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backward; sometimes he mounted up into the garret, and sometimes dipped down into the cellar. It was a composition of more sound than meaning; something like a superannuated schoolmaster's theme when he attempts to give his boys more sense than he possesses of his own, or like a capuchin's sermon which only scatters a few artificial flowers of paltry rhetoric over a barren desert of doctrine.
I was not the only person whom the alteration struck. The audience at large, when he delivered it, as if they too had been pledged to watch the advances of dotage, said to one another in a whisper all around the church, "Here is a sermon with symptoms of apoplexy in every paragraph." "Come, my good Coryphæus of the public taste in homilies," said I then to myself, "prepare to do your office. You see that my lord archbishop is going very fast, you ought to warn him of it, not only as his bosom friend on whose sincerity he relies, but lest some blunt fellow should anticipate you and bolt out the truth in an offensive manner; in that case you know the consequence: you would be struck out of his will, where, no doubt, you have a more convertible bequest than the licentiate Sedillo's library.”
But as reason, like Janus, looks at things with two faces, I began to consider the other side of the question: the hint seemed difficult to wrap up so as to make it palatable. Authors in general are stark mad on the subject of their own works, and such an author might be more testy than the common herd of the irritable race; but that suspicion seemed illiberal on my part, for it was impossible that my freedom should be taken amiss when it had been forced upon me by so positive an injunction. Add to this, that I reckoned upon handling the subject skillfully, and cramming discretion down his throat like a high-seasoned epicurean dish. After all my pro and con, finding that I risked more by keeping silence than by breaking it, I determined to venture on the delicate duty of speaking my mind.
Now there was but one difficulty, a difficulty indeed!how to open the business Luckily the orator himself extricated me from that embarrassment, by asking what they said of him in the world at large, and whether people were tolerably well pleased with his last discourse. I answered that there could be but one opinion about his homilies; but that it should seem as if the last had not quite struck home to the hearts of the audience, like those which had gone before. "Do you really mean what you say, my friend?" replied he, with a sort of wriggling sur
prise. "Then my congregation are more in the temper of Aristarchus than of Longinus!" "No, may it please your Grace," rejoined I: "quite the contrary. Performances of that order are above the reach of vulgar criticism: there is not a soul but expects to be saved by their influence. Nevertheless, since you have made it my duty to be sincere and unreserved, I shall take the liberty of just stating that your last discourse is not written with quite the overpowering eloquence and conclusive argument of your former ones. Does not your Grace feel just as I do on the subject?"
This ignorant and stupid frankness of mine completely blanched my master's cheek; but he forced a fretful smile, and said, "Then, good Master Gil Blas, that piece does not exactly hit your fancy?" "I did not mean to say that, your Grace," interrupted I, looking very foolish. "It is very far superior to what any one else could produce, though a little below par with respect to your own works in general." "I know what you mean," replied he. "You think I am going down-hill, do you not? Out with it at once. It is your opinion that it is time for me to think of retiring?" "I should never have had the presumption," said I, "to deliver myself with so little reserve, if it had not been your Grace's express command. I act in entire obedience to your Grace's orders; and I most obsequiously implore your Grace not to take offense at my boldness." "I were unfit to live in a Christian land," interrupted he, with stammering impatience, "I were unfit to live in a Christian land if I liked you the less for such a Christian virtue as sincerity. A man who does not love sincerity sets his face against the distinguishing mark between a friend and a flatterer. I should have given you infinite credit for speaking what you thought, if you had thought anything that deserved to be spoken. I have been finely taken in by your outside show of cleverness, without any solid foundation of sober judgment!"
Though completely unhorsed, and at the enemy's mercy, I wanted to make terms of decent capitulation, and to go unmolested into winter quarters; but let those who think to appease an exasperated author, and especially an author whose ear has been long attuned to the music of his own praises, take warning by my fate. "Let us talk no more on the subject, my very young friend," said he. "You are as yet scarcely in the rudiments of good taste, and utterly incompetent to distinguish between gold and tinsel. You are yet to learn that
I never in all my life composed a finer homily than that unfortunate one which had not the honor of your approbation. The immortal part of me, by the blessing of heaven on me and my congregation, is less weighed down by human infirmity than when the flesh was stronger. We all grow wiser as we grow older, and I shall in future select the people about me with more caution; nor submit the castigation of my works but to a much abler critic than yourself. Get about your business!" pursued he, giving me an angry shove by the shoulders out of his closet; "go and tell my treasurer to pay you a hundred ducats, and take my priestly blessing in addition to that sum. God speed you, good Master Gil Blas! I heartily pray that you may do well in the world! There is nothing to stand in your way but the want of a little better taste."
THE VINTNER'S STORY.
(From "The Devil upon Two Sticks.")
"UNDER the closet there is a dungeon that serves for a lodging to a young vintner."-"What, my host again?" cried Leandro; "sure these people have a mind to poison all the world." "This man's case is not the same," replied Asmodeus: "he was seized yesterday, and is likewise claimed by the Inquisition. I will in few words relate to you the subject of his commitment.
"An old soldier, by his courage, or rather patience, having mounted to the post of a sergeant in his company, came to raise recruits in this city. He inquired for a lodging at an inn, where he was answered that they had indeed empty rooms, but that they could not recommend any of them to him, because the house was haunted every night by a spirit, which treated all strangers very ill that were rash enough to lodge there. This did not at all balk the sergeant. Put me in what chamber you please,' said he, 'but give me a candle, wine, pipes, and tobacco; and as for the spirit, never trouble yourself about it, ghosts have a respect for men of war who are grown old in the service.'
"As he seemed so resolute, he was shown into a chamber, where all that he desired was brought to him. He fell to drinking and smoking till midnight, and no spirit had yet disturbed e profound silence that reigned in the house. One would
have imagined he feared this new guest; but betwixt one and two, the sergeant all of a sudden heard a terrible noise like the rattling of old iron, and immediately saw entering his chamber an apparition clothed in black and laden all round with iron chains. Our smoker, not in the least affrighted at this sight, drew his sword, advanced towards the spirit, and with the flat side of it gave him a very severe blow on the head.
"The apparition, not much used to meet with such bold guests, cried out; and perceiving the soldier going to begin with him again, he most humbly prostrated himself at his feet. 'Mr. Sergeant,' said he, for God's sake do not give me any more; but have mercy on a poor devil that casts himself at your feet. I conjure you by St. James, who, as you are, was a great soldier.' 'If you are willing to save your life,' answered the soldier, you must tell me who you are, and speak without the least prevarication; or else this moment I cut you down the middle, as your knights of old were used to serve the giants they encountered.' At these words, the ghost, finding what sort of man he had to do with, resolved to own all.
"I am the principal servant of this inn,' replied the spirit; 'my name is Guillermo ; I am in love with my master's only daughter, and she does not dislike me: but the father and mother having a better match in view, the girl and I have agreed, in order to compel them to make me their son-in-law, that I shall every night act the part which I now do. I wrap myself up in a long black cloak and hang the jack-chain about my neck. Thus equipped, I run up and down the house from the cellar to the garret, and make all the noise which you have heard. When I am at my master's and mistress's chamberdoor, I stop and cry out: "Do not hope that I will ever let you rest till you marry Juanna to Guillermo, your upper drawer." After having pronounced these words with a hoarse, broken voice, I continue my noise, and at a window enter the closet where Juanna lies alone, to give her an account of what I have done. Mr. Sergeant,' continued Guillermo, 'you see I have told you the whole truth. I know that after this confession you may ruin me by discovering it to my master; but if you please to serve instead of undoing me, I swear that my acknowledgments.'
"Alas, what service can I do thee?' interrupted the soldier. You need do no more,' returned Guillermo, than to say to-morrow that you have seen the spirit, that it so terribly
affrighted you' 'How? terribly affrighted!' interrupted the soldier; would you have Sergeant Annibal Antonio Quebrantador own such a thing as fear? I had rather ten thousand devils should'―That's not absolutely necessary,' interrupted Guillermo; and after all it is not much matter what you say, provided you second my design. And when I have married Juanna and am settled, I promise to treat you and all your friends nobly for nothing every day.'- You are a very tempting person, Mr. Guillermo,' said the soldier. You You propose to me to support a tribe: it is a serious affair, which requires mature deliberation; but the consequences hurry me on. So continue your noise; give your account to Juanna, and I will take care of the rest.'
"Accordingly, next morning he said to his landlord and landlady: I have seen the spirit and have talked with it. It is a very honest fellow. "I am," said he, "the great-grandfather of the master of this house. I had a daughter whom I promised to the father of the grandfather of this drawer. However, neglecting the word I had given him, I married her to another, and died soon after, and ever since am tormented as the punishment of my perjury, and shall never be at rest till one of my family shall marry one of Guillermo's; and it is for this reason I walk here every night. Yet it is to no purpose that I bid them marry Juanna to their head drawer. The son of my grandson and his wife turn the deaf ear to all I can say. But tell them, if you please, Mr. Sergeant, that if they do not immediately comply with my desires, I shall proceed to action and will torment them both in an extraordinary manner.
"The host, being silly enough, was terrified at this discourse; but the hostess, yet more silly than her husband, fancying that the spirit was always at her heels, consented to the match, and Guillermo married Juanna the next day, and set up in another part of the town. Sergeant Quebrantador did not fail to visit him often; and he, in acknowledgment of the service he had done him, gave him as much wine as he cared for. This so pleased the soldier that he brought thither not only all his friends, but listed his men there, and made all his recruits drunk.
"But at last Guillermo, grown weary of satiating such a crew of drunkards, told his mind to the soldier; who, without ever thinking that he had exceeded his agreement, was so unjust as to call Guillermo a little ungrateful rascal. The host