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Chapter 14: Jesuits' pupils.

Yet gravely gay and soberly festive as the Jesuit College m Santa Clara looks to those who stroll about gardens and playgrounds, the rules of order and the methods of instruction are devised with an austerity that strikes an English eye as almost penal. With elaborate art these rules and methods are designed to bring about one great and uniform result; a habit of deferring to the Church, to the abandonment of personal will and independent thought.

To give the college something of a liberal air, Santa Clara opens her door to lads of every race and creed. A Jew, a Buddhist, or an Anglican may send his son to Santa Clara. As in the case of Spence at Monterey, the lad must go to mass, but “ only for the sake of order and uniformity.” Let him sit through mass and vespers daily, and a boy may [133] keep his father's creed; but every pupil of the college must attend religious worship, and the only exercises of religion at Santa Clara are those of Rome.

Compared with Christ Church and Trinity, the college is a prison. The scholastic year consists of one session of ten months, lasting from the first week in August to the first week in June. During this long term a pupil hardly ever quits the place. No scholar is received for less than half a year. Ten days are given at Christmas to rest and absence, but the greatest care is taken lest the boy should stray in the wicked world. A lad whose parents live in Santa Clara has a slight advantage; he may go to see those parents once a month; but only for an hour or so in the afternoon, and on the strict condition of coming back before dusk. No pupil of the Jesuits can be trusted in the city after dark.

Day is given up, in equal parts, to passive obedience and active work; these acts being all designed to wean a pupil from the world, and bring him under true relations with his Church. From daxwn to dusk, the youth is kept employed. Not only are his prayers, his meals, his exercises, all set down for [134] him, but even such details as the hour when he may venture to wash his hands. His times for lying down and getting up are fixed. The modes in which he is to fold his coat and put away his socks are solemnly set forth. If he keeps his rules, a pupil has about fifty minutes in the twenty-four hours which he can call his own and spend as he thinks fit.

No student is allowed to pass the college gate unless attended by a prefect or a tutor. Even with a prefect or a tutor he must not be out at night. A student is not allowed to read a newspaper, nor to have a book in his possession, unless such book has been seen and stamped by Padre Varsi. Reading magazines and other publications is forbidden. A student may not correspond with other youths outside his college. Every letter brought in is read by Varsi, with the sole exception of such letters as Varsi knows to have been written by the student's mother. When Varsi has a doubt, he breaks the seal and reads. No other person-even a father — has the right of free communication with a youth at Santa Clara. Smoking is prohibited, in and out of college. No society or club can be formed without Padre Varsi's leave. Two faults are marked so high [135] that they are punished by expulsion. These grave offences are-first, absence from the college after sunset; second, disobedience to an officer, expressed in either word or act. A student is not allowed to have money in his purse. If he has coppers in his pocket, he must lodge them with the treasurer. The sum a parent may allow his son to spend is practically fixed, since parents are enjoined in no case to permit their sons to have more than twenty-five cents a week. Twenty-five cents make one shilling. Varsi is of opinion that sixpence is enough.

These rules apply to men of legal age!

“How many pupils have you on the books?”

“About two hundred names. The numbers vary with the seasons, but we usually have two hundred names on our list.”

Such numbers are not large. It may console the fathers to know that they have more volumes on their shelves than any other college in California. It may console them more to find that they have a longer list of students than the Methodist University in Santa Clara. But the Evangelical colleges are many, while the Jesuit college is only one. Catholics have [136] one school at San Jose, a second school at San Francisco, but non-Catholics have fifty schools in these great towns. The Jesuits are training six hundred children in these schools; the rival bodies are training more than twenty thousand children in these towns. Considering how lately the whole population was Catholic and Mexican, and more Catholic than Mexican, the numbers now remaining under Jesuit teaching are assuredly not large.

A greater question still remains: how far have these Jesuits succeeded in their aim of fencing Santa Clara from the world, and raising up an army of their own within her gates?

Enough to lend them hope, but not enough to make them proud. With lads of slow and timid parts, in whom the placid genius of a squaw prevails, they get their way, and hold their own; but youths of quicker pulse and higher heat, in whom the temper of Castille prevails, tear off the withes that bind their weaker brethren, and regain their freedom at a bound. We see examples of the first kind loafing in the play-ground, and an illustration of the second kind in our host, an advocate at San Jose. [137]

Alexander Delmas is a son of Sefior Delmas, a shrewd and wealthy Mexican, of better stock than the original denizens of San Jose. A Catholic, he sent his boy to Santa Clara, hoping the fathers would excite his wits, as he meant him to get his living at the Californian bar. Young Delmas stayed some years at Santa Clara, passing through all his stages with applause. At twenty, thinking his education done, he went to San Francisco, meaning to appear in court and enter into active life. A few days in that city opened his eyes. He found, to his alarm, that he knew nothing of men, hardly anything of books. Long lists of medieval popes, and the succession of Jesuits from Loyola to Beckx, were graven in his memory, but he barely knew the names of President Lincoln's cabinet, and the great lawyers who adorn the chairs of the Supreme Court were all unknown to him.

“ Back to my books!” he said to himself. Being fond of Santa Clara, and a favourite of the Jesuits, he returned to his old rooms; hoping the fathers would allow him to read with them, free from the restrictions under which he had lived so long and learnt so little. It was a necessity of his career that [138] his mind should take a wider sweep and feed on stronger food.

He had no time to carry out this plan. When Senior Delmas heard of his son's return to Santa Clara, he leaped, with all a Mexican's jealousy of priests, to the conclusion that Alexander was falling into a Jesuit snare. Driving to the college, he demanded leave to see his son: rules or no rules, he would see his son; and pushing past the porters, he strode into Alexander's room.

“What are you doing here?”

“Doing here, father? Reading for the bar.”

“You are a scoundrel, sir! You are deceiving me; deceiving me, your father! You are entering into league with scoundrels. But I understand their game. You want to be a Jesuit; yes, my son desires to be a Jesuit! Give me no answer, Sir. I won't believe one word you speak.”

“No, father, no; a hundred times no!”

“Ugh! They have ensnared you, and corrupted you. Nino! They have made you think it good to be a Jesuit. Look you, boy! A Jesuit-I would rather see you dead — here at my feet-dead in your shroud-than see you in a Jesuit's frock!” [139] “My father, you are wrong!”

“You will not be a Jesuit? Give me your hand. Let us get out of this hole. My horse is at the door. Hang your books and clothes; let them be sent on after us. Come!”

Pulling his son away, the peppery old gentleman drove him home, and then locking his door, put the case before him briefly and hotly:

“Take your choice, Alexander; go into an attorney's office at San Jose and learn your trade like a clerk; or go to Yale and study it like a gentleman. To which will you go? Speak, Sir; San Jose or Yale.”

“To Yale,” cried Alexander; and to Yale he went.

“ It was a new world to me,” he says; “ each man in that great university was free to go his own way, to labour as he pleased. to form a character of his own. At first I was a little timid, feeling the want of guides. In time I learned to trust my powers and be a law to myself; and now that I have tried both systems, I can see that man for man advocates brought up at Santa Clara will not be strong enough to hold their own in American [140] courts, against lawyers trained in such a school as Yale.”

Such is the little history of a life, as told me in a chalet of Penitentia Creek, where we rest our horses for an hour, and eat some excellent Californian trout.

According to my friend, life is too ardent in these settlements for lads in Padre Varsi's school to have a chance. In Mexico the fathers might do better with their scholars, but the radicals of Mexico will not let them open schools.

“ Do many pupils at Santa Clara act as you have done?”

“Yes, more than yoa would think; though few have gone my length. Some slip the noose-go wild-and turn their freedom to a curse; while others, after tasting liberty awhile, slink back into their chains. A few remain outside, wearing their gifts like men. A good example lends us strength, and we have always good examples in our sight. If I am ever tempted, out of weakness, to fall back, I fix my thoughts on some such point as Yale in New Haven, or the Inner Temple in London. Then my fainting of the heart goes by.” [141] “Of course the Jesuits have cut you off?”

“Not openly. By entering Yale, I gave them much offence. I suffered too, for I was fond of Santa Clara, and a sort of favourite in the place. What could I do? My father bade me go; my studies were essential to success. My leaving Santa Clara was an act of self-defence: but all the same, my old teachers speak of me as lost.”

“ Lost to them? ”

“Yes, lost to them. I am a runaway slave, escaped into the freedom of the world. The past is past. The chain is snapped, the pitcher broken at the well. No magic can restore the state of mind in which my youth was spent. I cannot now seek advice, or yield my opinion to a priest because he is a priest. In a republic every one has a right to think and act for himself. For my part, having learnt this lesson, I shall stick by the republic so long as the republic sticks by me.”

“No fear of this republic sticking by her citizens? ”

“ No, no,” he answers, pulling up his horses on a mountain spur, and gazing on the scene below our eyes with rapture. “No,” he cries; “no fear while [142] Santa Clara stands on such a shore, and while the Jesuit fathers have such rivals as the lay men planting these busy towns along the bay. Defended by the stars and stripes, we shall not fear about our liberty of thought.”

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