A Trip to Cuba

by Julia Ward Howe

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Chapter VII - Havana - The Jesuit College.

THE gentlemen of our party go one day to visit the Jesuit College in Havana, yclept "Universidad de Belen." The ladies, weary of dry goods, manifest some disposition to accompany them. This is at once frowned down by the unfairer sex, and Can Grande, appealed to by the other side, shakes his shoulders, and replies, "No, you are only miserable women, and cannot be admitted into any Jesuit establishment whatever." And so the male deputation departs with elation, and returns with airs of superior opportunity, and is more insufferable than ever at dinner, and thereafter.

They of the feminine faction, on the other hand, consult with more direct authorities, and discover that the doors of Belen are in nowise closed to them, and that everything within those doors is quite at their disposition, saving and excepting the sleeping-apartments of the Jesuit fathers,—to which, even in thought, they would on no account draw near. And so they went and saw Belen, whereof one of them relates as follows.

The building is spacious, inclosing a hollow square, and with numerous galleries, like European cloisters, where the youth walk, study, and play. We were shown up-stairs, into a pleasant reception-room, where two priests soon waited on us. One of these, Padre Doyaguez, seemed to be the decoy-duck of the establishment, and soon fastened upon one of our party, whose Protestant tone of countenance had probably caught his attention. Was she a Protestant? Oh, no!—not with that intelligent physiognomy!—not with that talent! What was her name? Julia (pronounced Hulia). Hulia was a Roman name, a Catholic name; he had never heard of a Hulia who was a Protestant;—very strange, it seemed to him, that a Hulia could hold to such unreasonable ideas. The other priest, Padre Lluc, meanwhile followed with sweet, quiet eyes, whose silent looks had more persuasion in them than all the innocent cajoleries of the elder man. Padre Doyaguez was a man eminently qualified to deal with the sex in general,—a coaxing voice, a pair of vivacious eyes whose cunning was not unpleasing, tireless good-humor and perseverance, and a savor of sincerity. Padre Lluc was the sort of man that one recalls in quiet moments with a throb of sympathy,—the earnest eyes, the clear brow, the sonorous voice. One thinks of him, and hopes that he is satisfied,—that cruel longing and more cruel doubt shall never spring up in that capacious heart, divorcing his affections and convictions from the system to which his life is irrevocably wedded. No, keep still, Padre Lluc! think ever as you think now, lest the faith that seems a fortress should prove a prison, the mother a step-dame,—lest the high, chivalrous spirit, incapable of a safe desertion, should immolate truth or itself on the altar of consistency.

Between those two advocates of Catholicity, Hulia Protestante walks slowly through the halls of the University. She sees first a Cabinet of Natural History, including minerals, shells, fossils, and insects, all well-arranged, and constituting a very respectable beginning. Padre Lluc says some good words on the importance of scientific education. Padre Doyaguez laughs at the ladies' hoops, which he calls Malakoffs, as they crowd through the doorways and among the glass cases; he repeats occasionally, "Hulia Protestante?" in a tone of mock astonishment, and receives for answer, "Si, Hulia Protestante." Then comes a very creditable array of scientific apparatus,—not of the order employed by the judges of Galileo,—electric and galvanic batteries, an orrery, and many things beside. The Library interests us more, with some luxurious Classics, a superb Dante, and a prison-cage of forbidden works, of which Padre Lluc certainly has the key. Among these were fine editions of Rousseau and Voltaire, which appeared to be intended for use; and we could imagine a solitary student, dark-eyed and pale, exploring their depths at midnight with a stolen candle, and endeavoring, with self-torment, to reconcile the intolerance of his doctrine with the charities of his heart. We imagine such an one lost in the philosophy and sentiment of the "Nouvelle Héloise," and suddenly summoned by the convent-bell to the droning of the Mass, the mockery of Holy Water, the fable of the Real Presence. Such contrasts might be strange and dangerous. No, no, Padre Lluc! keep these unknown spells from your heart,—let the forbidden books alone. Instead of the Confessions of Jean Jacques, read the Confessions of St. Augustine,—read the new book, in three volumes, on the Immaculate Conception, which you show me with such ardor, telling me that Can Grande has spoken of it with respect. Beyond the Fathers you must not get, for you have vowed to be a child all your life. Those clear eyes of yours are never to look up into the face of the Eternal Father; the show-box of the Church must content them, with Mary and the saints seen through its dusty glass,—the august figure of the Son, who sometimes reproved his Mother, crowded quite out of sight behind the woman, whom it is so much easier to dress up and exhibit. What is this other book which Parker has read? Padre Doyaguez says, "Hulia, if you read this, you must become a Catholic." Padre Lluc says, "If Parker has read this book, I cannot conceive that he is not a Catholic." The quick Doyaguez then remarks, "Parker is going to Rome to join the Romish Church." Padre Lluc rejoins, "They say so." Hulia Protestante is inclined to cry out, "The day that Parker becomes a Catholic, I too will become one"; but, remembering the rashness of vows and the fallibility of men, she does not adopt that form of expressing Never. Parker might, if it pleased God, become a Catholic, and then the world would have two Popes instead of one.

We leave at last the disputed ground of the Library and ascend to the Observatory, which commands a fine view of the city, and a good sweep of the heavens for the telescope, in which Padre Lluc seemed especially to delight. The Observatory is commodious, and is chiefly directed by an attenuated young priest, with a keen eye and hectic cheek; another is occupied in working out mathematical tables;—for these Fathers observe the stars, and are in scientific correspondence with Astronomers in Europe. This circumstance gave us real pleasure on their account,—for science, in all its degrees, is a positive good, and a mental tonic of the first importance. Earnestly did we, in thought, commend it to those wearied minds which have undergone the dialectic dislocations, the denaturalizations of truth and of thought, which enable rational men to become first Catholics, and then Jesuits. For let there be no illusions about strength of mind and so on,—this is effected by means of a vast machinery. As, in the old story, the calves were put in at one end of the cylinder and taken out leather breeches at the other, or as glass is cut and wood carved, so does the raw human material, put into the machine of the Catholic Church, become fashioned according to the will of those who guide it. Hulia Protestante! you have a free step and a clear head; but once go into the machine, and you will come out carved and embossed according to the old traditional pattern,—you as well as another. Where the material is hard, they put on more power,—where it is soft, more care; wherefore I caution you here, as I would in a mill at Lowell or Lawrence,—Don't meddle with the shafts,—don't go too near the wheel,—in short, keep clear of the machinery. And Hulia does so; for, at the last attack of Padre Doyaguez, she suddenly turns upon him and says, "Sir, you are a Doctrinary and a Propagandist." And the good Father suffers her to depart in peace. But first there is the chapel to be seen, with its tawdry and poor ornamentation,—and the dormitories of the scholars, with long double rows of beds and mosquito-nettings. There are two of these, and each of them has at one end a raised platform, with curtains and a bed, where rests and watches the shepherd of the little sheep. Lastly, we have a view of the whole flock, assembled in their play-ground, and one of them, looking up, sees his mother, who has kindly accompanied our visit to the institution. Across the distance that separates us, we see his blue eyes brighten, and, as soon as permission is given, he bounds like a young roe to her arms, shy and tender, his English blood showing through his Spanish skin,—for he is a child of mixed race. We are all pleased and touched, and Padre Lluc presently brings us a daguerreotype, and says, "It is my mother." To us it is an indifferent portrait of an elderly Spanish woman,—but to him, how much! With kindest mutual regard we take leave,—a little surprised, perhaps, to see that Jesuit priests have mothers, and remember them.

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