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LVII-A SORCERER OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
TOWARDS the close of the last century a traveller, modest in his appearance and in his baggage, alighted at the principal tavern of Wurtzburg, a small city of Germany, and asked for a room in a remote part of the building, where nobody could disturb him. This alone would have been enough to excite curiosity, but every thing about this man was so strange and so mysterious, that all were struck by it from the moment he entered the house. At first there might be discovered, notwithstanding the simplicity of his dress, something that betrayed the man of distinction. Although not a youth, he wore his hair long, like the students of the University, and his pale and melancholy visage wore, even when he smiled, a sombre cast. The next day after his arrival, instead of asking his hostess, as all other travellers did, either the address of some citizen, to present to him his letters, or where the curiosities and antiquities of the city might be seen, he had gone out without saying a word, and when he returned at supper time his dusty clothes testified that he had been walking all day. The day following he did the same thing. A shepherd boy said that he saw him walking rapidly along the banks of the Rhine, then stopping suddenly and gesticulating and throwing his arms about like one possessed; and the young girls passed close to him without his paying any attention to them.
All these things, it must be confessed, were even more than enough to awaken conjectures as to the stranger. All that the hostess could say of him was, that he was a very sober, quiet man, always satisfied with what was set before him. Curiosity, however, continued to increase. It was remarked that the unknown man went to his chamber immediately after supper, but did not go to bed; and some of the family, who happened to be awake in the middle of the night, saw a light in his chamber. One of the youngest servants came running down stairs one evening, terribly frightened, and rushed into the hall, in which stood her mistress and two or three neighbors. She solemnly protested that the stranger was talking earnestly with some one in his chamber, "although no one but himself had entered-by the door at least," added she. This made the auditors tremble. The little hussy was scolded soundly by her mistress for having listened at the lodger's door; but the next evening the good lady went herself, so as the better to ascertain, and having applied her ear to the
key-hole, she distinctly heard-what? nobody will ever know. The truth is, she came down stairs with her spirit more troubled than had been observed in her since the death of her husband. She threw on her cloak, and hastened to the burgomaster's.
The following morning, the traveller went out as customarily, and returning in the evening, entered his room tranquilly. But this time precautions had been taken: at each side of the door were two policemen, some of the hardy citizens of Wurtzburg, and on the stairs, in the hall, and in the street, were all the women in the city remarkable for their curiosity. The number was very great.
Suddenly the voice of the stranger was heard, rising and falling at intervals, as if he was discoursing with some one. Those who were near the door heard the following horrible invocation: "Here!-thou whom I have so long sought-thou shalt escape me no longer.-Answer me, infernal power!demon!-show thyself, and speak to thy master."
At that call, a sharp, shrill voice, that seemed to come up from the lower regions, answered, with an ironical humility, "Master, what dost thou desire of thy servant?"
At once, all the women who heard the awful voice fled with screams of terror. The men burst open the door, although not fastened, and seized the traveller, whom they found seated in an arm-chair, at a little distance from the table. As to the demon, he had disappeared; but a distinct and strong sulphurous smell remained, as many witnesses testified.
The stranger was dragged before a magistrate, and charged with using magic and sorcery, and of holding commerce with the devil. The following was his only response:
"I had begun a tragedy, but as my friends disturbed me continually in Weimar, where I live, I came to write here. The hero of my tragedy is a man who invokes the devil, and to whom the devil appears. I confess that I have an unfortunate habit for which I ask pardon of the inhabitants of Wurtzburg, of reading aloud what I compose, as fast as I write it. As to my invoking, personally, the evil spirit, I am too good a Christian to do that, and you, Mr. Burgomaster, too enlightened to believe it."
The sorcerer was named Goethe, the author of Werther, &c., and then engaged in the composition of Faust.
"That you blindfolded."
LVIII-ADVENTURE OF A MASON.
THERE was once upon a time a poor mason, or bricklayer, in Grenada, who kept all the Saints' days, and holidays, and Saint Monday into the bargain, and yet, with all his devotion, he grew poorer and poorer, and could scarcely earn bread for his numerous family. One night he was roused from his first sleep by a knocking at his door. He opened it, and beheld before him a tall, meagre, cadaverous-looking priest.
"Hark ye, honest friend!" said the stranger; "I have observed that you are a good Christian, and one to be trust ed; will you undertake a job this very night?"
"With all my heart, Señor Padre, on condition that I am paid accordingly."
shall be; but you must suffer yourself to be
To this the mason made no objection; so, being hoodwinked, he was led by the priest through various rough lanes and winding passages, until they stopped before the portal of a house. The priest then applied a key, turned a creaking lock, and opened what sounded like a ponderous door. They entered, the door was closed and bolted, and the mason was conducted through an echoing corridor, and a spacious hall, to an interior part of the building. Here the bandage was removed from his eyes, and he found himself in a court, dimly lighted by a single lamp. In the centre was the dry basin of an old Moorish fountain, under which the priest requested him to form a small vault, bricks and mortar being at hand for the purpose. He accordingly worked all night, but without finishing the job. Just before daybreak, the priest put a piece of gold into his hand, and having again blindfolded him, conducted him back to his dwelling.
"Are you willing," said he, "to return and complete your work?"
Gladly, Señor Padre, provided I am so well paid." Well, then, to-morrow at midnight I will call again." He did so, and the vault was completed.
"Now," said the priest, "you must help me to bring forth the bodies that are to be buried in this vault."
The poor mason's hair rose on his head at these words: he followed the priest, with trembling steps, into a retired chamber of the mansion, expecting to behold some ghastly spectacle of death, but was relieved on perceiving three or
four portly jars standing in one corner. They were evidently
He continued to work a little, and pray a good deal, and keep Saints' days and holidays, from year to year, while his family grew up as gaunt and as ragged as a crew of gypsies.As he was seated one evening at the door of his hovel, he was accosted by a rich old curmudgeon, who was noted for owning many houses, and being a griping landlord. The man of money eyed him for a moment from beneath a pair of anxious shagged eyebrows.
"I am told, friend, that you are very poor."
"There is no denying the fact, Señor-it speaks for it
(C 'I presume then you will be glad of a job, and will work cheap.'
"As cheap, my master, as any mason in Grenada."
"That's what I want. I have an old house fallen into decay, that costs me more money than it is worth to keep it in repair, for nobody will live in it; so I must contrive to patch up and keep it together at as small expense as possible."
The mason was accordingly conducted to a large deserted house that seemed going to ruin. Passing through several empty halls and chambers, he entered an inner court, where his eye was caught by an old Moorish fountain. He paused for a moment, for a dreaming recollection of the place came
"Pray," said he, "who occupied this house formerly?" "A pest upon him!" cried the landlord, "it was an old miserly priest, who cared for nobody but himself. He was said to be immensely rich, and, having no relations, it was thought he would leave all his treasures to the Church. He died suddenly, and the priests and friars thronged to take possession of his wealth; but nothing could they find but a few ducats in a leathern purse. The worst luck has fallen on me, for, since his death, the old fellow continues to occupy my house without paying rent, and there's no taking the law of a dead man. The people pretend to hear the clinking of gold all night in the chamber where the old priest slept, as if he were counting over his money, and sometimes a groaning and moaning about the court. Whether true or false, the stories have brought a bad name on my house, and not a tenant will remain in it."
'Enough," said the mason sturdily: "let me live in your house rent-free until some better tenant present, and I will engage to put it in repair, and to quiet the troubled spirit that disturbs it. I am a good Christian and a poor man, and am not to be daunted by the Devil himself, even though he should come in the shape of a big bag of money!"
The offer of the honest mason was gladly accepted; he moved with his family into the house, and fulfilled all his engagements. By little and little he restored it to its former state; the clinking of the gold was no more heard at night in the chamber of the defunct priest, but began to be heard by day in the pocket of the living mason. In a word, he increased rapidly in wealth, to the admiration of all his neighbors, and became one of the richest men in Grenada: he gave large sums to the Church, by way, no doubt, of satisfying his conscience, and never revealed the secret of the vault until on his death-bed to his son and heir."
LIX.-THE BASHFUL MAN.
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND.
I LABOR under a species of distress which I fear will at length drive me utterly from that society in which I am most ambitious to appear; but I will give you a short sketch of my origin and present situation, by which you will be enabled to judge of my difficulties.