A Warning to Thinkers

[From a recently discovered pamphlet dated circa 1790, written by a Father John Carrington]

It is unusual for a man in my position to address himself to non-believers. I am a man of God, and so rarely spend time speaking with those whose outlook on the world is so contrary to that which I traditionally espouse. However, I consider it necessary to relate a warning to those who do not believe, and not in the manner traditionally associated with a man of the cloth.

The truth of the spiritual world is one too terrible simply to describe, and in mere description I should lose the opportunity of illustrating that which I must impart most assiduously to those of you who represent such a great and dreadful danger to the rest of us, though you do not know it. Instead I will relate what happened to me one night some thirty or more years past, on a vessel sailing between England and the colonies in the Americas.

I was not then a priest, nor a believer of any particular stripe or calling. I was merely a shipmate, a cabin boy charged with the attendance of the officers on board of whom there were but three. The vessel was for transporting cargo, the hold being empty but for four passengers we had picked up in Southampton before departing. This was before the War, when England and her colonies were still at peace and France had largely given up her pretentions to the continent below her holdings in the Canadas.

I was young, and capable, or so I thought, and had effected to carry a short blade which I fancied looked something like the beautiful sabres carried by the officers I had secret designs on becoming one day. No doubt they knew what a hopeless dream it was for a boy of my background, but none ever reprimanded me for it or saw fit to deprive me of my little sword. I was well liked, times were relatively prosperous and all seemed well. We set out to sea on the long Pacific crossing in high spirits.

The passengers we had picked up were not traveling together. Three were priests, dark-robed and tight-lipped. They said very little to anyone and kept themselves very much apart, peering intensely at the sky and muttering to one another. I did not like the way they watched everything so closely, as though looking for something fearful in each person, cloud or wave that went by.

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