Imágenes de páginas

secondary thing, in his mind, to the indulgence of it. Whether it was that his grief for her loss had been rather remorse than affec tion, and so he held himself secure if he treated her well ; or whether he was at all times rather proud of her than fond ; or whatever was the cause which again set his antipathies above his sympathies, certain it was, that his old habits returned upon him. Not so often, indeed, but with greater violence and pride when they did. These were the only times at which his wife was observed to show any ordinary symptoms of uneasiness.

At length, one day, some strong rebuff which he had received from an alienated neighbour, threw him into such a transport of rage, that he gave way to the most bitter imprecations, crying, with a loud voice—“ This treatment to me too! To me! To me, who, if the world knew all —” At these words, his wife, who had in vain laid her hand upon his, and looked him with dreary earnestness in the face, suddenly glided from the room.

He, and two or three who were present, were struck with a dumb horror. They said she did not walk out, nor vanish suddenly; but glided, as one who could dispense with the use of feet. After a moment's pause, the others proposed to him to follow her. He made a movement of despair; but they went. There was a short passage, which turned to the right into her favourite room. They knocked at the door twice or three times, and received no answer. At last one of them gently opened it, and, looking in, they saw her, as they thought, standing before a fire, which was the only light in the room. Yet she stood so far from it, as rather to be in the middle of the room: only the face was towards the fire, and she seemed looking upon it. They addressed her, but received no answer. They stepped gently towards her, and still received none. The figure stood dumb and unmoved. At last one of them went round in front, and instantly fell on the floor. The figure was without body. A hollow hood was left instead of a face. The clothes were standing upright by themselves.

That room was blocked up for ever, for the clothes, if it might

be so, to moulder away. It was called the Room of the Lady's Figure. The house, after the gentleman's death, was long uninhabited, and at length burned by the peasants in an insurrection. As for himself, he died about nine months after, a gentle and child-like penitent. He had never stirred from the house since ; and nobody would venture to go near him but a man who had the reputation of being a reprobate. It was from this man that the particulars of the story came first. He would distribute the gentleman's alms in great abundance to any strange poor who would accept them, for most of the neighbours held them in horror. He tried all he could to get the parents among them to let some of their little children, or a single one of them, go to see his employer. They said he even asked it one day with tears in his eyes. But they shuddered to think of it ; and the matter was not mended when this profane person, in a fit of impatience, said one day that he would have a child of his own on purpose. His employer, however, died in a day or two. They did not believe a word he told them of all the Bavarian's gentleness, looking upon the latter as a sort of ogre, and upon his agent as little better, though a good-natured-looking, earnest kind of person. It was said, many years after, that this man had been a friend of the Bavarian's when young, and had been deserted by him. And the young believed it, whatever the old might.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

AVING met in the “Harleian Miscellany” with an

account of a pet thief of ours, the famous. Du Val,

who flourished in the time of Charles II., and wishing to introduce him worthily to the readers, it has brought to mind such a number of the light-fingered gentry, his predecessors, that we almost feel hustled by the thoughts of them. Our subject, we may truly fear, will run away with us. We feel beset, like poor Tasso in his dungeon; and are not sure that our paper will not suddenly be conveyed away from under our pen. Already we miss some excellent remarks which we should have made in this place. If the reader should meet with any of that kind hereafter, upon the like subject, in another man's writings, twenty to one they are stolen from us, and ought to have enriched this our plundered exordium. He that steals an author's purse, may emphatically be said to steal trash ; but he that filches from him his good things---Alas! we thought our subject would be running away with us. We must keep firm. We must put something heavier in our remarks, as the little thin Grecian philosopher used to put lead in his pockets, lest the wind should steal him.

The more ruffianly crowd of thieves should go first, as pioneers; but they can hardly be looked upon as progenitors of our gentle Du Val ; and besides, with all their ferocity, some of them assume a grandeur, from standing in the remote shadows of

antiquity. There was the famous son, for instance, of Vulcan and Medusa, whom Virgil calls the dire aspect of half-human Cacus—“Semihominis Caci facies dira.” (“Æneid,” Book VIII.v. 194.) He was the Raw-head-and-bloody-bones of ancient fable. He lived in a cave by Mount Aventine, breathing out fiery smoke, and haunting King Evander's highway like the Apollyon of “ Pilgrim's Progress.”

“Semperque recenti
Cæde tepebat humus ; foribusque adfixa superbis
Ora virûm tristi pendebant pallida tabo."
The place about was ever in a plash
Of steaming blood ; and o'er the insulting door

Hung pallid human heads, defaced with dreary gore. He stole some of the cows of Hercules, and dragged them backwards into his cave to prevent discovery ; but the oxen happening to low, the cows answered them; and the demigod, detecting the miscreant in his cave, strangled him after a hard encounter. This is one of the earliest sharping tricks upon record.

Autolycus, the son of Mercury (after whom Shakspeare christened his merry rogue in the “Winter's Tale”), was a thief suitable to the greater airiness of his origin. He is said to have performed tricks which must awake the envy even of horsedealers ; for, in pretending to return a capital horse which he had stolen, he palmed upon the owners a sorry jade of an ass, which was gravely received by those flats of antiquity. Another time he went still further; for, having conveyed away a handsome bride, he sent in exchange an old lady elaborately hideous; yet the husband did not find out the trick till he had got off.

Autolycus himself, however, was outwitted by Sisyphus, the son of Æolus. Autolycus was in the habit of stealing his neighbours' cattle, and altering the marks upon them. Among others he stole some from Sisyphus; but, notwithstanding his usual precautions, he was astonished to find the latter come and pick out his oxen, as if nothing had happened. He had marked them under the hoof. Autolycus, it seems, had the usual generosity of genius; and was so pleased with this evidence of superior cunning, that

some say he gave him in marriage his daughter, Anticlea, who was afterwards the wife of Laertes, the father of Ulysses. ACcording to others, however, he only favoured him with his daughter's company for a time, a fashion not yet extinct in some primitive countries; and it was a reproach made against Ulysses, that Laertes was only his pretended, and Sisyphus his real, father. Sisyphus has the credit of being the greatest knave of antiquity. His famous punishment in hell, of being compelled to roll a stone up a hill to all eternity, and seeing it always go down again, is attributed by some to a characteristic trait, which he could not help playing off upon Pluto. It was supposed by the ancients that a man's ghost would wander in a melancholy manner upon the banks of the Styx as long as his corpse remained without burial. Sisyphus, on his death-bed, purposely charged his wife to leave him unburied; and then begged Pluto's permission to go back to earth, on his parole, merely to punish her for so scandalous a neglect. Like the lawyer, however, who contrived to let his hat fall inside the door of heaven, and got St Peter's permission to step in for it, Sisyphus would not return; and so, when Pluto had him again, he paid him for the trick with setting him upon this everlasting job.

The exploits of Mercury himself, the god of cunning, may be easily imagined to surpass everything achieved by profaner hands. Homer, in the hymn to his honour, has given a delightful account of his prematurity in swindling. He had not been born many hours before he stole Vulcan's tools, Mars's sword, and Jupiter's sceptre. He beat Cupid in a wrestling bout on the same day; and Venus caressing him for his conquest, he returned the embrace by filching away her girdle. He would also have stolen Jupiter's thunderbolts, but was afraid of burning his fingers. On the evening of his birthday, he drove off the cattle of Admetus, which Apollo was tending.

The goodhurnoured god of wit endeavoured to frighten him into restoring them ; but could not help laughing when, in the midst of his threatenings, he found himself without his quiver.

« AnteriorContinuar »