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Like Diomed, Shakspeare's "fair Diomed,” as characterized by Shakspeare's Æneas,
“No man alive can love in such a sort
The thing he means to kill more excellently."
BAFFLED WORD CATCHERS.
St. Mark xii. 13 ; ST. LUKE xi. 53, 54. THE chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, them
selves disconcerted and baffled in their endeavours to embroil our Lord with the civil power, and to make Him commit Himself by unwary answers to the artifice and sophistry of their cross questionings and perilous propositions,-sent unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, “ to catch Him in His words.” But He was not to be so caught: and the word catchers were sent successless away. Other endeavours of the same sort as signally failed; until at length we read that no man after that durst ask Him any questionÉTTEPwrsoal. In vain His persistent foes, unremitting in their devices, unrelenting in their opposition, essayed to elicit from Him words which might condemn Him before the governor. He knew their thoughts, and foiled their sharp practice, and parried their treacherous thrusts. Often He retorted on them, by proposing a query which there was no answering but by committing themselves in turn. His retaliatory questionings were so damaging, the dilemma to which He reduced them was so hazardous, that, beaten with their own weapons, and caught in their own snare, they were once and again filled with madness, and communed one with another what they might do with Jesus. For all in vain they urged Him vehemently, and provoked Him to speak of many things; laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him. Spies they sent forth, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of
and agaut they mhemently; Hin
the governor. But His hour was not yet come, nor the man that should so take Him by guile. He perceived their craftiness, and said, “Why tempt ye Me?" And they could not take hold of His words before the people; and there remained nothing for them to do but to marvel at His answers, and hold their peace.
When John Huss retired from the consistory of the pope and cardinals, his lodging was encircled from that time by watchful sentinels; and a monk was let loose upon him, to ensnare him with dangerous questions—for Huss had protested that he had rather die than be justly condemned as a heretic; and that if convinced of error he would make full recantation. He had the shrewdness to “ detect in the monk, who affected the utmost simplicity, one of the subtlest theologians of the day.” Walsingham's warm admirer and eulogist, Lloyd, bears record of that astute statesman, that to him men's faces spake as much as their tongues, and their countenances were indexes
1 This is a pet topic with Chesterfield, in his delectable advices to his son. For instance, he warns him that every artful knave will have him at his mercy, unless he can command his countenance : the knave “will provoke or please you by design, to catch unguarded words or looks, by which he will easily decipher the secrets of your heart, of which you should keep the key yourself, and trust it with no man living." The earl protests that, for his part,--and he was a veteran diplomatist,—there was nothing he should desire better, in any negotiation, than to have to do with a man of warm, quick impulses, which he would take care to set in motion. “By artful provocations I would extort rash and unguarded expressions; and by hinting at all the several things that I could suspect, infallibly discover the true one, by the alteration it occasioned in the countenance of the person." In a subsequent letter we read : “ There are many avenues to every man, and when you cannot get at him through the great one, try the serpentine ones and you will arrive at last.” In another he exhorts his (unpromising) pupil to "fish judiciously, and not always, nor indeed often, in the shape of direct questions ; which always put people on their guard. . . . Avoid direct questioning as much as you can."
When the rector in Armadale, on a certain occasion puts a roundabout query to Midwinter, the quick ear of the latter, we are told, “detected something wrong in the tone of Mr. Brock's voice. He turned in the dark. ening twilight, and looked suddenly and suspiciously in the rector's face. “You have something to say to me,' he answered ; and it is not what you are saying now.'”
So with that baffled inquisitor Mr. Bradshaw, in O. W. Holmes' Guard. of their hearts. “He would so beset men with questions, and draw them on, that they discovered themselves whether they answered or were silent. He outdid the Jesuits in their own bow, and overreached them in their own equivocation and mental reservation ; never settling a lie, but warily drawing out and discovering truth.” Just the proficient to put in practice the maxim of Solomon, that counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Gloster, in King Lear, sets on his base born and every way baser son, to spy out the presumed craft of the noble and unsuspecting one: “ Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you : frame the business after your own wisdom”which is worldly wisdom with (to all intents and purposes) a vengeance. Says Leontes under his breath, in the Winter's Tale, “I am angling now, though you perceive me not how I
ian Angel. “Clement had the power of looking steadily into another person's eyes in a way that was by no means encouraging to curiosity, or favourable to the process of cross examination. Mr. Bradshaw was not disposed to press his question in the face of the calm, repressive look the young man gave him.”
A rememberable scene in the experiences of the Deerslayer-Cooper's hero through so many distinct tales—is that where, himself a prisoner, he is beset by a Huron who asks questions with all the wily ingenuity of a practised Indian counsellor, the other “baffling him by the very means that are known to be the most efficacious in defeating the finesse of the more pretending diplomacy of civilisation, or by confining his answers to the truth and the truth only."
The advice of the clockmaker of Slickville is: “If ever you want to read a man, do simple, and he thinks he has a soft horn to deal with, and while he s'poses he is a playin' you off you are puttin' the leak into him without his seein' it.” The same racy author's Mr. Peabody commends an acquaint. ance as one who “knows how to keep his clam-shell shut, when he don't think proper to let on. ... It ain't every one he lets put his finger into the tape ring and draw him out, I can tell you.” “You've drawed me out,” the gamekeeper tells Mr. Audley, “and you've tumbled and tossed me about like in a gentlemanly way, till I was nothink or anythink in your hands, and you've looked me through and through, and turned me inside out, till you thought you knowed as much as I knowed ”-a fallacious im. pression, as it turns out.
In vain Lord Fitzpompey pumps the Young Duke, in Mr. Disraeli's story with that name : the empty bucket invariably convicts him of labour lost. “In vain his lordship laid his little diplomatic traps to catch a hint of the purposes or an intimation of the inclinations of his nephew ; the bait was never seized.”
give line." "You would play upon me,” is Hamlet's outburst against the king's suborned spies, in the scene with the recorders, which he asks them to play upon who are so obviously playing upon him : "you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass." Do they then think him easier to be played upon than a pipe ?—they, who disavow the skill to command any utterance of harmony on the little instrument in his hand; which, govern but its stop holes with your fingers and thumb, and give it breath with your mouth, will discourse most excellent music, Do they think that of him ? Nay, but he will baffle their devices, confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks. Call him what instrument they will, though they can fret him, they cannot play upon him.
Rousseau inveighs against the practice some folks affect of putting cold, dry questions, without seeming to attach any moral sense to the replies—as though they were worth neither praise nor blame. He complains of those who adopt cette manière sèche d'interroger les gens, that they think to avoid revealing their own thoughts while sounding yours, and indeed that they may the better sound yours. But a man thus questioned and sounded, he says, naturally puts himself on his guard from the first; and if he believes that the object of his inquisitor is, not a real interest in him, but inquisition, inquisitiveness,-a sheer scheme to make him talk, and in talking commit himself, discover himself, expose himself,--why the man is apt either to talk untruth or hold his tongue in defence and defiance; he redoubles his guard over himself, and is fain to pass rather for a stolid booby than a dupe to impertinent curiosity. In another place Jean Jaques has a rap for the smooth white knuckles of the Abbé Trublet, who,“ dans son tour d'esprit finet et jésuitique," tried to penetrate into Rousseau's mind, on a certain vexed question, " sans vouloir me dire le sien.” So Benvenuto Cellini has his grievance against a monk, who, “in order to make me discover my secret, began to run me down,” and “push me hard" in all sorts of tentative ways. After another sort the “melancholy Truchsess," name of note in the history of the United Netherlands, becoming a spy and go-between, insinuated himself into the confidence of Paul Buys, wormed his secrets from him, and then communicated them to Leicester; “ but he did it very wisely,” said the earl, “so that he was not mistrusted." "He hath dealt most deeply with him [Paul, in table-talk), to seek out the bottom.” When Lewis the Eleventh had to do in person with Charles of Burgundy, his cue was to “get him to talk, by egging him on a little," and so“ draw from him precisely those very things which he,” the fiery duke, “least wished to say." Mr. Carlyle describes his favourite “hero," while yet Crown Prince of Prussia, as studying the art, “useful to him in after life," of wearing among his fellowcreatures a polite cloak of darkness. “Gradually he becomes master of it as few are; a man politely impregnable to the intrusion of human curiosity ; able to look cheerily into the very eyes of men, and talk in a social way face to face, and yet continue intrinsically invisible to them.” It came to be with him as with Currer Bell's autobiographic Professor, who when he thought a man was trying to read his character and pump up his secrets, could feel as secure against his scrutiny as if he had on a casque with the visor down-or rather showing his countenance with the confidence one would feel in showing an unlearned man a letter written in Greek; he might see lines, and trace characters, but he could make nothing of them.1
1 Madame Reuter, in the same narrative, is a baffled inquisitor, supposed to be almost supreme in her art of inquisition. "I watched her as keenly as she watched me; I perceived soon that she was feeling after my real character; she was searching for salient points, and weak points, and eccentric points ; she was applying now this test, now that, hoping to find in the end some chink, some niche,” etc. “I enjoyed the game much, and did not hasten its conclusion; sometimes I gave her hopes, beginning a sentence rather weakly, when her shrewd eye would light up, she thought she had me; having led her a little way, I delighted to turn round and finish with sound, hard sense, whereat her countenance would fall.” Later again we read : “Me she still watched, still tried by the most ingenious tests; she roved round me, baffled, yet persevering. I believe she thought I was like a smooth and bare precipice, which offered neither jutting stone, nor tree root, nor tuft of grass, to aid the climber,"