and my heart. So I was hung up again as I before described ; and in my hands I felt a great deal more pain than on the previous day, but not so much in my breast and belly, perhaps because this day I had eaten nothing.

"While thus hanging I prayed, sometimes silently, sometimes aloud, recommending myself to our Lord Jesus and His Blessed Mother. I hung much longer this time without fainting, but at length I fainted so thoroughly that they could not bring me to, and they thought that I either was dead or soon would be. So they called the Lieutenant, but how long he was there I know not, nor how long I remained in the faint. When I came round, however, I found myself no longer hanging by my hands, but supported sitting on a bench, with many people round me, who had opened my teeth with some iron instrument and were pouring warm water down my throat. Now when the Lieutenant saw I could speak, he said, ' Do you not see how much better it is for you to yield to the wishes of the Queen than to lose your life this way ?'

" By God's help I answered him with more spirit than I had ever before felt: ' No, certainly I do not see it I would rather die a thousand times than do what they require of me.'

" ' You will not, then ?' he repeated.

"'No, indeed I will not,' I answered, 'while a breath remains in my body.'

"' Well, then,' said he, and he seemed to say it sorrowfully, as if reluctant to carry out his orders, ' we must hang you up again now, and after dinner too.'

"' Let us go, then, in the name of God,' I said; * I have but one life, and if I had more I would offer them all for this cause.' And with this I attempted to rise in order to go to the pillar, but they were obliged to support me, as I was very weak in body from the torture. And if there was any strength in my soul, it was the gift of God, and given, I am convinced, because I was a member of the Society, though a most unworthy one. I was suspended, therefore, a third time, and hung there in very great pain of body, but not without great consolation of soul, which seemed to me to arise from the prospect of dying. Whether it was from a true love of suffering for Christ, or from a sort of selfish desire to be with Christ, God knows best ; but I certainly thought that I should die, and felt great joy in committing myself to the will and good pleasure of my God, and contemning entirely the will of men. Oh, that God would grant me always to have that same spirit (though I doubt not that it wanted much of true perfection in His eyes), for a longer life remains to me than I then thought, and He granted me a reprieve to prepare myself better for His holy presence.

"After a while the Lieutenant, seeing that he made no way with me by continuing the torture, or because the dinner hour was near at hand, or perhaps through a natural feeling of compassion, ordered me to be taken down. I think I hung not quite an hour this third time. I am rather inclined to think that the Lieutenant released me from compassion ; for, some time after my escape, a gentleman of quality told me he had it from Sir Richard Barkeley himself (who was this very Lieutenant of whom I speak), that he had of his own accord resigned the office he held, because he would no longer be an instrument in torturing innocent men so cruelly. And in fact he gave up the post after holding it but three or four months, and another Knight was appointed in his stead, in whose time it was that I made my escape.

" So I was brought back to my room by my gaoler, who seemed to have his eyes full of tears, and he assured me that his wife had been weeping and praying for me the whole time, though I had never seen the good woman in all my life. Then he brought me some food, of which I could eat but little, and that little he was obliged to cut for me and put into my mouth. I could not hold a knife in my hands for many days after, much less now, when I was not even able to move my fingers, nor help myself in anything, so that he was obliged to do everything for me. However, by order of the authorities, he took away my knife, scissors, and razors, lest I should kill myself, I believe : for they always do this in the Tower as long as the prisoner is under warrant for torture. I expected, therefore, daily to be sent for again to the torture-chamber, according to order; but our merciful God, while to other stronger champions, such as Father Walpole and Father Southwell, He gave a sharp struggle that they might overcome, gave His weak soldier but a short trial, that he might not be overcome. They, indeed, being perfected in a short time fulfilled a long space ; but I, unworthy of so great a good, was left to run out my days, and so supply for my defects by washing my soul with my tears, since I deserved not to wash it with my blood. God so ordained it, and His Holy Will be done."

Father Garnet in his letters mentions Father Gerard's torture for the first time when writing on the 23rd of April 1597 to Father Persons at Rome. 14 "John Gerard hath been sore tortured in the Tower : it is thought it was for some letters directed to him out of Spain." This was prompt and accurate news as far as it went; and between this date and the next some details had reached Father Garnet, for on the 7th of May, 1597, ne wrote 15 to the General (we translate from the Italian): " Of John Gerard I have already written to you where he is. He hath been twice hanged up by the hands, with great cruelty of others, and not less suffering of his own. The inquisitors here say that he is very obstinate, and that he has a great alliance with God or the devil, as they cannot draw the least word out of his mouth, except that in torment he cries 'Jesus.' They took him lately to the rack, and the torturers and examiners were there ready ; but he suddenly, when he entered the place, knelt down and with a loud voice prayed to our Lord that, as He had given grace and strength to some of His saints to bear with Christian patience being torn to pieces by horses for His love, so He would be pleased to give him grace and courage, rather to be dragged into a thousand pieces than to say anything that might injure any person or the Divine glory. And so they left him without tormenting him, seeing him so resolved." On the 10th of June (in the copy it is Jan., evidently a mistake) Father Garnet writes: 15 "I wrote unto you heretofore of the remove of Mr. Gerard to the Tower : he hath been thrice hanged up by the hands, every time until he was almost dead, and that in one day twice. The cause was (as I now understand perfectly) for to tell where his Superior was, and by whom he had sent him letters which were delivered him from Father Persons, and he was discovered by one of his fellow-prisoners. The Earl of Essex saith he must needs honour him for his constancy." Again, a letter from Father Garnet to the General, in Latin, dated the nth of June, 1597, runs thus : 16 "I have written to you more than once of our Mr. John Gerard, that he has been thrice tortured, but that he hath borne all with invincible courage. We have also lately heard for certain that the Earl of Essex praised his constancy, declaring that he could not help honouring and admiring the man. A Secretary of the Royal Council denies that the Queen wishes to have him executed. To John this will be a great trouble."

1 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cclxii. n. 123.

2 As he supposed, erased.

3 Denieth that, erased.

4 Denieth that, erased.

5 Thinketh that some substituted for knoweth who.

6 Care substituted for charge.

Concerning scholars. Maintenance of, &c, interlined.

8 The name . . . person interlined in place of to whom.

9By what name substituted for to whom.

10  " He had hoped ... to find out my handwriting, so that some of the papers found in the houses of the Catholic might be proved to be mine. I foresaw this, and wrote in a feigned hand." This Father Gerard wrote of an examination when he was in the Counter (p. 188).

11 It is said that there is an underground passage from the Lieutenants lodgings to the vaults of the White Tower, where it would appear Father Gerard was tortured.

12 Scirpicula quÓ•dam duo vel tria ex juncis facta.— MS. It is not easy to understand exactly what these were.

13 Father Gerard's great stature could not be more clearly indicated. This would of course involve a greater weight of body, and consequently greater severity in this mode of torture. "Erat enim," says Father More in his History, "pleno et procero corpore."

14 Stonyhurst MSS., Father Grene's Collectan. P. vol. ii. f. 547.

15 Ibid., Angl. A. vol. ii. n. 27 ; Collectan. P. vol. ii. f. 604.

15 Stonyhurst MSS., Father Grene's Colledan. P. vol. ii. f. 548.

16 Ibid. f. 601.