Lucy's heart was at peace. She would never doubt again. Nevertheless she had still to suffer the bitter condemnation of her mother, all the more painful for the love she bore her. Her sisters also displayed a hostile cruelty towards her. Their attitude was intensified now because of fear. It made them fearful to see the huge crowds flocking from far and near because of lucy. What would happen to them all when her deceitfulness was found out!
The village priest kept himself aloof. He had been prudently instructed to do so by his Bishop.
The daily press had become interested, and were putting out pages of scorn and mockery on the subject. They assured the people that it was a trumped-up affair of the priests, trying to revive interest in a dying religion; that the children were half-witted and excited by the pious stories of their parents; that the events of Fatima were a commercial scheme to exploit the piety of the habitants. Lucy, Francis and Jacinta were supposed to be subject to fits of epilepsy, etc., etc.
Finally it became a major political issue. The anticlerical party talked loudly of nipping in the bud this outbreak of popular piety. It was a question of action by the government in the interests of "Liberal Thought."
Since the revolution of 1910, the county in which Fatima was located had for Administrator a notorious anti-religious zealot, who was the terror of the people, then as now, profoundly Catholic. The effect of the press attacks had been to focus the attention of all Portugal. It was no long before his ire was arounsed by the "reactionary" manifestations in the Cova da Iria. He was going to put a stop to all that nonsense.
The first move he made was to send a summons for the children to appear before him in the town of Ourem, the next day at a given hour. The Marto family sturdily disobeyed on the grounds that Francis and Jacinta were too young. But Lucy went with her father and the warnings of her family: "If you do not own up, he will kill you!"
In the evening, against the expectations of her little friends, who had been praying for her all day, she came back alive. Her head was dizzy with the ranting and the menaces of the Administrator. The severe cross-examination had not succeeded in making her contradict herself. He made great efforts to extract the secret from her, convinced that there was the key to the business. Baffled by her constancy, he had finally sent her away with a strict prohibition not to go to the Cova da Iria the next month.
A further stratagemm was the visiting of their homes by the police.
~"You are risking death!" was the menace of the men in uniform.
The 13th of August came, and the Administrator had laid his plans. He appeared in the morning at the Marto's house, and had Lucy sent for. He put off his stern and blustering aspect this time, to assume an amiable manner. He said he had decided to go to the Cova da Iria himself today.
~ "I'm like Thomas, I must see to believe." Then he artfully invited the children to get into his carriage. He would drive them himself to the ove. Both children and parents refused.
~ "Well, then, come over to the presbytery with me~there are some things I want to ask you before the priest."
This time he got the children into his carriage. No sooner were they in when, instead of traveling along a short distance to the priest's house, he took the road back to Orem. When the horses stopped, the children found themselves before the town goal.
~ "Enter, my little ones. You will come out when you have told me the secret."
They obeyed, trembling, but resolved to die rather than tell the secret.