Зображення сторінки

lemnity of look, and to drop monosyllables heavy as bullets upon the ear of the questioner. The mighty and magnificent hocuspocus of twelvepenny magicians was scorned by Lotus. There was nothing in his look or manner that showed him the worse for keeping company with spirits; on the contrary, perhaps the privileges he enjoyed of them served to make him only the more blithe and jocund. He might have passed for a gentleman at once easy and cunning in the law; his sole knowledge, that of labyrinthine sentences made expressly to wind poor common sense on parchment. He had an eye like a snake, a constant smile upon his lip, a cheek colored like an apple, and an activity of movement wide away from the solemnity of the conjurer. He was a small, eel-figured man of about sixty, dressed in glossy black, with silver buckles and flowing periwig. It was impossible not to have a better opinion of sprites and demons, seeing that so nice, so polished a gentleman was their especial pet. And then, his attic had no mystic circle, no curtain of black, no death's-head, no mummy of apocryphal dragon, — the vulgar catchpennies of fortune-telling trader. There was not even a pack of cards to elevate the soul of man into the regions of the mystic world. No, the room was plainly yet comfortably set out. Father Lotus reposed in an easy-chair, nursing a snow-white cat upon his knee; now tenderly patting the creature with one hand, and now turning over a little Hebrew volume with the other. If a man wished to have dealings with sorry demons, could he desire a nicer little gentleman than Father Lotus to make the acquaintance for him? In few words Isaac Pugwash told his story to the smiling magician. He had, amongst much other bad money, taken a counterfeit guinea: could Father Lotus discover the evil-doer?

“ • Yes, yes, yes,' said Lotus, smiling, of course - to be sure; but that will do but little: in your present state — But let me look at your tongue.' Pugwash obediently thrust the organ forth. Yes, yes, as I thought. 'Twill do you no good to hang the rogue; none at all. What we must do is this, - we must cure you of the disease.'

“Disease!' cried Pugwash. “Bating the loss of my money, I was never better in all my days.'

“Ha! my poor man,' said Lotus, it is the benevolence of nature, that she often goes on quietly breaking us up, ourselves knowing no more of the mischief than a girl's doll when the girl rips up its seams. Your malady is of the perceptive

organs. Leave you alone and you'll sink to the condition of a baboon.'

"God bless me!' cried Pugwash.

“ A jackass with sense to choose a thistle from a toadstool will be a reasoning creature to you ! for consider, my poor soul,' said Lotus in a compassionate voice, — *in this world of tribulation we inhabit, consider what a benighted nincompoop is man, if he cannot elect a good shilling from a bad one.'

" • I have not a sharp eye for money,' said Pugwash modestly. • It's a gift, sir; I'm assured it's a gift.'

" • A sharp eye! an eye of horn,' said Lotus. • Never mind, I can remedy all that; I can restore you to the world and to yourself. The greatest physicians, the wisest philosophers, have in the profundity of their wisdom made money the test of wit. A man is believed mad : he is a very rich man, and his heir has very good reason to believe him lunatic: whereupon the heir, the madman's careful friend, calls about the sufferer a company of wizards to sit in judgment on the suspected brain, and report a verdict thereupon. Well, ninety-nine times out of the hundred, what is the first question put as test of reason? Why, a question of money. The physician, laying certain pieces of current coin in his palm, asks of the patient their several value. If he answer truly, why truly there is hopc; but if he stammer or falter at the coin, the verdict runs, and wisely runs, mad—incapably mad.'

“ • I'm not so bad as that,' said Pugwash, a little alarmed.

"• Don't say how you are — it's presumption in any man,' cried Lotus. Nevertheless, be as you may, I'll cure you if you'll give attention to my remedy.'

“ • I'll give my whole soul to it,' exclaimed Pugwash.

“. Very good, very good ; I like your earnestness: but I don't want all your soul,' said Father Lotus smiling, — "I want only part of it ; that, if you confide in me, I can take from you with no danger, — ay, with less peril than the pricking of a whitlow. Now then, for examination. Now to have a good stare at this soul of yours.' Here Father Lotus gently removed the white cat from his knee, - for he had been patting her all the time he talked, — and turned full round upon Pugwash. •Turn out your breeches pockets,' said Lotus; and the tractable Pugwash immediately displayed the linings. “Sol' cried Lotus, looking narrowly at the brown holland whereof they were made, very bad indeed ; very bad : never knew a soul in a worse state in all Pugwash looked at his pockets, and then at the conjurer; he was about to speak, but the fixed, earnest look of Father Lotus held him in respectful silence.

my life.'

“Yes, yes,' said the wizard, still eying the brown holland, “I can see it all: a vagabond soul; a soul wandering here and there, like a pauper without a settlement; a ragamuffin soul.'

“Pugwash found confidence and breath. Was there ever such a joke?' he cried: “know a man's soul by the linings of his breeches pockets!' and Pugwash laughed, albeit uncomfortably.

"Father Lotus looked at the man with philosophic compassion. ·Ha, my good friend !' he said, 'that all comes of your ignorance of moral anatomy.'

"Well, but, Father Lotus'

• Peace!' said the wizard, and answer me. You'd have this soul of yours cured?'

“If there's anything the matter with it,' answered Pugwash. • Though not of any conceit I speak it, yet I think it as sweet and as healthy a soul as the souls of my neighbors. I never did wrong to anybody.'

4. Pooh!' cried Father Lotus. “. I never denied credit to the hungry,' continued Pugwash. 66 • Fiddle-de-dee!' said the wizard very nervously.

“• I never laid out a penny in law upon a customer; I never refused small beer to

• •Silence!' cried Father Lotus : don't offend philosophy by thus bragging of your follies. You are in a perilous condition; still you may be saved. At this very moment, I much fear it, gangrene has touched your soul; nevertheless, I can separate the sound from the mortified parts, and start you new again as though your lips were first wet with mother's milk.'

Pugwash merely said, — for the wizard began to awe him, • I'm very much obliged to you.'

“Now,' said Lotus, "answer a few questions, and then I'll proceed to the cure. What do you think of money?'

“ • A very nice thing,' said Pugwash, “though I can do with as little of it as most folks.'

“ Father Lotus shook his head. • Well, and the world about


• A beautiful world,' said Pugwash; «only the worst of it is, I can't leave the shop as often as I would, to enjoy it. I'm shut in all day long, I may say, a prisoner to brick-dust, herrings, and bacon. Sometimes when the sun shines and the cobbler's lark over the way sings as if he'd split his pipe, why then, do you know, I do so long to get into the fields; I do hunger for a bit of grass like any cow.'

“ The wizard looked almost hopelessly on Pugwash. “And that's your religion and business? Infidel of the counter! Saracen of the till! However — patience,' said Lotus, and let us conclude. — And the men and women of the world, what do you think of them?'

“God bless 'em, poor souls !' said Pugwash. “It's a sad scramble some of 'em have, isn't it?'

• Well,' said the conjurer, ‘for a tradesman, your soul is in a wretched condition. However, it is not so hopelessly bad that I may not yet make it profitable to you. I must cure it of its vagabond desires, and above all make it respectful of money. You will take this book.' Here Lotus took a little volume from a cupboard, and placed it in the hand of Pugwash. “Lay it under your pillow every night for a week, and on the eighth morning let me see you.'

“Come, there's nothing easier than that,' said Pugwash with a smile; and reverently putting the volume in his pocket (the book was closed by metal clasps, curiously chased), he descended the garret stairs of the conjurer.

“On the morning of the eighth day Pugwash again stood before Lotus.

How do you feel now?' asked the conjurer with a knowing look.

“I haven't opened the book — 'tis just as I took it,' said Pugwash, making no further answer.

"I know that,'said Lotus: the clasps be thanked for your ignorance.' Pugwash slightly colored; for to say the truth, both he and his wife had vainly pulled and tugged, and fingered and coaxed the clasps, that they might look upon the necromantic page. Well, the book has worked,' said the conjurer; •I have it.'

“ Have it! what?' asked Pugwash.

“• Your soul,' answered the sorcerer. •In all my practice,' he added gravely, 'I never had a soul come into my hands in worse condition.'

“ Imposssible!' cried Pugwash. “If my soul is as you say, in your own hands, how is it that I'm alive? How is it that I can eat, drink, sleep, walk, talk, do everything, just like anybody else?'



[ocr errors]

“ Ha!' said Lotus, 'that's a common mistake. Thousands and thousands would swear, ay, as they'd swear to their own noses, that they have their souls in their own possession: bless you,' and the conjurer laughed maliciously, it's a popular error. Their souls are altogether out of 'em.

“Well,' said Pugwash, “if it's true that you have indeed my soul, I should like to have a look at it.'

666 In good time,' said the conjurer, • I'll bring it to your house and put it in its proper lodging. In another week I'll bring it to you: 'twill then be strong enough to bear removal."

666 And what am I to do all the time without it?' asked Pugwash in a tone of banter. “Come,' said he, still jesting, * if you really have my soul, what's it like? What's its color? if indeed souls have colors.'

“Green - green as a grasshopper, when it first came into my hands,' said the wizard; • but ’tis changing daily. More: it was a skipping, chirping, giddy soul; 'tis every hour mending. In a week's time, I tell you, it will be fit for the business of the world.'

". And pray, good father, — for the matter has till now escaped me, - what am I to pay you for this pain and trouble ; for this precious care of my miserable soul?'

“« Nothing,' answered Lotus, ónothing whatever. The work is too nice and precious to be paid for; I have a reward you dream not of for my labor. Think you that men's immortal souls are to be mended like iron pots, at tinker's price? Oh no! they who meddle with souls go for higher wages.'

“After further talk Pugwash departed, the conjurer promising to bring him home his soul at midnight that night week. It seemed strange to Pugwash, as the time passed on, that he never seemed to miss his soul; that in very truth he went through the labors of the day with even better gravity than when his soul possessed him. And more: he began to feel himself more at home in his shop; the cobbler's lark over the way continued to sing, but awoke in Isaac's heart no thought of the fields; and then for flowers and plants, why, Isaac began to think such matters fitter the thoughts of children and foolish girls than the attention of grown men, with the world before them. Even Mrs. Pugwash saw an alteration in her husband; and though to him she said nothing, she returned thanks to her own sagacity that made him seek the conjurer.

“At length the night arrived when Lotus had promised to

« НазадПродовжити »