« PreviousContinue »
"What!" said the voice again, " will you not speak to me?" "Who's there?" cried I, beginning to feel frightened, for I thought I looked round again. I it was the soul of a quacked woman! walked through the apartment. I peeped under the sofa. Nought "He has living could I behold; it was indeed vox et preterea nihil. rubbed away all but the lady's voice," said I to myself, "but that defies him !"
"You seem puzzled," quoth the voice again.
"You say the truth, Ma'am; yet I question whether I ought to be. A voice without a woman may be a little strange, it is true; but the real wonder would be a woman without a voice!"
"Those jests on the loquacity of the sex," replied my invisible communicant," have certainly the advantage of novelty. It must be confessed that your wit is very original."
"You have a turn for irony," said I; "no wonder that a gentlewoman so little incommoded by the corporeal, should be inclined to the sprightly."
"You mistake," quoth the airy tongue," the quality of the person you address. I am no woman, I assure you, though my voice has, I allow, something feminine in its tones."
"What are you then?"
"C'est la même chose !" said I, going back to my disappointed.
chair very much
"there is no time to lose!
"Pooh!" said the voice indignantly, The door will be opened presently; you will be summoned into the Doctor's study, and we may never meet each other again."
"That would be a great hardship indeed," said I," if you have described yourself truly."
"Pooh !" again cried the voice; "there speaks the most damnable of human errors. And so you, poor mortal worms, really suppose that we gentlemen devils intend to admit you into our circle when you quit your vulgar societies here! No, no-we visit you in this world, but never in the next, just as your great people visit folks in the country whom they never receive in their town-houses."
"You are discourteous, Mr. Devil de bon ton ; but I think we can make ourselves quite as comfortable without you." "You would insinuate that "Bah!" replied the Devil. Absurd! it is your own passions that not be tormented without us. torment you; those are our deputies, and while you think in our regions below we are actively torturing you, we are sitting quietly in our drawing-rooms playing at rouge et noir, and leave you to torture each other. Envy, jealousy, fear, and repentance-these can play the devil with you very handsomely, without our assistance. But a truce to explanation. Time presses for decision. Know that I am the devil Asmodeus, whose adventures with Don Cleofas you know so well. At that time I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance." "Signor Don Asmodeus," said I, interrupting the Devil, somewhat briskly, "you do me too much honour; I have had cares and crosses enough in life to write old age in my heart; but in mere years, the vulgar computations of time, I am not quite so antient as you would allege; sacre diantre! according to you, I should be about one hundred and ninety-five!"
"Mistake not !" returned the Devil," at that time you existed in another shape."
"Aha! you are a Pythagorean, then! I hope my old form enjoyed better health than my present one."
"That is a secret," said the Devil, mysteriously; "I cannot tell you who or what you were. Transmigration is not a thing to be babbled about; those fellows who pretended in antient times to remember their former selves, were monstrous impostors, I assure you."
"I easily believe it; but granting our old acquaintance, for my memory certainly cannot contradict you; what is it that Signor Don Asmodeus wishes me to do ?"
"Mount that chair, and look on the shelf to the right of the fireplace. You will see a bottle of lotion."
"Ah! I see it now; and you are at present within that bottle!" "Exactly; that d-d Quack in the next room, when he made war against mankind, easily persuaded me to enter into partnership with him; but faith, the rogue decoyed me one bright morning into this bottle of lotion, and there I have been caged ever since."
“What, then, it is your presence, I suppose, that gives so strong a power to the lotion ?"
"Just so: You have no idea how the water a devil bathes in can blister the skin; it is from this bottle that the Doctor fills his smaller receptacles in the next room."
"You then are the great back-rubber," cried I, in much horror; "you are the hole-maker, and the lady-destroyer and going to the Doctor is but another phrase for going to the devil!”.
"Do not reproach me now," said the demon, in a melancholy voice, "I suffer myself, I assure you, in this infernal sea of cantharides, as much as the creatures I destroy. Willingly would I be released from my present confinement, and if you have pity either for devil or man, you will take me out of the Doctor's possession. Fortunate, indeed, was it for you that I recognised you as an old acquaintance; to new debutants in this world, I am not suffered to demean myself by an introduction that is left to demons of lower rank; fortunate, I say, was it for you, or I should have clawed all the skin off your back before knew what a deuce of a fellow had got hold of you.'
"If I release you," said I musingly, "it will certainly be for the benefit of mankind; but then you know-most philosophical Devilthat there is nothing in the world like an enlarged self-interest, and I want to make the best bargain I can with you also, for myself. Will you be to me the same Cicerone and companion that you were to Don Cleofas? I am subject to fits of fearful despondency-I want an entertaining companion-I am too absent for women, and too gloomy for men; but I think I could be excellent friends with a polite devil."
"All that I was to Don Cleofas, that will I be to you! More than I was to Don Cleofas, I can be to you also; for Don Cleofas was an idle young man, a mere student, just wise enough for a lover. He would have been incapable of understanding half the sights I should have wished to reveal to him; and as to our discourses, they owe all their merit to that wittiest of eaves-droppers-Le Sage; but you, Sir, are just the person--nay, never blush, on the honour of a gentleman-you are just the person I could take a pleasure in instruct
ing. The past the present-this world-a great portion of the other-all that now live-all that ever have lived-I can show you at your command. Nay, if you have the courage, we can take an occasional trip to the moon, or perform the grand tour of the lactea via! What a pleasant way of passing this dull winter! Then, too, I have a large acquaintance among the fairies, and I can let you into more secrets in that quarter, than Master Crofton Croker is well aware of. As to mortals the highest-the fairest the wisest-I can make you intimate with them all. You shall shoot with Charles X. at Holyrood-dine with the Duke of Reichstadt, and ask him if he remembers that he is the son of Napoleon. You shall sit on the woolsack with Brougham, and see me uncork the nonsense of Londonderry. You shall eat your fish at the Rocher de Cancale, when you incline to the gourmand; and gaze on the moon from the shattered arches of the Colosseum, when you meditate the romantic!"
"Your offers content me," said I, less enthusiastically than the Devil expected; "I accept them at once: the time indeed has passed since either luxury or romance had the power to charm; but I can still be amused, if no longer delighted. Come, then, shall I put you into my pocket, and carry you and your prison away ?" "No!" returned the Devil, you must open the window, and throw the phial out upon the stones !"
"Will have the honour to be in waiting for you at your own rooms by the time you arrive there."
"But, Signor Don Asmodeus, there is no compact between us, you will please to recollect. I shall endorse no bills you may wish to present me, payable in the next world. I shall be happy to make your acquaintance in an honest way, but I cannot afford to lend you my soul."
"Bah!" said Asmodeus, "those bargains are obsolete; Hell must have been badly peopled at that time; now we have more souls than we know what to do with." Re-assured by this information, I opened the window, and threw the lotion on the pavement: I had scarcely done so, before the Doctor's bell rang, and I knew that it was my turn to be rubbed my ardour for that personal experiment was, however, wonderfully abated; I doubted not but that the Doctor had other bottles equally calculated to play the devil with one. I seized my stick and gloves, brushed by the servant with an unintelligible mutter, and walked home to see if my new acquaintance was a gentleman of his word.
“A stranger, Sir, in the library," said my servant in opening the door.
"Indeed! what, a short, lame gentleman?"
"No, Sir; middle-sized,-has very much the air of a lawyer or professional man."
I entered the room, and instead of the dwarf demon Le Sage described, I beheld a comely man seated at the table, with a high forehead, a sharp face, and a pair of spectacles on his nose. employed in reading the new novel of "The Usurer's Daughter." "This cannot be the devil!" said I to myself; so I bowed, and asked the gentleman his business.
"Tush!" quoth my visitor; " and how did you leave the Doctor?"
"It is you, then !" said I; "you have grown greatly since you left Don Cleofas."
"Wars fatten our tribe," answered the Devil; "besides shapes are optional with me, and in England men go by appearances more than they do abroad; one is forced to look respectable and portly; the Devil himself could not cheat your countrymen with a shabby exterior. Doubtless you observe that all the swindlers, whose adventures enliven your journals, are dressed in the height of fashion,' and enjoy 'a mild prepossessing demeanour.' Even the Cholera does not menacea gentleman of the better ranks; and no bodies are burked with a decent suit of clothes on their backs. Wealth in all countries is the highest possible morality; but you carry the doctrine to so great an excess, that you scarcely suffer the poor man to exist at all. If he take a walk in the country, there's the Vagrant Act; and if he has not a penny to hire a cellar in town, he's snapped up by a Burker, and sent off to the surgeons in a sack. It must be owned that no country affords such warnings to the spendthrift. You are one great moral against the getting rid of one's money."
On this, Asmodeus and myself had a long conversation; it ended in our dining together, (for I found him a social fellow, and fond of a broil in a quiet way,) and adjourning, in excellent spirits, to the theatre.
"Certainly," said the Devil, taking a pinch of snuff, "certainly, your drama is wonderfully fine, it is worthy of a civilized nation; formerly you were contented with choosing actors among human kind, but what an improvement to go among the brute creation! think what a fine idea to have a whole play turn upon the appearance of a broken-backed lion! And so you are going to raise the drama by setting up a club; that's another exquisite notion! You hire a great house in the neighbourhood of the theatre; you call it the Garrick Club. You allow actors and patrons to mix themselves and their negus there after the play; and this you call a design for exalting the drama. Certainly you English are a droll set; your expedients are admirable."
"My good Devil, any thing that brings actors and spectators together, that creates an esprit de corps among all who cherish the drama, is not to be sneered at in that inconsiderate manner."
"I sneer! you mistake me; you have adduced a most convincing argument-esprit de corps !-good! Your clubs certainly nourish sociality greatly; those little tables, with one sulky man before one sulky chop-those hurried nods between acquaintances-that monopoly of newspapers and easy chairs-all exhibit to perfection the cementing faculties of a club. Then, too, it certainly does an actor inestimable benefit to mix with lords and squires. Nothing more fits a man for his profession, than living with people who know nothing about it. Only think what a poor actor Kean is; you would have made him quite a different thing, if you had tied him to tame gentlemen in the "Garrick Club." He would have played "Richard” in a much higher vein, I doubt not."
"Well," said I, "the stage is your affair at present, and doubtless you do right to reject any innovation."
"Why, yes," quoth the Devil, looking round; "we have a very
good female supply in this quarter. But pray how comes it that the English are so candid in sin? Among all nations there is immorality enough, Heaven knows; but you are so delightfully shameless: if a crime is committed here, you can't let it 'waste its sweetness;' you thrust it into your papers forthwith; you stick it up on your walls; you produce it at your theatres; you chat about it as an agreeable subject of conversation; and then you cry out with a blush against the open profligacy abroad! This is one of those amiable contradictions in human nature that charm me excessively. You fill your theatres with ladies of pleasure - you fill your newspapers with naughty accounts—a robbery is better to you than a feast-and a good fraud in the city will make you happy for a week; and all this while you say: We are the people who send vice to Coventry, and teach the world how to despise immorality.' Nay, if one man commits a murder, your newspapers kindly instruct his associates how to murder in future, by a far safer method. A wretch kills a boy for the surgeons, by holding his head under water; Silly dog!' cries the Morning Herald, why did not he clap a sponge dipped in prussic acid to the boy's mouth ?'"
Here we were interrupted by a slight noise in the next box, which a gentleman had just entered. He was a tall man, with a handsome face and very prepossessing manner.
"That is an Author of considerable reputation," said my Devil, "quiet, though a man of wit, and with a heart, though a man of the world. Talking of the drama, he once brought out a farce, which had the good fortune to be damned. As great expectations had been formed of it, and the author's name had transpired; the unsuccessful writer rose the next morning with a hissing sound in his ears, and that leaning towards misanthropy, which you men always experience when the world has the bad taste to mistake your merits. Thank Fate, however,' said the Author, it is damned thoroughly-it is off the stage-I cannot be hissed again-in a few days it will be forgotten-meanwhile I will take a walk in the Park.' Scarce had the gentleman got into the street, before, lo! at a butcher's shop blazed the ' very head and front of his offending.' 'Second night of its appearance, the admired Farce of Esq.' Away posts the
Author to the Manager.
'Good Heavens! Sir, my farce again! was it not thoroughly damned last night?'
Thoroughly damned!' quoth the Manager, drily; we reproduce it, Sir-we reproduce it (with a knowing wink,) that the world, enraged at our audacity, may come here to damn it again!' So it is, you see! the love of money is the contempt of man: there's an aphorism for you! Let us turn to the stage. What actresses you have certainly you English are a gallant nation; you are wonderfully polite to come and see such horrible female performers! By the by, you observed when that young lady came on the stage, how timidly she advanced, how frightened she seemed. "What modesty !" cry the audience; "we must encourage her!" they clap, they shout, they pity the poor thing, they cheer her into spirits. Would you believe that the hardest thing the Manager had to do with her was to