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over again, out of mere bigotry and
superstition, what they have seen perhaps a hundred times before. I could not avoid taking notice, however, that the priest treated those constant visitants with much less ceremony, or more freedom, if you please, than any of the strangers of what nation soever ; or, indeed, he seemed to take as much pains to disoblige those, as he did pleasure in obliging us.
The ball was neat, large, and stately ; but being plain and unadorned with more than decent decorations, suitable to such a society, I hasten to the other.
When we entered the chapel, our eyes were immediately attracted by the image of Our Lady of Montserat, (as they call it,) which stands over the altar-piece. It is about the natural stature ; but as black and shining as ebony itself. Most would imagine it made of that material ; though her retinue and adorers will allow nothing of the matter. On the contrary, tradition, which with them is, on some occasions,
more than tantamount to religion, has assured them, and they relate it as undoubted matter of fact, that her present colour, if I may so call it, proceeded from her concealment, in the time of the Moors, between those two rocks on which the chapel is founded; and that her long lying in that dismal place changed her once lovely white into its present opposite. Would not a heretic here be apt to say, that it was great pity that an image, which still boasts the power of acting so many miracles, could no better conserve her own complexion ? At least it must be allowed, even by a good catholic, to carry along with it matter of reproach to the fair ladies, natives of the country, for their unnatural and excessive affection of adulterating, if not defacing, their beautiful faces, with the ruinating dauberies of carmine ?
As the custom of the place is, (which is likewise allowed to be a distinguishing piece of civility to strangers,) when we approach the black lady, (who, I should have told
you, bears a child in her arms; but whether maternally black, or of the Mulatto kind, I protest I did not mind,) the priest, in great civility, offers you her arm to salute; at which juncture, I, like a true blue protestant, mistaking my word of command, fell foul on the fair lady's face. The displeasure in his countenance (for he took more notice of the rudeness than the good lady herself) soon convinced me of my error; however, as a greater token of his civility, having admitted no Spaniards along with my companions and me, it passed off the better; and his after civilities manifested, that he was willing to reform my ignorance by his complaisance.
To demonstrate which, upon my telling him that I had a set of beads, which I must entreat him to consecrate for me, he readily, nay eagerly complied ; and having hung them on her arm for the space of about half, or somewhat short of a whole minute, he returned me the holy baubles with a great deal of address, and most evi
dent satisfaction. The reader will be apt to admire at this curious piece of superstition of mine, till I have told him, that even rigid protestants have, in this country, thought it but prudent to do the like; and likewise having so done, to carry them about their persons, or in their pockets ; for experience has convinced us of the necessity of this most catholic precaution ; since those who have here, travelling or otherwise, come to their ends, whether by accident, sickness, or the course of nature, not having these sanctifying seals found upon them, have ever been refused Christian burial, under a superstitious imagination, that the corpse of a heretic will infect every thing near it.
Two instances of this kind fell within my knowledge; one before I came to Montserat, the other after. The first was of one Slunt, who had been bombardier at Monjouick; but being killed while we lay at Campilio, a priest, whom I advised with upon the matter, told me, that if he should
be buried where any corn grew, his body would not only be taken up again, but ill treated, in revenge of the destruction of so much corn, which the people would on no account be persuaded to touch ; for which reason we took care to have him laid in a very deep grave, on a very barren spot of ground. The other was of one Captain Bush, who was a prisoner with me on the surrender of Denia; who being sent, as I was afterwards, to Saint Clemente la Mancha, there died ; and, as I was informed, though he was privately, and by night, buried in a corn field, he was taken out of his grave by those superstitious people, as soon as ever they could discover the place where his body was deposited. But I return to the convent at Montserat.
Out of the chapel, behind the high altar, we descended into a spacious room, the repository of the great offerings made to the Lady. Here, though I thought in the chapel itself I had seen the riches of the universe, I found a prodigious quantity of more cost