SECOND JOURNEY TO ROME, 1871
by Fr. Pius Devine, C.P
(Original located at shelf 49/1/1/2 Central Archives, Mount Argus)
[Chapter divisions have been created by the Archivist, and are not in the original manuscript.]
From Dublin to Cologne
January 25 : In obedience to an order from the general, I set out for Rome on Monday January 25. F. Alphonsus, being in Dublin, I went with him as far as Sutton where I saw F. Arthur and his companions and found them well.
January 26. I started for London by the 12 o’clock train and arrived at Highgate about five. They expected me the day before. Nothing occurred on the way to London except that there came a soldier into my compartment who seemed to be going astray with his ticket or (?) in his pocket. I had to set him right for his destination and give him in charge to a guard to be kept dry for a cannon ball I suppose.
January 27. Today I went to look after my ticket for Rome. I went to Billea Street where there is an office of the Southern Italian railways and I was told that I could be booked from Cologne to Rome second-class for £6 – 10s. The chief officer did not come and would not for an hour. During this hour I went to see the nuns at (?) Street. When I returned this good signor was not at this post and it was now about 2.00 o’clock. I had to wait half an hour longer and during the time I amused myself by looking at the times and listening to the various foreigners who came to look for information with regard to tickets. There was one deaf old gentleman who spoke nothing but French and wanted to go to Alexandria on the same route I was going. He kept the poor fellow inside a whole hour explaining matters and asking if there was an interpreter. I spoke in French to him telling him that if he came with me I would be very glad to interpret for him either in German or Italian. He took 10 minutes to thank me with a fine speech, then rolled his eyes to heaven, when he found I was off in a few days, saying he could not go for month. I got my ticket at last and wondered if all the offices on the continent would be as well attended as this. I then went to Commercial Road to my sister and the sacred spinsters her companions. I promised them to come and say mass for them on the Sunday following. Returned to Highgate about half past eight.
January 28. Went out about my papers in order to get the Austrian visa. I found the Austrians would not give a visa and that it was not wanted. In passing through Cheapside I saw a sealskin cap in a window at 7/6d. Thought I, “this will aptly surmount my mammoth great coat and make me look like a Russian”. I did some other little commissions in town and went at 6 to visit F. Kelly and ask for a bed as I intended staying the evening with the nuns, sleeping at the P.P’s and saying mass for them next morning. Spent the evening with them and nearly felt so much at home that I had to look at my watch lest I should stay too long. Good souls – I find my old gra for them has not lessened though Mother Angela thinks it has.
January 29. Came home to Highgate about one just in time for dinner. Saw several friends in the parlour after dinner. Preached in the evening and had several more of my old friends to see me afterwards. There came today a priest, a native of the Mauritius, who spoke only French and English and wished to be my companion to Rome. I was delighted to find somebody going and he was more than delighted when he found I could speak to everybody on the way. I gave him some wrinkles about a passport and told him to be ready to go with me from Charring Cross tomorrow at 7:45 p.m.
January 30. Monday. Nothing particular this morning except some little packing and seeing a few friends. At 6 p.m. I started with my bag and accompanied by Father Sebastian – per omnibus – for Charring Cross. We arrived there at a little after 7 and there was no sign of my Mauritius friend, F. Havel.. I looked about for him: sought him but non-est inventus. I had to take first class to Dover, – so off I started for the continent at 7. 45 precisely. In my compartment I found a youngish lady and an oldish gentle man. They both seemed to have lived a long time in Germany and to be connected somehow with the opera. She was the most insinuating talker I ever heard. . She seemed to be always getting information from the old buck, and got not by questions but by leading off into various topics and getting bogged therein so that the old fellow with Solominian wisdom would come to her rescue. It was a study to listen to them. To hear her getting all the information about the old fellow’s wife, his marriageable and unmarriageable daughters, his sons and everything, whilst she told him nothing and yet talked twice as much, amused me hugely. When I arrived at Dover I walked into the first class cabin in the steamer but found it full. I then went off to the second and when I strolled in, bigcoated and all, – a voice saluted me in the dark – (there was only one miserable lamp for the whole cabin) – ”Oh, F. Pius, I am so glad to have met you at last”. This was poor Havel, the Mauritian, who looked the very picture of misery huddled up in a corner. He came by a six o’clock train because the ticket inspector told him a priest was gone by it and the poor fellow found himself at Dover without me and was moreover getting seasick. Of all the wretched holes, on sea or off sea, I ever got stuck into I never knew anything so disagreeable as this second-class cabin – no cushions, hard, dirty seats, a black dingy stove, a lot of Germans with long pipes and dirty beards, a drunken American hiccupping in a corner with a rug over him, a very seedy-looking French Abbé, a German of a very threadbare appearance who bored everybody by telling about nothing in Low Dutch and Havel and myself formed the furniture of this wretched black hole. It was too cold and dark to go on deck so I had to sit or recline, as the humour seized me, until about 4 o’clock next morning.
January 31. About 4, I heard a great bawling in Dutch on deck: “vier valim en voot”, “4 fathoms and a foot etc”. – There was a fog and they could not see the lights. The talkative German was the first I met on deck. He: “Sie kamen nicht die leichting sehen” – “Gen (or they) cannot see the lights”. I did not know whether he said it interrogatively or assertively, so I looked at him and said: “Ich bin nich (?) gecommen” – “I only just came”. He then ran away and began to talk to a sailor who gruffly told him to mind his business. We got onshore about six and then posted off to the train via Ostend for Brussels, where we arrived at 9. We were plagued with fellows offering to carry our things and give us coffee. We wished for a cup of coffee and gave up our luggage at the station; but when we found we should go across the bridge and off a mile or so for it, we declined. The customhouse officers never looked at anything we had but let us pass. They did not ask for passports either. We entered a thing called a “Hotel” for our breakfast and found it was simply a public house. Havel took a cup of coffee and I took a beefsteak and some coffee. We then went off to find a Christian hotel and met a decent looking, tall, thin, respectable man on the street. Havel asked him the way to S. Gundel (the Cathedral) and if there was a respectable hotel in that neighbourhood. He walked with us all the way, and talked queer English, and when we got as far as S. Gundel, he wanted to bring us back again to the station, as the hotels thereabouts, he said, were very dear. We bid him a good morning and searched for ourselves. I saw a number of Flanders mares in the shape of ugly women with short petticoats, long calf like legs, black stockings, thick shoes and white caps, running about. One of these graceful nymphs showed us to apartments and there we washed and cleaned ourselves. We told the nymph to kindle the fire and bring us some water. She said, in queer French, “ Je ne puis pas pain tout a l’heur” – “I cannot do it all at once”. “Who wants you?” said my friend. “You should not give two or three orders at a time”, said the nymph, (?) herself for a verbal combat. Havel turned aside and she lit the fire, which was soon as red in the face as herself. After we had ordered dinner, I went off to (two words indecipherable), the organists in (two words indecipherable). Finding myself in the same street in which Miss Fitzgerald lived I called at her place but did not find her at home. I had a chat with Madam and a daughter and a priest and (?) and went off to the Hotel to admire the nymph, who (?) two qualities in a great perfection – first as ugly a face as ever you looked at – and second as bad a temper as was ever owned by a woman. Havel had gone out and made some purchasers in the way of books. We both sat down and read our offices and then went to see the cathedral before dinner. It is a beautiful Gothic building and its pulpit is an amazing piece of woodcarving. They were getting it up for a feast and tapestries representing a miracle filled up the spaces between the pillars. Some priests and seculars were discoursing out loud in the nave and (?) about then to carry out the ceremonies. We came back to dinner and a flunkey of most exceptional politeness did the (?). I was afraid the nymph would come when certainly I would lose my appetite. Just as we were at dinner, I saw rather a muffled clerical-looking personage coming with the Salle de Major. Who was it but, Dr, Brady, the Bishop of Perth, my old friend. I paid him the due greetings and he soon ran off. He was in disguise and did not wish to be known as a bishop, I thought. We took the train for Cologne at 5. 40 p.m. In passing into Prussia at Vienna, we found the customhouse officers very polite. We said we were priests going to Rome and they never opened a single bag. We arrived in Cologne a little before 12 and found no train left for Verona before six in the morning. An officer said the nine o’clock was the best – this was not the case as we found out afterwards. Arrived in Cologne, we went to the nearest hotel to sleep. The coffee room was full of smokers and the landlord said he had only one room to spare. We asked how many beds wherein it: he said three. “Oh, this will do” and we took it. “Vill he have nothing to trinken or you (?)”, said he in a sort of half English and German. Nothing we said. “(?) brandish and vater,” “Yes” – so off we posted to the room and my companion gave a most frozen look I ever saw when we entered. There was no fire, and there was snow all-around and he felt an Arctic shiver in his bones. I said, “never mind – let’s take a glass or two of this brandy punch and ‘twill1 warm us”. We did so and felt warm. We rang for the valet (who did not speak English) and I had to tell him to get a warming pan for my friend’s bed. Just then a new misfortune happened to him. He missed his parcel of books; he bewailed his misfortune in not coming with a single bag like me and then ran to send word to the station. I then comforted him in every way I could but he went to bed very ill prepared to sleep. He got the warming pan, but then there was a draught just behind his ear and he could not stop it. Poor fellow! Every sort of discomfort seemed to pour down upon him altogether. We went to bed – curious blankets they have here. Feather beds over you and feather beds under you. In two seconds I was buried in sleep in every sense of the word and got up and awoke my friend at 7 next morning.
From Cologne to Rome
We ordered a breakfast at half past eight and went off a little before eight to the famous cathedral. It is 800 years in building and not finished yet. It is considered the finest piece of Gothic architecture in the world and certainly it astonishes one. There was a mass de requiem going on just as we entered and the Gregorian chant never seemed to sound so well to my ears as when echoed through the gorgeous aisles of this beautiful Temple. We saw some soldiers with the typical Prussian helmets marching to and fro but no other sign of war. Everybody was quiet. Several soldiers and people in mourning were praying in the Cathedral. I was struck by the devotion especially of some officers and soldiers. We breakfasted and got to the station and there took our places for Coblentz and the South. The first thing that strikes one in Germany is the eternal smoking. Everyone smokes. In the trains some carriages are marked off not for smokers as with us but for ladies and non-smokers. We looked about and found a little placard on a window of a carriage: “In diesen coupon weird nich gessaucht”: “In this compartment there is no smoking”. We got in there and went off at a good pace. At Bonne we saw several French prisoners. The ride along the Rhine (which, by the way, was frozen) was very picturesque. Old castles, forts, etc., but everything covered with snow, which lay on the ground about two feet deep. At Coblenz, we saw a great number of French prisoners, marched about under escort but looking contented enough. When we crossed the Moselle two companions joined us – both spoke English – one was a real English man, the other as real a Yankee. The Yankee did the Railway Company. He had to go to Heidelberg and instead of taking the long way around he took the short way toward Darmstadt. The conductor held a parley with him (the Yanlee spoke German) and forgave him the difference and left in his ticket. “I guess I’ll sell this ticket”, said the Yankee, “and make a few (?) of this job”. He gave a wink worthy of Bismarck and put himself in a position for a hearty good spit. At Mayenne, we saw a number of Parisian officers and soldiers – splendid looking fellows, all smoking and shaking their heads and saying very little. We got to Wurtzburg sometime about four and we had to wait until 5 the next morning for a fast train or go by the 7 this evening, slow. We chose the latter course and went into dine. At the table two joined us – at Scotch Presbyterian parson going awa’ to see the Holy Land, and nice young English man who was going first to Munich and then to Vienna to study medicine.. We took some Bavarian beer with our dinner and it was famous. They give it to you in large glasses like English pints with glass handles to them and silver lids. After dinner we proposed to drink some Stein wine, a famous wine made in the neighbourhood, but the Scot did na care for wine – because he did na care to pay – and the three of us finished off the bottle. We then took the train at 7 for Munich and of all the trains I ever entered I never suffered so much.. Throughout Germany the second class is as good as our first class in Ireland, and they always give foot warmers: but in Bavaria the seats are heated by steam, which makes them very comfortable. This train had neither one means nor the other. The snow was a foot and a half deep and it froze most fearfully. We were all cold but my greatcoat kept me warm for sometime. When my feet got cold I stood up and down till I warmed myself and then sat down to sleep. The poor African was senseless. He’d neither hear, see nor understand and was just like a piece of frozen wood, except that he groaned most picturesquely. We arrived at (?) at 2 o’clock in the morning.
There was a buffet here so we refreshed ourselves with beer and other things handed round by a very smart waiting-maid. As we had to wait about three hours, and there was an excellent stove, I sat down and wrote to Father Pancras. The Scot, and the English man and the African wrote to their respective friends and so passed the time until 6 when we took the train for Munich where we arrived at a quarter to ten, just in time to catch the 10. 15 train for (?) and Verona. All along the route in Bavaria, I remarked a number of people on the platforms, because the Purification is a great feast here. The women looked very picturesque, with their variety of nice head-dresses:, some had their hair folded in black silk, others in very neat hats: all the peculiarities of Bavarian costume were to be seen and they beat out all the pictures I have seen of them. There were a great many gentlemen also – with big pipes and big glasses of beer. The ladies drink their beer at tables just like men but don’t smoke.. The people are the handsomest I’ve seen in Germany and all exceedingly polite, but very silent. I heard no exultation over the fate of Paris. The general sentiment seemed to be rather a satisfaction that the conceit was knocked out of the French, but a sorrow and regret that so many fair Bavarians should be lost in chastising such paltry fellows. I saw some flags flying but no fuss. I don’t think anything could cause emotion in Bavarians except extra beer. The fun of the thing is – I learnt that at the outbreak of the war the Munich people moved off all their pictures and valuables to the strongest fortress for fear the French would invade them and carry off everything to the Louvre. . They rather expected to be beaten at first and think it is a wonderful thing that they thrashed the French so easily. They wish their men were home safe again and at their posts. We reached Rosenheim about 1 o’clock and there got a very nice snack, well cooked and well arranged.. The waiter spoke French and my friend the African found himself at home. We changed trains for Kufstein where we arrived at 2.30. There was another refreshment room here but I took nothing except a glass of beer. The (?) fed and was taken in by the change of coins from Thaler and Silvergrochens into Florins and Guilders. I saw three German ladies at a side table making a huge quantity of beer disappeared in their respective stomachs. The Austrian territory begins here and the officials were very kind, never looked at anything.. A queer looking fellow, with rings in his ears and a huge cloak entered our compartment. I said, “hier (?) man nich” – “We don’t smoke here” – thinking that would send him out. He replied very gruffly, “Ich raucche nucht” – “I don’t smoke”. He only spoke twice and a grunted thrice until he got out and freed us from his presence. We arrived at Innsbruck at 5.50 and began to ascend the Brenner, (Alps), which we crossed at 8.5 p.m.. It was a bright moonlit night and the iceberg was magnificent. In spite of the African we kept the windows opened now and again. It was very beautiful to see a grand crucifix erected by the roadsides here and there (this is the Tyrol) and every little Alpine village with its neat white church. It would seem as if religion loved to cluster its children together in the shaded works of this most Catholic country. Even the hard grained Scott was struck by it. I went to sleep immediately after we crossed The Brenner and did not awake until 1. I was afraid I should sleep through Trent but did not.
We arrived in Trent at 2.12, I got out, as we had five minutes, to look around at the historic town. It is finely situated, high above the level of the sea but in view of several higher mountains upon whose fertile sides are fine vineyards. I had a peep at the church in which the famous council was held. It is getting (?) in its exterior; I could not see it inside. I sat (?) a long time over the history of this place. There are a multitude of large houses built like the factories in Belfast and the smaller ones are shut out of sight in works and corners. We got to Ala (Italian customhouse) at 3.21 and here our baggage was opened and examined for the first time. However my examining officer did not pull out my goods and chattels but simply chalked my bag and let me pass. As we were getting near Verona, I began to stuff the person with all kinds of accounts of the rogueries of Italian porters and cabmen. He hawed most audibly. In Verona there are two stations; at one the train stops for a minute or two and at the other for 20 minutes. When we came to the first a porter presented himself to help our luggage out. I spoke to him in Italian and he said this train went no further and that there was no train for Padua until 10 o’clock. It was now 8. We got out forthwith, he took our bags and we were marching after him out of the station when I met the guard and asked him if we had to wait till 10 for a train to Padua? “No”, he said, “this train goes straight on to Padua and will be off directly”. With that I called the rascal a (?) and bid him put the things back – he did so and ran for his life without asking for anything. At the next station saw the porter come and the Scot pushed him away. “I’ll have nae maire o’ your sort”, said he, whereat we burst out laughing, and laughed every now and then to Rome when we remembered the gesture and tone of Scot. We arrived at Padua sometime after eight and had to wait for two hours for a train to Bologna. Here the Scot left us as he was bound for Trieste. We washed, took a nice breakfast of omelettes and sardines (being Friday) and then took a cab to see S. Antoine, the nicest church here. The streets of Padua are every antique: arcades all around and all the gentlemen wear cloaks tossed over their left shoulders like statues of the old Romans. The waiter inside tried to trick our cabman and they were nearly drawing knives at each other. I went to the bookstall (there is a bookstore here) to get and newspaper but found they were all three or four days old. The old woman who sold them tried to persuade me they were verba bouna, but ineffectually, although I was just then going to the water closet, which by the way another woman opened for me and wanted to be paid. I told her I had mind to stick her nose into the place for her want of modesty and to be off. She could not understand this and I saw herself and the first crone giving very significant nods at each other, which must have meant that I was a Russian Count and not quite right in the head. I had not shaved for four days and I looked extraordinary. When we returned to the train at 10 a nice young Lombard priest joined us and when he saw us reading our offices and found out we were priests he became most communicative. He said there were 500 students at the University of Papua now and that there were some (two words indiscernible) there and whose names had a German touch. He left us a Rovigo and we pursued our way to Bologna, Ferrara and Bologna and the other old historic towns of Italy never allow a railway to enter them. The station is always outside the town. Only for this we could have visited St. Catherine, who has been sitting in her chair for some 300 years. As it was, we had to take some dinner and here I saw the first fruits of Italian liberty. All ate meat – there were about 200 in the refreshment room – except myself and my friend. The waiters rather laughed at us when I said it was Friday. We picked up an English commercial traveller here and he kept with us to Falconara. He was going to Naples. Nothing particular recommended at Falconara except a curious denouement between myself and Havel. There was a most cutthroat looking fellow pacing the buffet in Padua and keeping his eye on us. I put him down as a brigand and took care not to get into the same carriage with him all along. My companion sighed when he saw him going towards Naples. “Thank God”, said he, “that derelict looking fellow is not coming our way. He looks as if he had murdered somebody”. It was queer on comparing notes that both of us had formed the same opinion of him.
We got to Foligno about two in the morning and had to wait for the Florence train until four. It was a nice place to wait at but everyone in the place had ahang-dog look. I never saw such a collection of (?). We took our seats for Rome at four and at last had to put up with smoking, which we had escaped ever since Ostend. I overheard several sneering at the Pope in the next compartment and did not feel at all comfortable. My companion didn’t understand Italian and so much the better. We saw St. Peter’s when we came along The Tiber. I covered up my Roman collar and looked as Turkish as I could, my companion did the same. We entered Rome at 8.50 this Saturday morning. My friend went to the Minerva, having first ascertained that his portmanteau was missing. I took a cab and saw a fellow watching me. I was about to tell the driver to leave me at the Coliseum; but, thinking this might raise suspicion, I whispered him S. Giovanni e Paolo. He shouted out to the fellow watching, “(?) a San Giovanni e Paolo”, as much as to say; this is a queer stick going to a monastery. Two or three laughed and off we marched. I saw many Italian soldiers everywhere with ugly caps, oblique coats, ugly britches, ugly faces and ugly everything. In passing by Sta. Maria Magiora, there were troops drawn up in the piazza, to salute Prince Humbert as he went to mass. He and his princess live in the Quirinal, but as the palace is interdicted they are obliged to go out for mass. When I entered at the door of our retreat, the two lay brothers didn’t know me and looked rather frightened. I spoke to Father Gaspar and then they recognized me instantly. To see the staring they had at my big coat! I went off to see the General and in a few minutes was quite at home. In the afternoon Cardinals Barnato & Falconi were walking in the garden. I accompanied the latter and we had a long chat. He is a very interesting talker. He was nuncio in Paris and something else in Germany.
Stay in Rome
I spent last night and a portion of this morning sleeping, trying to make up for the time I had lost at that very useful exercise during my journey. I must say that I succeeded very badly, for a hard bed, a multitude of bells, a clattering of feet, and a rattling of Piedmontese drums and trumpets are not the best kind of lullaby for a baby of my age and fatigue. I then began my conferences with Father General and we were closeted this first morning until the dinner was half over. After dinner the usual ceremonies of recreation and repose. There is no change of observance here on Sundays as with us. They all went to walk in the afternoon but I did not feel so disposed. I therefore strolled through the garden with some of the older and more feeble of the brethren. We recreated ourselves with observing the drill of an awkward squad of recruits, ycleped the National Guard, who were doing their stop and go through some gyrations. These fellows were pressed into the service and if they are seen praying or in possession of a rosary, they are chastened by their Catholic officers. The soldiers have no chaplains but must help themselves to sacred things in the best way they can. They may go to mass on weekdays, but on Sundays they generally have to go to drill unless they happen to have mass early in the morning. Such are the blackguard Italians who have come to protect the Pope.. The Coliseum has been polished up and all the (?) herbs and flowers that grew between the old stones have been carted off as dung. St. John Latern looked beautiful with the rays of setting sun just tingeing its summit, as seen from our garden. . There is a villa close by lately purchased by at Protestant. His wife is a Catholic and he goes to mass everyday himself..
I stayed at home today for my conferences. The whole morning was spent in Bismarkian diplomacy and the evening in writing several things into proper shape. In the middle of my work I went into F. Basil’s room where I met the general and as we were there, a spare, sharp-looking gentlemen entered, with his hair up like young Pugin and his dark eyes riveted upon us. I was introduced to him. He is chief writer on a new buffo journal called La Frustra – The Whip – something in the style of our Tomahawk. He writes sonnets and dialogues in the Cockney dialect of Rome and sets the whole of Rome a laughing every morning. I got some of them explained to me in ordinary Italian and certainly they were rich. He wrote one thing (and epitaph) over an ex-friar who has taken unto himself a wife and started a new journal. The concluding words were explicitly down in the dialect but they may be rendered in English:
To lay my ashes and appease my ghost,
Not with those stupid prayers I once despised,
But do as dogs do when they meet a post
When the Italians entered Rome they gave liberty to the press and a great crop of bad newspapers appeared at once. The good Catholics set to and started journals of every kind. A dozen of the bad ones died. The Catholics fairly wrote them to death and now there are 7 good daily papers in Rome and about 5 weeklies. . The others nobody reads. I wish our English and Irish Catholics would take a leaf from the Romans in this point, and instead of writing goody, pious stuff, write real, rattling articles of the whip and scourge description.
I finished my conferences this morning and went out with F. Basil, the Procurator General.. 1st to Propoganda. We didn’t see Cardinal Barnato, but we met a variety of officers (His Eminence and other Cardinals were holding a Congregation) Stipamini, Kindincini, Officialim, and finally Rinaldini with whom I transacted the business for which I was commissioned by some Irish bishops. This is a very nice amiable man. We then went to a shop and saw a mother and daughter inside a counter who looked as if they had grown there and should soon move the counter out in order to give them more room. We met a lot of dirty soldiers on the streets. The officers were very nice in uniform but ugly in the face and very badly off as to legs. The police are called pizzardini and there is not a single battalion but the Romans have invented a nickname for. If they’ve pitched them outside the walls it would have been much better. We called at the Irish college. They were just beginning the Quarant ‘ore. Mge. Kirby came out of the church and I delivered my message to him from Cardinal Cullen. And then we came home, hungry. After repose, F. Bonaventure came to my room and the poor old saint was as holy and as humble has ever. He is about 77 years of age and 55 years a Passionist. He is old and grey, and very badly able to walk, and yet he never misses matins, and is always the first at every exercise of the community. He shows happiness and beatitude in his very countenance. He was never known to say a hard word of anybody or commit a single fault. We had a good chat and he begged something of me for a poor, bedridden, old man outside which I gave him with all my heart.
I had arranged with the second Consultor General, Father Paul Joseph, to go to the Vatican to see the Pope today. He obtained, through some Monsignor Ricci, a private audience for me, and off we started, in high fettle at 9:00 for the Vatican. We arrived there a little before 10 and were admitted straightaway into the antechamber. It was funny to see the Swiss transmographized. Those we met at the foot of the stairs wore big grey coats like our policemen and caps like sailors. They carried guns instead of halberds and certainly their appearance was not improved. The first sentinel asked us what we wanted and when we told him he let us pass. We met others further on and they were with the old style. There were 10 or 12 waiting for an audience as well as ourselves: 4 Cistercians, a canon, a deputation of Germans with an address and 4 or 5 gentlemen besides, all in full dress. Just as we expected the door to open a long, blackish cardinal walked in. He stayed ever so long, an hour and a half. It was now after 12 and no sign of His Eminence coming out. The captain of the Swiss was about to curse and he furled and unfurled his mustachios most furiously. At length the door opened and it was to let out a monsignor who said that in consequence of His Holiness being so long detained this morning he could not give us all a private audience; but that he would walk round and speak to each of us where we were. We formed a semicircle then, went on our knees and His Holiness appeared. He looked older and more care-worn them when I saw him before. I was the first he spoke to. He gave me his ring to kiss and asked me where I was from first calling me “figlio della Passione”, “Son of the Passion.”. I told him and asked his blessing for all those who wished me to get it when I was coming away. He said “we grant it with pleasure” and then all the rest of the speech I had prepared went out of my head, and I did not mind what His Lordship said afterwards. There were three Cardinals with him. He went round and said a few words to each of the others and then went for his daily walk within the precincts of the palace. He never left his palace since the Italians entered Rome. So ended my audience, rather less satisfactory than it might have been. I could have torn the cloak off that blessed cardinal who kept the pope engaged so long. We then walked casually through St. Peter’s, saw the Council chamber, went then through Rome, saw a few churches and visited my fellow traveller, Havel, at the French college. We spent some time in the Gesu, admiring the amazing richness of its interior. Strange enough, I was never in this church before, though it is one of the most remarkable in Rome.
I went out for secular visits today and took Father Leopold with me – (he is a special friend of mine since auld lang syne). Mrs. McIntyre (F. Edmund’s Mother) having called upon me with her daughters a few days back, I promised them to return the visit today. I arranged for 10:00 but Mrs. McIntyre said they would be reasy to receive me at 9. About half past eight I was in readyship and F. Leopold, when he got instructions from (?) to the address said: (here Pius enters some Italian words which are indecipherable). I made great fun afterwards all of (?). When we got to the habitation, we were asked if we could take anything and I told the decision given once upon the time, to Father Ignatius Spencer, that “he could eat provided he did not use the fork”. We had some amusement about the substitution of fingers when an excellent bottle of Marsala and some sponge cake put an end to the discussion. There came a very spare, thin, wrinkled, antiquated but warm-hearted virgin in, they called Miss Fleming. She was from Dublin and I feared Leopold would be scandalised at the way she hugged my hand.. She spoke perfect Dublin and told me her sister lived in Merion Square etc. I went then to give a parcel to a certain Mrs. Hasset, but she was so thoroughly English that she had not yet gotten up (half past 11). Her maid spoke to me (I forget whether it was through a keyhole or through a chink in the door) and when she found who we were she invited us in to wait for una mezziora (half an hour) for her mistress to get up. I said we couldn’t. She then delivered my message to the sleeper and returned saying, (more Italian words) (a little wee half hour). No; we went off and told her to tell her ladyship where and when she could call to see me.. We then went to see John Baptist Spigus’s friends and they nearly kissed my hands off, father, mother, brother and cousin (she). I talked some time to them and then we went to Propaganda College to see Brother Norbert’s brother. The students were in retreat and could not be seen. We went then to the English college and the Rector and students were out in the country for a days recreation. We went off next to the Irish College and they were all at dinner. Two or three different messages came back as to dinner (the Rector invited me from 2 days ago and thought I came to accept his invitation). .We could not go. After dinner the Rector and Vice-Rector and two students came to chat with us: one of them Mr. Tynan, a priest, the other Mr. Byrne, at Deacon, and brother to our Brother Philip. We chatted away cheerily in Italian, for there were two Italians present, for about an hour and then we came home, hungry enough, and were it not for the (two words indecipherable) we’d have been wrote off.. About 3:00 the Porter came to look for me, and whom did I find in the ladies’ parlour but my friend, the virgin Miss Fleming. She wished for a chat of her own and came after me to get it.
Today I stayed at home for several reasons, but the chief was that the sandals I borrowed here blistered me so much that I could not very well walk. In the morning I read and wrote and in the afternoon I strolled through the whole premises, examining everything and putting my nose in all sorts of out of the way places. I discovered a great many queer things, which I never saw before. Saint Paul’s new chapel is nearly finished, but the work is suspended in consequence of the Italian occupation.. I studied the old pictures and carvings in the Basilica and every bit of Mosaic and fresco I could find. I did not derive much profit from then except that they kept me employed until Compline. It is reported in the Amadeus, the new King of Spain has been assassinated. These Spaniards are worse than the Italians at the stiletto..
This day was raining rainier, rainiest. It does rain in Rome, no mistake. I never saw such a rainy day before and I hope not to feel the like again. It blew up a bit about half past nine and I took a lay- brother with me to pilot me to Scala Sancta.. There I saw Father Vincent and we had a long chat together – de omnibus rebus et (?). I saw the effect of the shell, which burst there at the time of the late taking of Rome by the Italians. .It came into one room, made several big holes in the walls, made bits of the mattresses, jumped across the corridor into another room, took the head off an officer who was working a telegraph at the end of the table and scattered the head and hairs in bits about upon all the books (this was the library): it took half an arm off a lay-brother and then broke itself. The pieces of the shell are kept there and they are terrible to behold. We came home in time for me to find myself both hungry and lame. How shall I describe the misfortune of my poor feet? I did not take my sandals with me lest the Italians should discover I was a (?). I had to borrow a pair and the Brother Shoemaker, who is also the Baker, lent me his own. Now these sandals might have been litle boats in the days of Noah, the soles were so wide and curiously shaped. They were so hard and full of corners inside that I expected to find mouse holes under the leather next my foot. The straps were evidently made from the cast off (?) of a campagna mule and had as many furrows as the most vinegared old maid I ever beheld. To crown all they did not fit me except in as much as they covered my feet and might have covered the hooves of a middle-aged buffalo quite as well. To make several journeys through Rome with such leathern tangaments as these to my pedestrian extremities was no joke. To have made one, in the rain, with them this morning crowned the work. In the significant Italian idiom, I really felt grief (dolore) in my feet. I had two blisters like gooseberries under the toes of my left foot, a big one on my heel – two wounds across my right instep and pangs of (?) running up both my calves. I was obliged to put on my shoes and stockings.
Today, being Sunday, I did nothing in particular, except to write a few letters announcing my return, until the afternoon. I then went with P. Eustachio, a rotund, red-faced little gentleman, who has quite a German appearance, to visit a few churches. We first went to S. Stephano Rotundo, where I spent a long time looking at the different martyrdoms in decaying frescoes around the walls. We went next to St. John Latern and admired it anew; it was here I first saw the Pope four years ago. I suppose I shall never see His Holiness again. We went on then to Sta. Maria Magiore, by a straight road which that most eccentric of popes, Sixtus Quintus, caused to be made in one night. Again I wondered at this beautiful temple and found new beauties as I went. We came next to San Clemente (church of the Irish Dominicans) where benediction was being given. The congregation consisted of about 40, country women with children (one little fellow, about four years of age, with beautiful eyes kept looking and me and laughing and singing the litany in the funniest way ever I saw or heard for about half an hour), friars of various hues and grades of distinction, priests, gentlemen, monks, all kneeling where they might. We came home then and I found my blisters troubling me, notwithstanding that I wore shoes. The carnival began yesterday. I saw some signs of it today. I saw one man, half drunk, apostrophising a dead wall most eloquently and asking whether it or he was the better man. I heard half a dozen singing in a most cracked style in a public house. I saw masks for sale of all sorts of beasts, human and otherwise. I saw a number of hirsute country fellows on mule backs, a lot of big faced sunburned country girls being made fools of by sweet tongued Romans, a sort of a galvanized effort at being gay in which there was no heart or soul, and I find the popes give the same account of the Corso, which is the centre of the sport. On the whole, my notion of a Roman holiday was not the pleasantest. With the exception of the soliloquiser, however, I saw nobody drunk or disorderly; though I heard of a letter carrier being murdered for a few pounds this very evening. I saw a stiletto, which one of the Fathers seized in the confessional. A devilish instrument it is.
Today I went with Father Basil to Propaganda. . We transacted some business there with Rinaldini and Mgr, Simeoni. Card, Barnado came to see me and, as aforetime, he never stopped quizzing me the whole time of the interview.. The little fellow (he is about 5 feet 1 inch in height) began to trace, on tiptoe, all sorts of things on my forehead and read them out for his own edification. I could not help laughing at him – when I asked him if he remembered me being introduced to him for years ago, he said of course he did and came back twice to finish some witty remark or respond to a joke of mine after his own fashion. I could not get more than 5 serious words out of him. We then took a cab and went off to Sr. Paul’s via Ostienti. I don’t know if this Basilica is not more beautiful than St. Peter’s in its design and execution. It is just finished and the Benedictines, who have the care of it, were singing mass in the fine old Gregorian at the time we arrived. We experienced a cold north wind (transmontano) on the way home and when we arrived the General asked me to pontificate, or do the high priest for Vespers, Matins and High Mass for tomorrow (feast of the Commemoration of the Passion). I found myself rather awkward at first in the Basilican choir, but by degrees I got accustomed to it.. After mass today Mrs. Fleming came to see me again and she gave a very unfavourable account of the loyalty of the Romans to the Holy Father.. She says they all rejoiced the day the Piedmontes entered, and sported the flag of Savoy all through the Corso.. Each home must have had a flag prepared before hand. She is a cute old virgin., I perceive.
The Feast of the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion. This morning I was celebrant at the Matins and my tones were known to them all. I skipped Prime and Tierce and heard three or four knocks at my door about six or seven – of course I said nothing. At half seven I got up, went through my ablutions and other morning exercises and was ready for audiences about 8. I generally gave audiences to four or five everyday. Those who came were pleased and so was I. It broke the tedium of doing nothing. At half nine we had the grand High Mass and I happened to have the stupidest sub deacon that ever was on an altar. He was a Santucco ( a kind of latter day saint). His shoulders bid fair to get above his head some fine day – He always pretends to pray – He was in Bulgaria and F. Ignatius sent him home as god for nothing – He was attacked in the recreation by me, by P. Giuliano (the greatest genius in Rome) and by Fr. General – No use – He was so holy that he groaned in spirit at our want of recollection and shrugged his shoulders for a new quotation from St. John of the Cross. It is a great pity he is such a fool, for he is of a very mild disposition and does not lack talent – n.b he is as ugly as a Hottentot and his name is Fr. Big Blasins or Blazes. This all said by way of parenthesis. My Deacon was a very decent fellow and my Master of Ceremonies was a former old friend of mine, F. Leoplold. I asked him yesterday, “At this queer altar, when you turn round do you ever genuflect?” “Oh” he replied as if considering, “you do after the Elevation”. I said, “Will you kindly pluck my chasuble when I have got beyond the Consecration”.
This afternoon I received a most complementary message. The Holy Father sent Mgr, Ricci to say he was very sorry I did not get my full interview with him and that he accorded me with all his heart all the graces I intended to ask. He did not say, “come again”, so I did not like to propose it. In the evening the retreat began. P. Giulano preached – a capital sermon,
From Rome to Paris
Before leaving Rome, I may as well jot down my impressions of its condition. ‘Tis Rome certainly but only the dead body of Rome., You see no longer the pope’s name in veneration and reverence and all the civil and ecclesiastical institutions going on in full swing as if Christianity were the first thing and temporal concerns secondary. There are three distinct classes of people in Rome at present. The purely clerical element – the purely infidel and the middle term. The first-class compromises (apparently at least) all the clergy and a great number of the more holy among the laity. They are very extreme in their ideas and can see no good whatever in anything which cannot pass the Holy Office. Everything the Italian power does is bad and is ridiculed and traverted and pasquinaded with a vengeance or satisfaction that seems to partake little of charity. They are confident of being right and if I might give my considered opinion of them I would say that their failings lean to virtue’s side. . The next class are the purely infidel. They are more rascally than ordinary infidels in England or elsewhere; because they have a diabolical and fiendish hatred to everything that is Christian. They do all they can to insult Christianity and they are generally officers in the civil or military services.
The third class might be the nucleus of a sensible body; but they happen at present to be trimmers and (?) and make (?) the guide of their opinion. I see therefore no thoroughly sound parts in Rome at present. The first class with a little toleration would be the proper thing. Rome then is in a curious and lamentable condition,. You see no grand ceremonies; no splendid equipages of Cardinals. Their eminences dress in black and their laced flunkies go in plain clothes.. The number of ecclesiastics in the streets is far less than it used to be and everybody seems afraid of everybody else.. Young men run away from the prescription, old men sigh over the happiness they have lost and groan at the prospect of heavy taxation. Young women lack their gaudy decorations and aged matrons don’t like the idea of their daughter’s unsaleableness. The shop-keeping, inn-keeping, and carriage-keeping class of Rome are so venal that they would sell Pope, Vatican and all if they thought they could make money by the transaction. The soldiery are good, poor fellows. I talked to several and they had no idea of what they were doing at all but longed to get from under the rule of an excommunicated King.
This morning at 10.15 I left Rome by the fast train for Florence. I had a brat of a snobbish boy opposite me who asked me if I had seen “Pio”? I had a great mind to twist his neck off and pitch him out of the carriage windows in two pieces, only I changed my mind. The scenery along the route is very striking.. I saw the queerest town I ever looked at. It is called Trevi and is built in tiers up a hill, which is finally surmounted by a church. There was a beardy gentleman in the same compartment with me and I thought he had an English face so I asked that “cur” if he knew him and he said he was a Florentine. At Flogino we dined and got “rosbif” (which, being imported, means roast beef). When we were en route again I found two half-sirs entered our carriage who grumbled at everything they saw, felt or knew. One of them got impatient and cursed accidenti and then after a pause “al diavolo” (“bad luck to the Devil”). At Perugia and after leaving it we had a fine view of Lake Trasimene, where Hannibal gained his great victory over the Romans. The villages on the headlands with their tidy white churches reflected in the lake, looked very interesting. We arrived in Florence at 8:30 p.m. The refreshment rooms and waiting rooms here were the nicest things in the railway or steam lines I ever saw. They were gorgeously decorated with paintings and bass reliefs in the renaissance style and you forgot the whistle and the engine whilst lolling in the sofas or reviving your failing strength. We got into another train for Bolognia and here I had a curious set of companions. I had two youngish men and three women. They were returning from a day’s (?) in Carnival in Florence and spoke very queer Italian (two words indecipherable). I fell fast asleep and the next thing I heard was a shrill voice screeching aloud, “Signore, Signore”. I awoke and thought the train was on fire or assailed by “banditi”, or that the vision might be that of some distressed damsel, gadding about the world, and then seized by a dragon, who expected me to do the St. George for her. I was dreaming of Ariosto and Dante at the time – what could this awful and piteous appeal mean! Well it meant that we were just getting into Bolognia and that the railway officer wanted to see my ticket. I shouted that I was bound for Verona and the railway cap disappeared from the window and the damsel was at her ease.
We arrived at Bologna at 3 a.m., and set out for Padua at 4. My companions here were two officers of the line and a lady with a squalling baby and her husband. The baby would not be comforted. The soldiers frightened it and my big cape frightened it. At length I took out my watch to see how soon I could get away to another compartment when the baby looked at me. I showed it the watch, put it to its ears, and it got with the most delightful spirits ever you saw in a few minutes. It wanted to come to me altogether and we became the greatest friends. After a little jumping it went to sleep nicely nestled in its mothers bosom. We got to Padua at seven and were off immediately. The baby & co., left me before this and a widdy of 34 years standing, and a priest and a thick bearded servant of the priest, and the beardy fellow, whom I had lost sight of since Foliogno, came to my compartment. The widdy was a nice woman and we had a long chat. The priest was also a very interesting companion and we did not find the time passing ontil we got to Verona at 10. We had four hours to wait here – so I had planned from Bradshaw a way of doing the town during the interval. When I took my seat at the table I saw Beardy making signs at a waiter. . He turned to me – “Do you speak English, sir?” “I do”, I replied and then he begged of me to order him some lunch, which of course I did. I asked him to sit beside me and we got on. .I told him I’d have spoken to him sooner only the “Brat” told me he was a Florentine. I found he was a Yankee, a Mr. Austin, who had made a great fortune in California and was now roving about the world to spend it. He was very enthusiastic and he chimed in with my plan of doing Verona. When we had refreshed ourselves, I went out to hire a vehicle and told to fellow every place he was to go to and how he was to go and that I’d pay him by the hour. When the other cabmen heard me arranging the drive, they said: “ che diavolo, quanti é un Veronese” – they thought I was a native of the place. We went first to St, Giorgio, an old Carmelite church and only one lay brother there to take care of it. It was rich in old, original paintings. . The next thing we saw was the Cathedral, a wretched concern in the way of decoration. San. Anastasia next and here the sculptures were as fine as the paintings in San Giorgio. We went next to the tomb of the Scaligers, a most remarkable old monument. These were princes who endowed churches and died monks as far as I could make out from the (?) Cicerone (?) pick-up. We went next to S. Zeno (an old Benedictine church of the 8th century) A very intelligent young fellow showed us through this and the American was out of his wits at my account of the things, which the Cicerone described. This was the Temple of Apollo, in the second century changed into a church – now a crypt. “Aye”, says the American, “that’s fast: 1,220 years, I guess, before my Country was discovered”. I told this remark to our guide, and every old monument he showed afterwards he would say to me “Tell the American this was restored at least 700 years before his country was discovered”. I gave the lad a franc and was sorry to part so soon from him. We then sought San Bernardino, which has two of the finest cloisters I ever saw. There are few monks here now. We went then to the amphitheatre, which is as perfectly preserved as could be. It is just as it was in the days of pagan Rome and even all the seats are perfectly preserved. We went up to the top of the wall and on looking down it seemed thus – (here Pius inserts a drawing of the amphitheatre’s interior) – We went off then and the American had an antediluvian feel over him. “I live, sir, henceforward in the past – I read history here, sir, in stone – I seem to hear the clash of the Gladiators’ swords and the plaudits of the Romans as I sit here”. Oh, he went at such a rate that I had some difficulty in stopping him. The next thing we saw was the tomb of Romeo and Juliet in the garden of the old Montagues. There is no vestige of the old family now, whereas the poor unfortunate couple have been immortalized by Shakespeare. They had to rail off the tomb, because tourists were taking so many chips from it by way of relics. The stone coffin (empty) is all that we saw, the remains have been removed to Mantua. We came back in good time, took the train at 2 for (?), which we reached at 3.30. Our luggage was parked out here on entering the Austrian frontier. We got to Trent about 5 and I had another peep at this old town.. I began to get hungry now and there is no place to dine and tomorrow is a Friday. Dear, oh, dear. We got to Innsbruck, cold and starved, at 11:45 — only a quarter of an hour to stop and in that time I dined most heartily and just finished at midnight.
We got to Kufstein at 1.30., and had a long delay in the customhouse, getting into Bavaria. Here began the famous beer. This customhouse was full of English – chiefly officers coming home from India. The warm carriage sent me to sleep until we got to Munich at 5.15 a.m. Here the American and I parted and I had two English men clinging to me for the sake of the language. I met a very nice German official here who kept me in chat until the train for Wurtzburg was ready. I got to my old resting place at (?), and as I did not hear distinctly what the man said I asked a partly withered-looking young lady did he say “funf minuten” –“Ya, funf minuten und (?) ya” – “five and twenty minutes”. I got out to get something to eat and found we were just off – I swallowed a cup of coffee and took a piece of bread and a bottle of wine with me. Time was given to dine at Wurtzburg, but I could get nothing but meat – no fish nor eggs – and Friday. I dined on bread and cheese and beer. At Achassenburg there was fish but no time given to eat it. I fell asleep after (?) all along the Rhine and awoke at 10:00 in Cologne.. Here we were hurried into a new train (only 1st class) for Belgium. I had to get out and get a ticket for Brussels.
We reached the frontier at (?) at 1 o’clock a.m. and then it was Sunday so I took something to eat and to drink, There was a person here (English) scolding a waiter in very bad French and the waiter, being endowed with a Dutch bottom, was not to be hurried in any account. We got to Brussels at 5.30. I went off in a cab to my old hotel (?), but there was nobody up. I intended here to get my papers in order and take measures for entering Paris. I went to the Hotel Royale, found it full – every place is full in Brussels just now in consequence of so many French refugees. I went off a first to pay a visit to Miss. Fitzgerald and found her at home. We had a talk and then I went to the city to look after my business. The French consulate would not be open until 11. I went to the Prussian Embassy and there found a placard in the hall to the effect that Bismarck had forbidden the consul or ambassador to give any more safe-conducts or even a visa. Here was a balk. I went to the French place then and found the official very gruff and uncivil. I asked could I get into Paris. He told me I could not and that if I did I could not get out and that he could do nothing for me. I said, “Will you visa my passport?” He said, “I can’t refuse that after the visa I see on it”. He noted it down in a book and visaed it and then got it signed and stamped and handed back to me in a most uncivil way. “What am I to do now?”, I thought. Well, the best thing I could hit on was to go to Tournai and there take some rest, of which I stood greatly in need, for the Sunday, and cross the French frontier on Monday and see what I could do then.. I left for Tournay at 1. 25 and got to our retreat at Ere about five in the afternoon. I saw the Lector and students, got some dinner and went to bed at 7:00 o’clock.
This morning I got up at 7, said mass soon and talked in the library. After dinner I went to Fridmount to see F.J.B. I saw some curious scenes there but they may not be written. F. Pius, the Belgian, accompanied me and we got back about 4. Then I saw the Rector and we had a long talk about Roman affairs and things in general.
When I awoke this morning and looked out I was appalled by the fearful rain that was falling. A rainy day in Belgium is no joke: the roads are muddy at the best of times and now they were impassable. The Rector wisely foresaw the impossibility of my walking to the station at Tournay so he sent off to get me a carriage. It came about half to nine and I went with Bro. Antoine to Tournay, where I caught a train for Lille at 9.25. I had no difficulty in crossing the frontier into France in consequence of the French visa to my passport, which I secured in Brussels. I arrived in Lille 11.30.
Now begins my diplomacy.
I went to the Chief-du-Gare and he told me there would be two trains for Paris tomorrow at 8 and 9 a.m. but that I could not travel without a safe conduct. I asked where could I get it. He said at the Prefecture. I then took a cab to the Prefecture and the driver asked me was it the old or the new. I said wherever the bureau or office was. “Tres biene, monsigeur”. Off he drove me then. I had to pass through idle soldiers, loiterers, sharpers, and queer looking people all eyes. to get to the office. I showed my passport, it was examined here and there and everywhere – two or three read it together, then asked me questions, then hummed and were very civil at last. The gentleman speaking with me said I should return at 3, and leave my passport now and he’d have that safe conduct ready for me. I said that I had some friends in Roulaix and that I could not be with them and back about 4. He said in a shouting tone to another officer, “This gentleman is going to Roulaix and can’t be here by 4”. “Very well”, they said, “we shall arrange the whole affair for you and anytime from 4 till 10 o’clock you can call and get your papers”. I went off then and got to Roulaix about 12 noon. The Moreelle family were all glad to see me.. Father, three daughters, two sons and other relatives came in to make my acquaintance. I dined with them and then went to F. Eugene and F.Pancras..
When I got to Lille at about half past four I went to the prefecture for the safe conduct, and found it was only available for French territory. The Parisian I could not get. I went then to visit M. and Madam Cadot – the latter I knew at school in London. They were out; I left my name and told the servant I was staying at the Hotel de Linge d’Or (at the Golden Monkey). I went back to the hotel and sat down to write and read my office. I strayed out about half five and found a table d’hote. I sat down and dined a second time by way of supper. Several officers came in and when I talked about getting to Paris without a German safe conduct they said it was a very hazardous thing. I did not care. I was prepared for anything. Just as I came back to my room I heard a great noise up the stairs. It was M. and Madam Cadot let by a flunkey to my room. I had not seen Madame since she got married about seven months ago and she was so glad to see me and introduce her young husbands to me. He is a very nice fellow and I was quite pleased with him. They stayed 2 hours, invited me to their house, to stay, to sleep, to dine etc., – but I must be off in the morning early to try to enter Paris. Wouldn’t I call on my return? Couldn’t say – but was glad (?) I had friends in Lille anyhow. Good night.
I forgot to mention that as I was dining secondly yesterday an explosion of a cartridge manufactory took place and several were killed. I saw some wounded French prisoners returning from Germany here – poor fellows, all on crutches and crowds gathering round them to hear an account of their captivity.
I got up this morning at five and could get no breakfast at such an early hour. I got to the railway station at a quarter to five, and because I had no Prussian safe-conduct, could only get booked to S. Quentin. There I’d meet the Prussians and must settle with them about the rest of my journey. I chanced it. And then I hit on a plan of doing it (?). I saw nobody going first class except those who had German safe conducts. I took a first class ticket and got a coupe carriage all to myself. I went on in great fear and agitation, still ready to brave anything. At Douai we had a few minutes to wait so I got a cup of coffee and a bit of bread. Nothing occurred then except that the train went a long roundabout way. I began to see now signs of war, the rails in some parts were newly laid – people were out chasing the train for Paris as a sign a better times, and the telegraph poles were being spliced and men mending the wires. I was alone for I feared to talk to either French or German travellers lest I might commit myself to agreeing to anything said. The French all were as silent as possible and when I remembered what chatterboxes they used to be in former days it looked a sad change. Near S. Quentin I saw a battlefield where were several graves of slain soldiers and no other trace of fire or sword. Just as we got into the station about eleven o’clock, I saw the big Prussian soldiers, with their needle-guns and helmets, pacing the platform. We all alighted and I asked the guard if I must now get the German safe conduct. He said, “Yes” – I asked “where?” He said “in the Prefecture in the town”. I asked would the train wait? He said “no”. Then I said here goes; I’ll get in and rely upon the Prussian visa I got in Dublin. On we went and the guard got into my compartment to get the extra fare. He said, “ you did right to chance the thing then. If you applied for the safe conduct they might keep you there all night and not give it to you even then. We are all obliged to say to passengers that they must get it and we cannot book them except on the assumption that they have them”. I saw several travellers leaving the train and going into the town whilst I rode along as stiff as a big Prussian hussar who just now entered the train. When we got to (?), there were two rows of Prussian soldiers on the platform, armed to the teeth. I passed through them but did not speak to them lest the French (in whose keeping I was now) might think me a spy. We dined here very nicely and were off again. No signs of war here.
I found myself now in the Parisian lines and liable to be made at prisoner of; but made up a defence for myself and read my office and got on as before. I could not help laughing at a comical idea that came into my head. When people say in Ireland, “What did you do when you did not get so and so?” “I did as they do in France” – “What’s that?” – “I did without it” – So I did without a safe conduct. When we got to S. Ouen sur Oise, the bridge was broken. We had to get out of the train and carry our baggage and ourselves across a bridge of boats. We were about 200 people I think, all as mute as mice. Here I was obliged to get into a compartment with some French men. They were deputies going to Bordeaux and as I knew they were privileged I sat amongst them in the farthest possible corner from where I expected the Prussian inspector to enter. When we came near St Denise we saw the sad effects of war. Every house near the railway was riddled, all the windows broken, holes through brick walls, sacks of sand here and there and Prussian cannon planted along the railway. Sentries, with the famous helmets, pacing the ramparts and soldiers wheeling ammunition here and there. All war, except no firing. I saw whole streets razed to the ground, bricks and mortar everywhere about and shops deserted. What was worse now the Prussians entered the train and were examining all the papers. An officer poked his helmet into our compartment and said to another “Let them pass I think they are all right”. When I heard these German words I thought they were the sweetest sounds that ever reached my ears. On sped the train and about 4 o’clock we steamed into the old station de chemin de Fer du Nord in PARIS.
When I landed and took my bag in my hand I met a frowsy looking fellow, a forbidding countenance, in a blouse. who wanted to carry it saying, “il ney a point de voiture, monsieur: there are no cabs, sir”. I did not mind him but went as far as the door when a good-humoured lad came up and said – “You’d better let me carry your valise, sir, for there are no vehicles because there are no horses”. “What became of the horses?” I said – “Monsieur, nous (?) mangie tous -, sir, we have eaten them all”. He said this so naively, that I gave him my wallet and told him to take it to the Avenue de la Reine Hortense, No 50. What a strange sensation came over me as I began to pass once more these lively streets. How changed from what they were! Half the shops were shut – houses were deserted – the streets were filled with men in partial uniforms, neither smoking, nor amusing themselves but walking along in a sad dismal state. The soldiers carried no arms, the citizens seemed to have been just awakened from a bad dream and have gone into the streets to wipe their eyes and to make sure of being amid realities. The women were slovenly and hungry-looking. That frank, gay, coquettish air so remarkable in parisiennes seemed to have been replaced by the doleful carelessness that succeeds a famine. People talked more about their hard fate than their lamentable reverses. The famous gamins seemed to have lost their fun. There were no gendarmes in the streets, and all along – about two and a half miles – I only saw four little girls at sport with a skipping rope. My commissionaire said in a very sad way: “Ah, monsieur, nous etions (?) nous n’avions pas des Chefs” – “Ah, sir, we have been betrayed: we have no leaders”. Yet they did not seem humbled though they bore the inevitable with so good a grace as might be at the time.
Arived at our place, I rang the bell twice and wondered should I find anyone at home. The Red Cross of the ambulance was over the door and a flag of protection was hoisted above. . An old man opened and I asked were any of the fathers in. He answered in English – “yes”. Then came a Brother Casimer, looking worn and haggard and he failed for a minute to recognize me. I learned they were all well now except for F. Consultor and that he was recovering. In a short time I had them all present and they were overjoyed to see someone from the outside world after so long and trying a severance from their friends. We talked and talked about the siege, the hardships, the reverses, and the personal trials of each until late in the day when I retired to rest. At first they all looked death in the face and prepared for eternity, then by degrees they became accustomed to the terrific music of canon and sight of death and dying. Death lost its terror and each walked to his duty with death seemingly at his shoulder. And I got beautiful accounts of the patience and long-suffering of the Parisiennes during the siege. There were no disturbances, no thefts, no burglaries in those days, though the streets were but half-lighted and the people but half fed. There was such as separation from the world caused by the close blockade of the Germans that events of two months ago seemed only just to have happened because now did letters come in. Letters written in England, September last year, arrived today.
From Paris to Dublin
Today is Ash Wednesday and a great many French came for the ashes. It is a thing they have devotion for. I hear that during the siege they were reduced to rations of about three ounces of horse flesh per diem and a few ounces of bread made of ground straw and bran. They had no means of cooking the little they got for want of fuel and people used to stand four deep for four or five hours in a queue or tail, in the coldest weather to get their few scraps of food for their perishing families. Our people had lain in provisions before hand and though they got their rations like the rest they were not trusty to them. The mortality increased every day and the wonder is that they kept on so long. Yet no one grumbled, no one complained – it was looked upon as a crime against the country to take notice of personal sacrifices. Every day they expected aid from the provinces and when sortie after sortie failed to break the Parisian lines dark despair but no complaint was the state of the once proud and luxurious capital. In the French ports the gunmen could not stand at the cannon: the Prussian fire was a rain of bullets; the wiser portion of the people seeing the French fought as well as they ever did: but the Prussians were too well equipped and too generalled for us to compete with them. However the general and popular notion is that France could, would and ought to have conquered but that they were all betrayed. The facts seem to be that the troops would not fight and that one (?) ordered a company of cavalry to be sabred because they would not charge. When the soldiers were going out for a sortie their wives and sweethearts used to accompany them, carry their guns and bags for them and seemed more soldierly than themselves. A whole lot of women marched to the Hotel de Ville to get arms and they carried a flag before them. One of the National Guard saw this and said, “Oh, I’ll carry the banner for you”. He led them to the Hotel de Ville and when they entered they found themselves prisoners. When General Trench was in danger of being shot at the time of the little revolution, a great big butcher went in, seized him by the waist and carried him off as a merchant until he placed him in his own ranks.
However it seems as if the French were made to be imposed upon. There was a Sergeant Hoff, an Alsatian, and he vowed vengeance against the Prussians for killing his brother and father. He used to go out every night, shooting Prussians on his own account and taking in as a trophy next morning about six or seven helmets. He was offered a command of 100 men but refused it; and it turned out at last, when he disappeared at some battle, that he was a Prussian spy and went to their lines with news every evening. Every man was a soldier, or at least wore a uniform and kept guard at certain times; but as for fighting, I have not heard much except windbag things of the (?) style on that head. Certainly the people showed a great part of endurance. Many died of cold and exposure from waiting for their paltry rations so long every day, And if anyone complained he was called a Prussian.. The women generally did queue for the rations whilst the men mounted guard and ate them.
After dinner today I went with Fathers Francis and Dennis for a walk through Paris. We went down the Champ Elise as far as Notre Dame and crossed the Seine there. I saw no effects from shells anywhere; I only heard that some fell close by.. We went from Notre Dame to the Pantheon. There I saw some damage done. We went then to the Irish college and found nobody there but the Bursar, Abbé La Croix. He was writing a history of the siege. They had an ambulance here also. We then came by S. Sulpiece homewards, and were rather tired from our walk. Paris seemed full of people but very few fashionable swells to be seen anywhere. There were a few private carriages, no cabs, an odd omnibus and some military carts. Shops are beginning to open, but only for different kinds of provisions. On the whole the look of the city is more charming than one would expect.
Today nothing occurred worthy of note. I stayed at home with a few things done here and talked to a variety of people through the house. I have made up my mind to start homewards tomorrow.
I posted off with Brother Fulgentius, who sports a uniform, having been made a soldier at the beginning of the war, to the station for the North. We got there by a sharp walk at 5 minutes to 7 and then found out that that train only went to Belgium and that the Calais train did not start until 8:00 o’clock. We looked about, asked a few questions regarding passports, laissey passers and safe conducts. I came to the conclusion that I might as well trust to the imperfect papers I had to get me out as they got me in. The officer said I should get my passport translated and I said I could translate it myself for my friends, les Prussions, if they wished it. When we got back about eight o’clock I found the house (?) Father Bernard said, “Oh this is just a usual thing now – nobody is certain of any public arrangement.”, I went to the station again for 12 accompanied by Fathers Francis and Dionisius. We were remarking the faces of the travellers whilst waiting for the train and they were all very English to look at. After 12.15 we were ordered to take our seats. Beside me and opposite me I had a Frenchman and near the window on the opposite side two English men. My French companion had been in Paris all through the siege and never saw a Prussian in his life. When we approached S. Denis and saw the marks of disaster all-around and the first Prussian helmet came inside, my poor companion nearly fainted: “Oh, mon Dieu”, he said in faint exclamation, ” isn’t this appalling?”
When we came to Prussian lines an officer went round to look at the papers. He asked for ours and we pulled them out. He spoke good French and he never examined them but let us pass on. We had to get out at S. Ouen and carry our luggage across the bridge of boats to another train. I found one of my English fellow travellers was a convert, had been an officer, and had taken a coupé for himself, which he shared with me seeing I was a priest. We got in and journeyed together very harmoniously. We saw the Prussians drilling and going into manoeuvres everywhere. They seemed never to rest. All the stations bristled with stern soldiers, needle guns and bayonets. Our guard gave many a curse at them (but not in their hearing).
When we got to Amiens we were told we had 20 minutes rest. . We got out and I saw a whole battalion of Prussians defiling on the platform. When I and my friend got out we saw two Prussian officers getting into our places. The French guard said – “Hey, my friends, look at the thieves”. I (?) in fearing they would make a requisition on our baggage. I told the first officer in German that we had taken the seats and paid for them. “Ye are only two here”, he said, “and there is room for four”. The two of them sat down, and kindled cigars, and took off their helmets and laid large money-bags before them on the little shelf before the looking glass, with which each place is provided: I said, “I hope no more of you will come” to which he grunted something. When we were getting out again I saw another officer entering and I jumped and took my seat. The two first wanted him to get out, but he would not; so he sat on the post between their seats and set up a chat with one of the first. I overhead them and it was all about the way in which they screwed good things out of the French where they were billeted. After a while we began to get on friendly terms, and the 3rd officer, a young lieutenant of 23 years of age, was very chatty and agreeable. He opened a sort of bag in which he had surgical instruments and several drugs. He told me he had been wounded in two of his fifteen engagements and was now well. He had three decorations. We began then to examine their helmets and myself and the English man doffed two of them to the great amusement of ourselves and them. When I saw myself in the mirror opposite with a Prussian helmet and spike on I nearly frightened myself. They then showed us their maps and every pigsty and every gate, and every bush, and every elevation were clearly and distinctly marked in them. They knew England better than we did, and told us that one (two words indecipherable), which they named between London and York, could be put into a state of defence. They seemed to despise our military power and to think that they could settle us, if there were need of it, despite our Navy. None of them were ever in England. Two of them spoke French perfectly and asked me all sorts of questions about Vaderlandt, seeing I had passed through it lately. When they left us at Abbeville they saluted us very politely and left us under the impression that they were very nice fellows indeed notwithstanding their gruff manner of invading us at first.
We arrived in Calais about 10 o’clock at night and I had to get our Laisses passeurs stamped before going on board the steamer for Dover. When in the steamer I lay down and woke in Dover Harbour. The customhouse officers let me pass and I got quietly on English ground again. On our way to London we were joined by two English men who were coming from Brussels after having failed to get to Paris. . When I told them how I managed one of them resolved to start this evening for Paris again and try to get in as I did. He may succeed.
We reached London at 6 o’clock this morning. I took a Hansome and arrived at Highgate at 7 – just a month since I left Dublin. I had a crowd of anxious listeners to the account of my adventures by sea and land and we all forgot that I was hungry until I satisfied their curious enquiries. I then shaved and went out to London to visit my sisters etc. Got home about seven in the evening.
Sunday. I sang mass today and went to visit some nuns afterwards and see people in the parlour after that. I left Highgate at a quarter to eight, got to Euston Square station at a quarter past eight and was in the train for Dublin at 20 and off at 25 past eight.
No incident worth recording occurred till I got near Dublin, when we met first a fog and then a storm and were an hour and a half late in getting into Kingstown. I reached St. Paul at a quarter past nine and here my wanderings terminate for the present.
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