Imatges de pÓgina
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his handkerchief in his pocket, lent herself to the operation, which he performed with all the simplicity imaginable, returning to the charge three several times, and making the church ring again with the crowing of his nostrils. Then, turning to the woman, and preserving the hypocritical tranquillity of his countenance and voice undisturbed, he asked her, "n'est il pas vrai ma bonne dame, qu'il y a bien plus de pluisir à moucher un bon gros nez comme le mien, qu'un villain chien de nez camard comme le votre ?"_"and now tell me, my good charitable lady, is it not a much greater pleasure to blow such an handsome nose as mine, than to be fumbling at a miserable snub like your own ?”

Turpin, among his other mystifications, for a long time assumed the garb of an hermit. Entering one day into an inn-yard, with another rogue of his own complexion, they found an ass attached to the door. To sce it unguarded and to cover it were simultaneous impressions. Stripping off, therefore, the harness from the animal, he crept into it himself, and while his companion drove the beast away, he waited quietly the arrival of the owner. The master of the ass was not a little surprised on his return to find his animal gone and a hermit standing harnessed in his gear. Still more was he astonished when he heard Turpin reverently thanking God for the recovery of his human shape. " Ai length,” cried the mystifier in seeming soliloquy, "my sins are forgiven me, and the time of my penance is expired. I sinned and was changed to an ass; but Heaven is merciful, and its anger does not endure for ever." So saying, Turpin threw down the harness, and went his way. But, as ill-luck would have it, the ass was soon sent to be sold; and who should come into the market but its former proprietor. The anagnorisis was instant. “Out alas !” exclaimed the good man, "has the wretch sinned again already! and has he again been turned to an ass! For the love of God, neighbours, have nothing to say to that animal; he has deceived me once, but I am not to be taken a second time in the same trap : for, lookye, whoever buys that beast, will find him some day or other, as I did, turned into a hermit."

From these specimens we may see how much superior the upper classes of society are to their humbler fellow-subjects in the refinements of mystification. An odd, grotesque humour is the highest flight of a vulgar mind, whereas in the Duc de Caudale's adventure we perceive not only a moral object and end in his humbugging (the getting rid of his creditors), but also a delicate stroke of satire on his own character and conduct, which shews him deep in the philosophy of nosce teip sum.” The mystification of the lower orders rarely looks farther than to the “ fun” which it is calculated to afford, and it is still seldomer absolutely ill-natured. But your thorough-paced mystifiers of the bonton for the most part contrive to put forward their perfect indifference to the feelings of their victim. Their mystifications have more of cold ' persiflage," and less of the mere animal impulse to laughter in them. They are more recondite, studied, and malicious; which

them to depend upon the highest and most intellectual of the human facul. ties, and evinces in the mystifiers that innate superiority, which in all things distinguishes the genuine China ware, from the Wedgewood and the crockery of God's creation. Every one knows the mystification played off on the unhappy curé, who, smit with the love of sacred pocsy, was induced to read his tragedy to the Holbachian knot,




mystification which threw Jean Jaques into such an uncompromising passion. The malice of this a good joke" was its predominant feature, for its wit was not very conspicuous. And what is more, there was not one of the mystifiers who did not in some degree share the poor poet's "mentis gratissimus error" of thinking better of his own verses than they deserved. How infinitely superior then is such a practical jest to the cold conceit of Turpin's nose, and yet, how below the piquant mixture of fraud and fun of the Duke's promisory billets. Nothing indeed can more satisfactorily prove the invincible rusticity of Rousseau's bearish character, than his incapacity for relishing this piece of drollery.

The leading mystifier of Paris immediately before the Revolution, was La Reyniere, the facetious author of the Almanac des Gourmands. His humour, however, partook largely of the peculiarities of his birth and education, being essentially roturier. His famous supper, which Grimm describes with such effect, though an expensive joke, exhibited rather the ostentation of the financier, than the refined thoughtlessness of expense, which accompanies a determination of paying no debts ; as a mystification, it had no elevation or nobleness of character, and was indeed a mere platitude. Still worse was his joke of putting a cork hand on the hot stove of the opera, in order to seduce his neighbours into burning their fingers. These observations apply with great force to the cockney attempts at mystification annually played off on the first of April ;-of which, as a correspondent in the New Monthly Magazine has already spoken at large, I shall only remark by the way, that pigeon's milk, one of the favourite engines of April foolery, is as old as Aristophanes.t

To this train of reflection we were led by a mystification related in the letters of Mademoiselle Aïssé, which is the very sublime of the art, and “ marqué au bon coin," by costliness to the mystifier, cruelty to the patient, and the total absence of all vulgar jocularity and humour, The 'story is as follows :

In the reign of Louis XV. Isissé was the fashionable surgeon of Paris. One morning he received a note inviting him to attend in the Rue Put' de fer, near the Luxembourg, at six o'clock in the evening. This professional rendezvous he of course failed not to keep, when he was encountered by a man who brought him to the door of a house, at which the guide knocked. The door, as is usual in Paris, opened by a spring, moved from within the porter's lodge; and Isissé, when it again closed upon him, was surprised to find himself alone, and his conductor gone. After a short interval, however, the porter appeared, and desired him to mount “au premier.” Obeying this order, he opened the door of an antechamber, which he found completely lined with white. A very handsomely dressed and well-appointed lacquais, white from head to foot, well powdered and frizzed, with a white bag to his hair, held two napkins, with which he insisted on wiping Isisse's shoes. The surgeon in vain observed, that having just left his carriage, his shoes were not dirty; the lacquais persisted, remarking that the house was too clean to allow of this operation being omitted. From the antechamber Isissé was shewn into a saloon hung like the


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antechamber with white, where a second lacquais repeated the ceremony of wiping the shoes, and passed bim into a third apartment, in which the walls, floor, bed, tables, chairs, and every article of furniture were white. A tall figure, in a white nightcap and white morning gown, and covered with a white mask, was seated near the fire. As soon as this phantom perceived the surgeon, he cried in an hollow voice, “ I have the devil in my body,"—and relapsed immediately into a profound silence, which he continued to observe during more than half an hour, that he amused himself in pulling on and off six pair of white gloves, which lay on a table beside him. Isissé was greatly alarmed at this extraordinary spectacle, and at his own reception; and his apprehension was not diminished on perceiving that fire arms were placed within the reach of the white spectre. His fears became atlength so excessive that he was compelled to sit down. By degrees, however, he gained sufficient courage to ask in a trembling voice, " what were Monsieur's commands,” remarking that “ his time was not his own, but the public's, and that he had many appointments to keep." To this the white man only replied, in a dry cold tone, “ As long as you are well paid, what does that signify to you ?" Another quarter of an hour's silence then ensued, when at last the spectre pulled a white bell-rope, and two white servants entered the room. He then called for bandages, and desired Isissé to draw from him five pounds of blood. The surgeon, frightened still more by the enormous bloodletting thus enjoined him, asked in an anxious tone who had ordered the remedy? “Myself," was the short answer. In too great a trepidation to venture on the veins of the arm, Isissé begged to bleed from the foot, and warm water was ordered for the operation. Meantime the phantom took off a pair of the finest white silk stockings, and then another, and then a third, and so on to the sixth pair, which discovered the most beautiful foot and ancle imaginable, and almost convinced Isissé that his patient was a woman. The vein was opened ; and at the second cup the phantom fainted. Isissé therefore was proceeding to take off the mask, but he was eagerly prevented by the servants. The foot was bound up, and the white figure having recovered his senses, was put to bed ; after which, the servants again left the room. Isissé slowly advanced to wards the fire, while he wiped his lancets; making many reflections within himself upon this strange adventure. All of a sudden, on raising his eyes, he perceived in the mirror over the chimney-piece, that the white figure was advancing towards him on tiptoes. His alarm became still more violent, when, with a single spring, the terrific spectre came close to his side. Instead, however, of offering violence, as his movement seemed to indicate, he merely took from the chimney five crowns and gave them to the surgeon, asking at the same time if he was satisfied. Isissé, who would have made the same answer had he received but three farthings, said that he was. “Well, then,” said the spectre, “ begone about your business." The poor surgeon did not wait for a second order, but retreated, or rather flew, as fast as his legs could carry him, from the room. The two servants who attended to light him out could not conceal their smiles ; and Isissé, unable longer to endure his situation, asked what was the meaning of this pleasantry? But their only reply was, “ Are you not well paid ? have you suffered any injury ?" and so saying, they bowed him to his carriage. Isissé


“ Got

was at first determined to say nothing of this adventure ; but he found on the ensuing morning, that it was already the amusement of the court and city; and he no longer made any mystery of the matter. The “ mot d'enigme," however, was never discovered, nor could any motive be imagined for the mystification, beyond the caprice and idleness of its unknown perpetrator.

It is somewhat remarkable that this adventure should, in its leading feature, bear a great resemblance to one that happened to a casual acquaintance of our own, and which, without being a mystification, had all the effect of one. This gentleman, a surgeon of much practice, residing in a sea-port village in Hampshire, was, one dark winter's night, about the celebrated hour of twelve o'clock” (to borrow a phrase from a popular novel), called from his bed to visit a patient suddenly taken ill. Linquenda domus et placens uxor” never reads worse than in the middle of a cold frosty night; but the surgeon (like all other surgeons) comforted himself with the thought of the double honorarium " in that case provided ;” and, huddling on his clothes as fast as he could, he descended in the dark to open the street-door. On again closing it behind him, and proceeding a few paces down the street, he felt himself suddenly seized by a vigorous grasp, while the muzzle of a pistol pressed hard against his breast. His interlocutor, wrapped in an immense cloak, in no very silver tones desired him to follow, and, as he valued his life, to proceed in silence. At the turning of the street a second man started forth from a projecting doorway, and in a low anxious whisper asked, “ Have you got him ?" him," was the laconic reply, and the three passed on without farther speaking. Farther on another confederate joined them, and “Have you got him?" was repeated in the same way, and produced the same brief half-suppressed “Got him” as before. Thus they proceeded to the outskirts of the village, where they met other men 'mounted, and holding led horses. “ Have you got him ?” cried the horsemen under less restraint, and therefore in a louder key. “ Got him," more freely breathed the inflexible conductor; and placing the terrified surgeon on the saddle of one of the led steeds, he got up behind him, and the whole company scoured away over fields, heaths, and bogs, occasionally reconnoitred and joined by scrutinizing védettes, after the accustomed " Have you got him ?” had assured them that they had got him," and that all was right. The poor man's anxiety, increasing at every step that led him farther from the “ haunts of man,” through ways which, though he perfectly knew the country, were still new to him, was now wound up to absolute despair; when suddenly the horsemen paused, and alighted at the door of a lone cottage, in which lay a wounded man stretched on a bed. The surgeon was dismounted

a and ordered to examine and dress the wound, and to prescribe directions for its management: which being done, the escort took to their horses again, and, replacing the surgeon behind old “Got him," returned in the same order and with the same precautions as before. Towards break of day they arrived at the town's end, where, “ Got him” having first paid the surgeon handsomely for his night's work, and threatened him with the severest vengeance if he spoke of this adventure, these “ugly customers" took their leave and departed. In this manner he was, afterwards, several times carried to visit his patient, till the convalescence of the sick man made his visits no longer




necessary. It is scarcely necessary to add that the parties were smugglers, who had had an engagement with the custom-house officers; and that the secresy of their proceeding arose from the fear of the man's situation leading to detection.

It would be difficult for the malice of the most practised mystifier to have given more pain than was inflicted on our friend the surgeon by this combination of events, arising out of the “social system” of

" our sea-coasts; but, after all, nature and chance afford the outlines of our brightest inventions, and we are not to be surprised if they should sometimes succeed better than art in advancing them towards perfection.

Of all the mystifications with which man is acquainted, Voltaire thought life itself the greatest. “ Pourquoi,he asks, “eristons-nous ? pourquoi y a-t-il quelque chose?” But whatever may be thought of life, the remark is just, as applied to society, which, from first to last, is one entire humbug. Lawyers, physicians, and divines, are mystificators of the first order, and nothing can be a more thorough mauvaise plaisanterie, than the persuading men that there is honour in being shot at for sixpence per day. Virtual representation and the sinking fund every one gives up as humbugs, who has three grains of common sense. The Arts are altogether a mass of humbug, theatricals are gross humbugs, churchwardens are humbugs, county petitions are “ farces” and humbugs, Whigs are humbugs, Tories are humbugs, and the Radicals themselves are humbugs also. Nay, is not love, divine love, too often a hoax ? and woman, the bright oasis in the desert of life, (to make use of an original image) a tormenting mystifier ? Pleasure is a mystification that leads us on from scrape to scrape, and vanishes from our sight at the moment when it seems just within our grasp. Cards and dice mystify us out of our money, wine does the same by our senses, and the tax-gatherer does both. Poetry is professedly a mystification, and friendship scarce a degree better. In short, whichever way we turn, all is one general mystification ; and “nothing is but what is not.” The shortest way, then, is to give in to the dupery with the best grace you can. Carpe diem," eat, drink, read the New Monthly Magazine, and be merry. In all circumstances, whether of difficulty or of pleasure, take the thing for what it is worth; remembering that life does not come, like Christmas, once a year, but only " once in a way;"—and if the joke be a bad one, crying will not mend it. So, with this piece of comfort, which is, after all, as mere a mystification as the rest, for this time I have done; and in plain sincerity bid the reader heartily farewell!

C. M.

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