« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
are two comfortable and well-conditioned passions, sufficiently elastic to extend with circumstances, and to occupy a wider field as the old ground becomes exhausted. No matter what the wealth or station of the man, as long as these passions stand by him, he is in no danger from ennui ; whereas your more bornés animals, whose impulses are bounded by the animal appetites, find themselves easily abandoned by their only friends, and are brought to a stand-still, for want of a motive, and consequently for want of an amusement! It is in vain to say to these blasés sur tout, “throw but a stone the giant dies.” As well might we say to a man in the nightmare, breathe, and you get rid of it. It may be the premier pas, and the premier pas alone qui coute ; but the largest “mile and a wee bit" in all Scotland, is not more difficult to master than this single step. In these cases, the cure must come from without; and the loss of an election, a suit in chancery, or a tough fit of the gout, are either of them more likely to remedy the complaint, than all the philosophy of Socrates,
We will not therefore advise a friend so afflicted, to make an effort to throw off his load ; but we would recommend all those whom it may concem, to keep their malady to themselves, or, at least, to expose it as little as possible. For, in the first place, it is silly thus to lay bare your weaknesses, and to give the oi Todo occasion to chuckle at your expense, or to thank God they are not like that Pharisee. Qui invidet sinor est, says somebody's motto, who being up the stick himself, can afford a sarcasm at those who are still in the mud ; and if desirous to preserve this superiority, you must not show up the worm at the heart, which reduces you below the beggar. The principle, for the most part, is well understood in, the best company; where you meet with really great men bearing the whole load of perpetual ennui, with a placid gravity and a seeming unmovedness, that immeasurably beais the Lacedemonian boy with his fox; and of which Prometheus, with his vulture, is a poor type. Not that we recommend a broad grin in perpetuity; for not only would the effort be too much even for a lord in waiting, or a speaker of the House of Commons (both of them chosen expressly for their power of not yawning), but if attainable, it would be downright vulgarity.
What remains to be said on this subject, our readers may easily supply for themselves; we therefore take our leave of them for this month, by only reminding them that of all incarnate bores, there is none so utterly insufferable as the wretch who is for ever contented, who likes all you say, and all you do; who never contradicts you, and never complains, though all Exeter Hall were holding him on their theological gridiron. To this rule we know but of one exception, and that is, in the readers of this our miscellany (and of our own lucubrations more especially), whom we desire to see and to keep “shut up in measureless content" with their fare ; for we may as well confess, that nothing would mortify us more, than if any one of them should“ bint a fault, or hesitate dislike" at one only of the numerous, striking, original, brilliant, imaginative, or intense articles, which proceed from the pens of those admirable writers, whose many faces under a Hood, are, we flatter ourselves, the admiration and delight of a grateful public.
FROM THE FRENCH.
In the house said to have belonged to Francis I., in the Rue de l'Hirondelle, at Paris, and where the Duchess of Châteaubriant, one of the mistresses of that king, is reported to have lived, dwelt a very rich man, one Dumas, an ex-attorney. His family consisted of a son and daughter; the household was completed by a female servant, whose wages were twelve crowns a year. This poor drudge was, indeed, a maid of all work. Besides the cookery and the care of the chambers, the shoe-cleaning, brushing the clothes of her masters, and dusting the furniture of every room in the house, she had to get up, wash, and clear-starch all the fine linen, knead the bread, and, in addition to all this, fetch water from the river. Nor were these the whole of her labours; for she had to groom and feed the mule on which Maitre Dumas, and the Sieur Eudes, his son, rode turn and turn about in the course of the week. Poor Margueriton had, besides, to walk after her mistress whenever she sallied forth, either to hear mass at Notre-Dame, or to pay visits in the neighbourhood.
Maitre Dumas was not only rich, but had the reputation of being so. It was whispered, mcreover, that he was addicted to magic, and was in correspondence with the fiend; and this report gained the more credit, inasmuch as he was never seen at church, nor was he known to have any confessor, or communicate with any priests. He studied much, and shut himself up in a room at the top of a house, whither he retired to view the stars, more as an astrologer than an astronomer. There, in secret, he cast nativities; and there crowds of impious persons came nightly to consult him.
Every Wednesday, when the hand of the dial pointed to the hour of three, Dumas ascended to his lofty chamber, and there doublelocked himself in. Every Wednesday, also, so sure as the day came, some minutes after Dumas had entered his study, the heavy trot of an enormous mule was heard to cease before the house of the old miser. Now this mule would have been the most magnificent mule in the world, if it had not displayed, on the left side of the croup, a terrible, deep and bloody gash, which it made one shudder to see. A rider, of stature and bulk that did not disgrace the beast, bestrode the mule. He had a proud, imposing air, but his forehead bore the impress of three wounds, so red and raw, that one would have said they were three burning coals incrusted in the flesh: the sight of them shocked the passenger, who involuntarily turned away his head when the cavalier and his mule appeared.
The rider and his mule, for more than thirty years, had come and gone whence and where nobody knew; for when the curious had endeavoured to follow them, and this had often happened, both were always lost sight of near the cemetery of the Innocents. When the cavalier arrived at the house of Dumas, who was now ninety years old, the mule stood, without being tied, in the courtyard of the hotel; and the former, without being announced, went straightway to the chamber where Dumas was, opened, without knocking, the iron-lined door, shut himself in with the ex-attorney, passed an hour with him, came down alone, mounted his mule, and rode off at a round trot. Where he went, Heaven knows ! Maître Dumas quitted his cabinet later, and did not come out of it till the bell rang for supper.
It was not to be expected that these goings on would pass unnoticed, and indeed it furnished abundant food for the gossips of the neighbourhood. The Sieur Eudes was not young, he was on the wrong side of fifty. Every year was his marriage talked of, but nevertheless he continued single, as well as his sister, who was forty-five years old, a devotée, peevish and intolerant.
As for old Dumas, his preservation and state of health were altogether extraordinary. No infirmity, not a wrinkle even, betrayed his great age. He was active and vigorous, and was even said to give himself up to the gaieties of youth. A whole century of scandalous anecdotes circulated at his expense, and more than once the curé Saint-André-des-Arts had publicly reproached him for the irregularity of his life.
One morning, it was on a Wednesday, the 31st day of December, in the year of God, 1700, about two o'clock, the heavy and rapid tread of the great mule was heard in the street. Maître Dumas was in his cabinet, as usual, and, as usual also, the unknown made his way up to it, without announcing himself to any one; but this time he tied up his mule in the courtyard. He presented himself suddenly and doubtless unexpectedly, for the old man at the sight of his visiter uttered a horrible shriek. A stormy discussion arose between them, each spoke loudly and vehemently-the quarrel raged long. At last down came the cavalier with the three scars, and his mule bore him away with such rapidity that the neighbours declared they were unable to follow them with
When the ancient attorney descended in his turn his children recognised him with difficulty. He was no longer the vigorous and firm old man : death was in his livid, flabby cadaverous face; his eyes were lustreless. He gasped out to his son and daughter that he should not dine with them, and soon made signs that he desired to go up again to his chamber : his son and daughter took him under his arms, and half supported, half carried him up the staircase, which it was evident he could never again descend without aid. They hinted as much to him, and he then managed to make them understand that they should come for him at four o'clock; but before they left him he signed to his son to doublelock him up in the chamber. The Sieur Eudes reluctantly obeyed his parent, and took the key with him.
What passed in this chamber? None ever could tell that. At four o'clock the son saw an usher of the courts, a friend of his father, come to the house, and he begged this man to go up with him and aid him in helping the old man down. The lock grated harshly twice, they opened the door, entered, and found the chamber empty. Maître Dumas had disappeared.
They sought for the old man with extreme care. They called in engineers masons, carpenters, upholsterers and builders : they sounded the chamber in every part, but no trace of any secret opening could be
found, and the most active investigations of the police could discover nothing relative to this mysterious taking off.
Suspicion then fell upon the children of the attorney, and great sums did they expend in proving their innocence, and searching for him who was gone; but both the brother and the sister died without the consolation of obtaining any light regarding the lot of their father. The cavalier, who for thirty years had never failed to pay his hebdomadal visit, appeared not again, and at last people no longer troubled themselves about the affair, which was gradually forgotten by most. The memory of it was not, however, entirely lost, and fifty years afterwards the subject was again revived.
Marshal de Villeroy, as very a gossip as any old nurse of them all, instead of banishing all superstitious terrors from the mind of his pupil, was constantly filling the imagination of the royal infant with ghost-stories. It is truly said that youth and white paper take all impressions, and these first impressions are never "When Louis XV. became king, he was still at the mercy of every charlatan, who was inclined to arrest his attention, by rehearsing some terrible phantom scene.
Among the tales of terror which had most affected the king in his youth, that of the disappearance of the attorney Dumas stood prominent. He took pleasure in reciting it himself, and of observing the effect which it produced on his complaisant audience.
One day he told the story in the presence of the Count de St. Germain, whose pretensions to supernatural knowledge are well known. The count, at once, offered to clear up the mystery, and to make the king acquainted with the circumstances which had so long remained
Madame de Pompadour was present, and manifested an interest in the proposition of the count: she begged the king to permit the count to reveal the mysteries which he pretended to know. The circle approved, of course, of the favourite's proposition, and the count was de. sired to proceed.
“ This instant, sire," said the count, with a low bow; “I only re. quest ten minutes, and your majesty shall be obeyed.”
He then with great gravity, proceeded to draw lines, and write algebraic and astrological signs and figures; these he appeared to study intensely, and, before the expiration of the ten minutes, turning to the king:
"Sire,” said he, “the workmen and engineers who have endea. voured to trace the attorney Dumas, were either gained over by interested persons so to manage as that no trace of him should be disco. vered, or had but a moderate share of the knowledge necessary for their journey work. In an angle of the chamber, near the door, is a moveable panel concealing the entrance of a staircase that runs between the walls. At the extremity of this staircase is a little cellar; to that cellar, Dumas, having swallowed a liquor which renewed his strength, retired : then took a powerful sleeping draught, and never woke again.”
“ Then it was Satan who visited him ?" “Sire,” replied the count, " if your majesty will deign to become a
Rosycrucian, I will immediately raise the veil which conceals this mystery; but at present it is impossible for me to answer the question, for in doing so, I should expose myself to the greatest perils.”
1 The king bit his lip, and asked the count no more questions. Madame de Pompadour, however, whose curiosity was roused even more than the king's, wrote to the lieutenant of police.
She stated to that officer the revelations made by the count, and enjoined him to order a new search of the place. She was obeyed.
The searchers found the moveable panel, the secret staircase, and the subterranean chamber, where, in the midst of a vast number of astrological and chemical instruments, lay the still clad skeleton of Maître Dumas. He was lying on the ground, and at bis side was a broken agate cup, and crystal bottle broken also. One of the fragments of this bottle still contained the sediment of opium.
This discovery wonderfully increased the king's faith in the Count de St. Germain; though there are not wanting those who believe that the whole was got up by Madame de Pompadour, the count, and the lieutenant of police. But if Louis XV. was deceived in this adventure, the disappearance of the old attorney still remains unexplained.
OBSERVATIONS UPON OBSERVERS,
REMARKS ON THE FACULTY OF WINKING.
No book makes its appearance in the days we live in, without being soon followed by another which is styled its “ Companion.” We have “Companions to the Prayer-book," “ Companions to the Almanack," and companions to twenty other works, which it would be tedious to enumerate.
It would be a great pity to allow the treatise lately published with the title of “ What to observe,” to want a comrade when companionship is so much in fashion, and writers pair off like members of the House of Commons. It is therefore proposed to have a little discussion here in our own rambling way upon the question " what not to observe," leaving it to some base compiler to digest our remarks, or make what hash of them he pleases for the instruction of the public, the profit of the booksellers, and his own “filthy lucre,” if he should chance to be one of that melancholy brotherhood who live by their wits, albeit they have no wit to live by.
The importance of the present question is obvious. The range of human observation being coextensive with the universe, the more we limit our excursions through so boundless a field, the less will be our fatigue, and the more exact our acquaintance with those tracts of knowledge within which we have confined the exercise of our faculties. Some carry this principle so far as to devote their entire lives to the examination of a cockle-shell, to diving into the bells of heather blos