Page images
PDF
EPUB

home, and miscarried; and lastly, which was more unhappy, just as he stepped out of the Mall, at the turning to St. James's, he almost jostled another lady that was nearer her time, and she immediately called for a chair, was carried away, fell into travail, and died in childbed.

And yet this piece of deformity, this scaredevil, z M is an honest good-humoured fellow as lives, and I happened to see him soon after.

What have you done Zach. ; said I, was you in the park to-day?

Yes, I was, says he; Why, what's the matter? have any

of the ladies fallen in love with me? Yes, yes, says I, you put the whole Mall in an uproar.

I thought so, says he; I knew I should have admirers as well as other beaus: why not, pray ? but let 'em die, I am inexorable. But do

you know what mischief you have done ? said I in earnest.

Not I, says he, but I suppose I may have frighted somebody or other with my Devil's face; and what then? how can I help it? If they don't like me, they may look off o' me.

Why, no, says I, it seems they can't.

No, no, beauty is attractive, you know, and so is deformity, says he; if you meet a will-with-a-wisp you can't look off of it: they will look at me, they can't help it, and they look so long you see, that I fright every now and then one or two of them into love with me.

Hard fate of the sex, said I, Zach., that men should be so scarce, they must be in love with the Devil. I am persuaded many of them take you for an apparition.

That's a sign of horrid ignorance, says he merrily; why, he is not half so ugly as I am. 'Tis a sign they don't know him; I tell you the Devil's a comely fellow to me, Jack.

Thou art an ugly dog, that's true, said I, but thou art the best-humoured, goodest-natured creature alive, said I: upon my word, I'd be ZM- though I frighted all the ladies in the park, to have half the wit, and sense, and goodhumour that is covered with so much deformity.

And I'd be anything but two, says he, to be but just tolerable to mankind, and not fright the horse I

ride on.

[ocr errors]

But two! What two, pray? said I. Are there two things you would not change for? Yes, says Z

I would not be a fool or a beggar; hut especially not the first.

Now what is the case of this unhappy gentleman? it is quite the reverse of what the ladies take him for; one says he is the Devil, and another says 'tis the Devil, and another that it is an apparition; and the last is true. But of what? not of the Devil, I assure you. Apparitions, they say, generally assume a different likeness ; the Devil never masks in deformity, an angel may; the Devil often puts on the beau and the beauty; he is to-day a smart young rattling fop, to-morrow a smirk, a spruce, a harlequin; to-day he is a devout lady at prayers, to-morrow a coquet, a masker at the hall; but it is all fine and clever: he very rarely puts on ugliness, for that would be no disguise to him.

On the contrary, when a bright seraph dresses in form, it takes up the extreme of its contrary; and a divine and exalted soul may put on the habit of an unsightly carcase, to appear in the world in a more complete masquerade; and thus it was with my friend Zach. M- his outside was indeed a masquerade to him, he was perfectly the reverse of what he appeared, and he had the brightest and sublimest

[ocr errors]

soul that was ever wrapped up in flesh and blood, in the posture or habit of something uglier to look on than the Devil.

In a word, he was a devil to the imagination, for everybody thought of the Devil when they saw him; went home and told their maids and their children they had seen the Devil, and told it over so often, till they believed it themselves, and so made a real apparition of him, as it were by the mere force of his extraordinary countenance.

Yet the honest gentleman had no horns on his head, no cock's bill, or a cloven foot, I assure you ; but was mere Zach. M

as merry and as goodhumoured a creature as ever lived; full of wit, master of learning, temper, and a thousand good qualities, without one bad one; nothing amiss in him, or about him, but his outside, and, as to that, nothing so frightful in the three kingdoms.

Now if meeting poor mortified merry Zach. M- should raise the vapours among us, and from a little jesting at first, fright the poor ladies into miscarriage, travail, and the grave; make them go home, and say in jest, they had seen the Devil, till they believed it in earnest ; what will not the like ungovernable fancy, and power of a frighted imagination, prevail upon us to think or say?

A sober grave gentleman, who must not wear name in our story, because it was rather a distemper in his mind than a real deficiency of brains, had by a long disuse of the sprightly part of his sense, which he really had no want of at other times, suffered himself to sink a little too low in his spirits, and let the hypochondria emit too strongly in vapour and fumes up into his head. This had its fits and its intervals; sometimes he was clear-sighted, and clear-headed, but at other times he saw stars at noonday, and devils at night: in a word, the world was an apparition to his imagination, when the flatus prevailed, and the spleen boiled up; of all which he could give no account, nor could he assist the operation of physic by any of his own powers towards a cure.

It happened that he was abroad at a friend's house later than ordinary one night, but being moonlight, and a servant with him, he was easy, and was observed to be very cheerful, and even merry, with a great deal of good humour, more than had been observed of him for a great while before.

He knew his way perfectly well, for it was within three miles of the town where he lived, and he was very well mounted; but though the moon was up, an accident which a little disordered him, was, that it was not only cloudy, but a very thick black cloud came suddenly, (that is to say, without his notice, so it was suddenly to him,) and spread over his head, which made it very dark; and to add to the disorder, it began to rain violently.

Upon this, being very well mounted, as I have said, he resolved to ride for it, having not above two miles to the town; so clapping spurs to his horse, he gallopped away. His man, whose name was Gervais, not being so well mounted, was a good way behind. The darkness and the rain together put him a little out of humour; but as that was a little unexpected, perhaps it made him ride the harder, rather than abated his pace.

In the way there was a small river, but there was a good bridge over it, well walled on both sides; so that there was no danger there, more than anywhere else; but the gentleman kept on his speed to go over the bridge, when being rather more than half over, his horse stopped on a sudden, and refused, as we call it, bearing off to the right hand; he saw nothing at first, and was not much discomposed at it, but spurred his horse to go forward; the horse went two or three steps, then stopped again, snorted, and stared, and then offered to turn short back: then the gentleman looking forward to see what was the matter, and if he could observe what the horse was scared at, saw two broad staring eyes, which, as he said, looked him full in the face.

Then he was heartily frighted indeed; but by this time he heard his man Gervais coming up. When Gervais came near, the first thing he heard his master say, was—Bless me, it is the Devil! at which Gervais, a low-spirited fellow, was as much frighted as his master. However, his master, a little encouraged to hear his man so near him, pressed his horse once more, and called aloud to Gervais to come; but he, as I said, being frighted too, made no haste; at length, with much ado, his master, spurring his horse again, got over the bridge, and passed by the creature with broad eyes, which, the light a little increasing, he affirmed positively, when he was passed, was a great black bear, and consequently must be the Devil.

Though Gervais was near enough, yet fearing his master would set him to go before, he kept as far off as he could. When his master called he answered indeed, but did not come on, at least did not make much haste; but seeing his master was gone past, and that he himself was then obliged to follow, he went on softly, and when he came to the bridge he saw what it was his master's horse snorted at and refused to go on; of which you shall hear more presently.

His master's horse, being got past the difficulty, needed no spurs, but, as frighted horses will, flew away like the wind; and the rain continuing, his master, who on many accounts was willing to be at me, let him go, so that he was at home and

H. A.

вь

« PreviousContinue »