Urban would listen to nothing; fearing lest he should be deceived, as he believed he had been before, he would permit no delay. He would not even believe the testimony of three physicians who attested the reality of Galileo's malady; he sent the inquisitor in person to him, with orders to arrest and bring him in irons to Rome, if he was found to be in a condition to bear the journey. Poor Galileo had taken to his bed, and, as was said by one of his friends, "he was more in danger of going to the other world than to Rome." He was not in a condition to be removed until January, 1633. The good offices of the Grand-duke of Tuscany attended him to the presence of his judges, and there the friendship of Niccolini accompanied him—weak succors these in the face of such powerful adversaries. At first the embassador's palace was appointed as his place of confinement, and he was commanded not to leave it; he went out only in order to submit to the interrogatories proposed to him by the Holy Office.
On the 12th of April he was interrogated for the first time. To begin with, he was asked if he remembered what took place in 1616, when he had to appear before Cardinal Bellarmin and the commissary-general of the Holy Office. Galileo admitted having heard it declared on that day that the system of Copernicus could not be maintained or defended, as being contrary to the Holy Scriptures. "It may be," he added, "that at the same time I myself was forbidden to maintain or defend that opinion, but I do not recollect, it is now so long ago." Whatever may be the interest now taken in a case so bound up with the question of the freedom of thought, it is not easy to believe with Berti that Galileo replied to this first interrogatory with entirely good faith. When a prohibition is issued in terms so formal as those we have given, upon so definite a point, neither the form nor the substance is ever forgotten. Ambiguity was out of the question after Bellarmin's warning, and still more after the solemn injunction of the commissary-general. Domenico Berti is in error with regard to the psychological conditions of memory where he says that it must have been easier for Galileo to recollect the conciliatory words of Cardinal Bellarmin than the threats of the commissary-general. On the contrary, what strikes one most under such circumstances, what impresses itself deepest in the memory, is the threats. How could any one forget words so simple, so clear, so menacing, as these: "You are forbidden to maintain this opinion, to teach or to defend it, whether by writing or by word of mouth, or in any other manner whatsoever, else the Holy Office will take information against you!" These last words in particular must have buried themselves like an arrow in the memory of Galileo, nevermore to come out. He knew all too well what he had to fear from the Inquisition ever to forget on what conditions that tribunal agreed to take no further cognizance of him. The silence he kept in public for sixteen years upon the forbidden subject, and even the care he took in his "Dialogues" to give to his thoughts an in-