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refuge. Round these vulpine retreats was a labyrinthean maze of those wrinkles, vulgarly called crow's feet, deep, intricate, and intersected : they seemed for all the world like the web of a Chancery suit. Singular enough, the rest of the countenance was perfectly smooth and unindented; even the lines from the nostril to the corners of the mouth, usually so deeply traced in men of his age, were scarcely more apparent than in a boy of eighteen.
His smile was frank-his voice clear and hearty_his address open, and much superior to his apparent rank of life, claiming somewhat of equality, yet conceding a great deal of respect; but, notwithstanding all these certainly favorable points, there was a sly and cunning expression in his perverse and vigilant eye and all the wrinkled demesnes in its vicinity, that made me mistrust even while I liked my companion : perhaps, indeed, he was too frank, too familiar, too degagé, to be quite natural. Your honest men soon buy reserve by experience. Rogues are communicative and open, because confidence and openness cost them nothing. To finish the description of my new acquaintance, I should observe that there was something in his countenance which struck me as not wholly unfamiliar; it was one of those which we have not, in all human probability, seen before, and yet which (perhaps from their very commonness) we imagine we have encountered a hundred times.
We walked on briskly, notwithstanding the warmth of the day; in fact, the air was so pure, the grass so green, the laughing noonday so full of the hum, the motion, and the life of creation, that the feeling produced was rather that of freshness and invigoration than of languor and heat.
“We have a beautiful country, sir,” said my hero of the box. “It is like walking through a garden, after the more sterile and sullen features of the continent. A pure mind, sir, loves the country; for my part I am always disposed to burst out in thanks- . giving to Providence when I behold its works, and like the val. leys in the psalm, I am ready to laugh and sing."
“An enthusiast," said I, “as well as a philosopher! perhaps (and I believed it likely), I have the honor of addressing a poet also."
“Why, sir," replied the man, “ I have made verses in my life;
in short, there is little I have not done, for I was always a lover of variety ; but, perhaps, your honor will let me return the sus. picion. Are you not a favorite of the muse ?"
“I cannot say that I am,” said I. “I value myself only on my common sense—the very antipodes to genius, you know, according to the orthodox belief.”
“Common sense!" repeated my companion, with a singular and meaning smile, and a twinkle with his left eye.
« Common sense! Ah, that is not my forte, sir. You, I dare say, are one of those gentlemen whom it is very difficult to take in, either passively or actively, by appearance, or in act ? For my part, I have been a dupe all my life-a child might cheat me! I am the most unsuspicious person in the world."
“ Too candid by half," thought I. “This man is certainly a rascal; but what is that to me? I shall never see him again;" and true to my love of never losing an opportunity of ascertaining individual character, I observed that I thought such an acquaintance very valuable, especially if he were in trade; it was a pity, therefore, for my sake, that my companion had informed me that he followed no calling.
“Why, sir," said he, “I am occasionaly in employment; my nominal profession is that of a broker. I buy shawls and handkerchiefs of poor countesses, and retail them to rich plebeians. I fit up new married couples with linen at a more moderate rate than the shops, and procure the bridegroom his present of jewels at forty per cent., less than the jewellers; nay, I am as friendly to an intrigue as a marriage; and, when I cannot sell my jewels, I will my good offices. A gentleman so handsome as your honor may have an affair upon your hands; if so, you may rely upon my secrecy and zeal. In short, I am an innocent good-natured fellow, who does harm to no one or nothing, and good to every one for something."
“I admire your code," quoth I, “and, whenever I want a mediator between Venus and myself, will employ you. Have you always followed your present idle profession, or were you brought up to any other ?”
“I was intended for a silversmith," answered my friend : " but Providence willed it otherwise : they taught me from childhood
to repeat the Lord's prayer : Heaven heard me, and delivered me from temptation-there is, indeed, something terribly seducing in the face of a silver spoon !"
“Well,” said I, "you are the honestest knave that ever I met, and one would trust you with one's purse, for the ingenuousness with which you own you would steal it. Pray, think you, is it probable that I have ever had the happiness of meeting you before? I cannot help fancying so—as yet I have never been in the watch-house or the Old Bailey, my reason tells me that I must be mistaken."
· Not at all, sir,” returned my worthy ; “I remember you well, for I never saw a face like yours that I did not remember. I hand the honor of sipping some British liquors in the same room with yourself one evening; you were then in company with my friend Mr. Gordon."
“ Ha !” said I, “ I thank you for the hint. I now remember well, by the same token, that he told me you were the most ingenious gentleman in England, and that you had a happy propensity of mistaking other people's possessions for your own; I congratulate myself upon so desirable an acquaintance."
My friend smiled with his usual blandness, and made me a low bow of acknowledgment before he resumed :
No doubt, sir, Mr. Gordon informed you right. I flatter my. self few gentlemen understand better than myself the art of appropriotion, though I say it who should not say it. I deserve the reputation I have acquired, sir; I have always had ill fortune to struggle against, and always have remedied it by two virtuesperseverance and ingenuity. To give you an idea of my ill-fortune, know that I have been taken up twenty-three times on suspicion; of my perseverance, know that twenty-three times I have been taken up justly; and, of my ingenuity, know that I have been twenty-three times let off, because there was not a tittle of legal evidence against me !"
“I venerate your talents, Mr. Jonson,” replied I, “if by the name of Jonson it pleaseth you to be called, although, like the heathen deities, I presume that you have many titles, whereof some are more grateful to your ears than others.”
“ Nay,” answered the man of two virtues, “I am
ashamed of my name ; indeed, I have never done anything to disgrace me.
I have never indulged in low company, nor profligate debauchery : whatever I have executed by way of profession has been done in a superior and artist-like manner; not in the rude bungling fashion of other adventurers. Moreover, I have always had a taste for polite literature, and went once as an apprentice to a publishing bookseller, for the sole purpose of reading the new works before they came out. In fine, I have never neglected any opportunity of improving my mind; and the worst that can be said against me is, that I have remembered my catechism, and taken all possible pains “to learn and labor truly to get my living, pleased and to do my duty in that state of life to which it has Providence to call me.' "
“I have often heard," answered I, “ that there is honor among thieves ; I am happy to learn from you that there is also religion : your baptismal sponsors must be proud of so diligent a godson.”
“ They ought to be, sir," replied Mr. Jonson, "for I gave them the first specimens of my address : the story is long, but, if you ever give me an opportunity, I will relate it.”
“ Thank you,” said I ; “meanwhile I must wish you good morning: your way now lies to the right. I return you my best thanks for your condescension, in accompanying so undistinguished an individual as myself.”
“Oh, never mention it, your honor,” rejoined Mr. Jonson. I am always too happy to walk with a gentleman of your common sense.' Farewell, sir; may we meet again!"
So saying, Mr. Jonson struck into his new road, and we parted.
I went home, musing on my adventure, and delighted with my adventurer. When I was about three paces from the door of my home, I was accosted in a most pitiful tone, by a poor old beggar, apparently in the last extreme of misery and disease. Notwithstanding my political economy, I was moved into alms-giving by a spectacle so wretched. I put my hand into my pocket, my purse was gone ; and, on searching the other, lo—my handker. chief, my pocket-book, and a gold locket, which had belonged to Madame d'Anville, had vanished too.
One does not keep company with men of two virtues, and receive compliments upon one's common sense, for nothing !
The beggar still continued to importune me.
“Give him some food and half-a-crown,” said I to my land. lady. Two hours afterwards she came up to me—"Oh, sir ! my silver tea-pot—that villain the beggar !”
A light flashed upon me--"Ah, Mr. Job Jonson ! Mr. Job Jonson!” cried I, in an indescribable rage; “out of my sight, woman ! out of my sight!" I stopped short; my speech failed me. Never tell me that shame is the companion of guilt--the sinful knave is never so ashamed of himself as is the innocent fool who suffers by him.
342.-THE PLAGUE OF FLORENCE.
ВоссАСcio. In the year of our Lord 1348, there happened at Florence, the finest city in all Italy, a most terrible plague; which, whether owing to the influence of the planets, or that it was sent from God as a just punishment for our sins, had broken out some years before in the Levant, and after passing from place to place, and making terrible havoc all the way, had now reached the west ; where, spite of all the means that art and human foresight could suggest, as keeping the city clear from filth, and excluding all suspected persons ; notwithstanding frequent consultations what else was to be done ; nor omitting prayers to God in frequent processions; in the spring of the foregoing year it began to show itself in a sad and wonderful manner; and, different from what it had been in the last, where bleeding from the nose is the fatal prognostic, here there appeared certain tumors in the groin, or under the arm-pits, some as big as a small apple, others as an egg; and afterwards purple spots in most parts of the body; in some cases large and but few in number, in others less and more numerous, both sorts the usual messengers of death. To the cure of this malady, neither medical knowledge, nor the power of drugs, was of any effect : whether because the disease was in its own nature mortal, or that the physicians (the number of whom, taking quacks and women pretenders into the account, was grown