On the morning of August 13—it was a Monday—I got a summons to come home from my work at once. All right, I went. There were a lot of people outside my house, but I was used to that by now. I went inside and was washing my hands. My wife was sitting there. She was nervous and upset and all she did was point to the living room. “All right,” I said, “I’ll go in there. Why such a fuss?” So I walked inside still using a towel, and who should I see but the mayor himself. Even then, I suppose, I wasn’t very polite to him, because I saw that a priest was there, too, and I went first to shake hands with the priest. Then I said to the mayor, “I did not expect to see you here, sir.”
He was a great actor, that man. “I thought that after all I would like to go to the miracle today,” he said. What’s this? I asked myself, but the mayor went on, “I thought that we would all go together in my carriage. We will see, and then believe, like St. Thomas,” he said.
I watched him closely now, because I could see he was nervous. He kept looking around before he said, “Aren’t the children coming? It is almost time for the apparition.”
“There is no need to call them,” I said. “They will be ready when it is time to go.”
Just then they came into the room, the three of them, looking no different, and the mayor invited them to go in his carriage. That wasn’t necessary, the children told him.
“It will be better that way,” the mayor insisted. “No one will bother you on the way and, besides, I want to stop off at Fatima to see Father Ferreira.”
So what could we do? We went along—myself, the children, and Lucia’s father. The mayor went in to see Father Ferreira at the presbytery, then in no time at all he called down, “Send the first one up.”
“The first what?” I said.
His tone was different now. He was full of authority.
“Send Lucia!” he said.
“All right,” I said. No use getting in too much trouble.
“Go ahead, Lucia.” And she went into the house, supposedly to talk to Father Ferreira. My own two children stood there on the steps, while I was with Antonio, Lucia’s father. It was just a trick, this business of talking to the pastor,19 because when it was time for Jacinta and Francisco to go in, the mayor said, “It doesn’t matter now. We can all get started.” Well, it was a smart trick, all right, because I hadn’t noticed the mayor’s carriage moving closer all the time to the steps where the children were standing. First thing I knew, the mayor had them seated with him. Francisco in the front, and the two girls in the back. The horse went off at a lively trot. For a while it looked as though they were going to the Cova da Iria, but when they got to the main road the horse was whipped suddenly and they were off, racing toward Ourem. And there was nothing I could do.
The horse and carriage moved briskly along the road to Vila Nova de Ourem. Lucia turned to the mayor and said, “Where are you taking us? This isn’t the way to the Cova da Iria.”
We have no precise report on the conversation that followed, except that the mayor, in uneasy possession of his kidnapped cargo, attempted to calm them. He was merely taking them to Ourem, he explained, to see the parish priest there, after which, he insisted, they would be returned to the Cova by automobile. He appears to have been a nervous and unskilled liar. Along the road now, people began to recognise first the mayor’s carriage, and then its unwilling passengers. Just how noisy or conspicuous they were, we do not know, but in any event the mayor did feel obliged to cover all three with a carriage rug on the floor to keep them out of sight.
An hour or so later, they arrived at the mayor’s house. He shut them firmly in a room, and advised them they would not be freed until they confided their precious secret to him. Precisely why His Honour, the mayor, wanted to pry the children loose from their secret, remains a mystery. After all, he was a man of avowed disbelief in the supernatural. What value could another of their imaginative discourses have for him? Except, of course, that the secret might prove so ridiculous that its publication alone would dissolve the band of faithful who had come to believe in the incredible but lively legend of the three little prophets and their Lady.
Alone, the children appraised their situation. “If they kill us,” Jacinta said, “it won’t matter much; will it? Because we’ll all go straight to heaven.”
A willing, and perhaps even an eager martyr by now, Jacinta was a bit ahead of schedule. Actually, the balance of this afternoon was not unpleasant. The mayor, if less kindly and conscience-ridden than Pontius Pilate, had a wife whose sympathies belonged to his victims, rather than himself. She managed to free them from the room where they were confined, and to feed them generously, offering her own children as companions for the afternoon. Later, in the terrifying hours they were to know, she brought them books and toys, and did all in her limited power to soften their brutal ordeal.
Back at the Cova da Iria, of course, the children’s appointment with their Lady was not kept. But for evidence that the Queen of Heaven appeared on time, we offer the testimony that Maria da Capelinha has provided:
As before, I arrived very early at the Cova and sat down near the little tree where our Lady had appeared. I went in spite of the fact that many people had tried to frighten me out of going. There were rumours it was the devil who came, and that he would wait until many people had come, then open the earth and swallow us all. A woman from Caterina had told me this, but I was not afraid. With so much praying going on, I decided, nothing so evil could happen. I asked our Lady to guide me according to the divine will of her Son, and then I went.
The crowd this day was even greater than it had been in July. Oh, there were many, many more. Some came on foot and hung their bundles on the trees. Some came on horses. Some on mules. There were bicycles too, and everything else, and on the road there was a great noise of traffic.
It must have been around 11 o’clock when Maria dos Anjos, Lucia’s sister, got there. She had some candles with her that she expected to light when our Lady came to her sister and her cousins. All around the tree, the people were praying and singing hymns, but when the children did not appear, they began to get impatient. Then someone came from Fatima and told us they had been kidnapped by the mayor. Everyone began talking at once; there was great anger, and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder.
It was much the same as the last time. Some said the thunder came from the direction of the road and others said it came from the tree. To me it seemed to come from a long way off. But wherever it came from, the thunder was a shock to the people. Some of them began to shout that we would be killed. We all began to spread out, away from the tree, but, of course, no one was hurt in any way. Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared. As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow—pink and red and blue and I don’t know what. The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colours, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.
Then when all these signs had disappeared, the people started for Fatima. They were shouting out against the mayor and against Father Ferreira, too. They were against anyone connected with the imprisonment of the children.
Rest of the story here.