Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

seems,

goodness of my entertainment, rather than by the magnificence of my sign.

The Spectator, and many succeeding essayists, frequently inform us of the numerous compliments paid them in the course of their lucubrations ; of the frequent encouragements they met to inspire them with ardour, and increase their eagerness to please. I have received my letters as well as they; but alas! not congratulatory ones ; not assuring me of success and favour; but pregnant with bodings that might shake even fortitude itself.

One gentleman assures me, he intends to throw away no more threepences in purchasing the BEE; and, what is still more dismal, he will not recommend me as a poor

author wanting encouragement to his neighbourhood, which, it

is

very numerous. Were my soul set upon threepences, what anxiety might not such a denunciation produce! But such does not happen to be the present motive of publication; I write partly to show my good-nature, and partly to show my vanity; nor will I lay down the pen till I am satisfied one way or another.

Others have disliked the title and the motto of my paper; point out a mistake in the one, and assure me the other has been consigned to dulness by anticipation.

All this may be true; but what is that to me? Titles and mottos to books are like escutcheons and dignities in the hands of a king. The wise sometimes condescend to accept of them; but none but a fool will imagine them of any real importance. We ought to depend upon intrinsic merit, and not the slender helps of title. Nam quæ non fecimus ipsi, vix ea nostra voco.

For my part, I am ever ready to mistrust a promising title, and have, at some expense, been instructed not to hearken to the voice of an advertisement, let it plead never

[ocr errors]

so loudly, or never so long. A countryman coming one day to Smithfield, in order to take a slice of Bartholomewfair, found a perfect show before every booth. The drummer, the fire-eater, the wire-walker, and the salt-box, were all employed to invite him in. « Just a-going; the court of the king of Prussia in all his glory: pray, gentlemen, walk in and see.» From people who generously gave so much

away, the clown expected a monstrous bargain for his money when he got in. He steps up, pays his sixpence, the curtain is drawn; when, too late, he finds that he had the best part of the show for nothing at the door.

A FLEMISH TRADITION.

EVERY country has its traditions, which, either too minute, or not sufficiently authentic to receive historical sanction, are handed down among the vulgar, and serve at once to instruct and amuse them. Of this number, the adventures of Robin Hood, the hunting of Chevy Chase, and the bravery of Johnny Armstrong, among the English ; of Kaul Dereg among the Irish; and Crichton among the Scots, are instances. Of all the traditions, however, I remember to have heard, I do not recollect any more remarkable than one still current in Flanders; a story generally the first the peasants tell their children, when they bid them behave like Bidderman the wise. It is by no means, however, a model to be set before a polite people for imitation; since if, on the one hand, we perceive in it the steady influence of patriotism, we on the other find as strong a desire of revenge. But, to wave introduction, let us to

the story

When the Saracens overran Europe with their armies, and penetrated as far even as Antwerp, Bidderman was lord of a city, which time has since swept into destruction. As the inhabitants of this country were divided under separate leaders, the Saracens found an easy conquest, and the city of Bidderman, among the rest, became a prey to the victors.

Thus dispossessed of his paternal city, our unfortunate governor was obliged to seek refuge from the neighbouring princes, who were as yet unsubdued, and he for some time lived in a state of wretched dependence among them.

Soon, however, his love to his native country brought him back to his own city, resolved to rescue it from the enemy, or fall in the attempt: thus, in disguise, he went among the inhabitants, and endeavoured, but in vain, to excite them to revolt. Former misfortunes lay so heavily on their minds, that they rather chose to suffer the most cruel bondage than attempt to vindicate their former freedom.

As he was thus one day employed, whether by information or from suspicion is not known, he was apprehended by a Saracen soldier as a spy, and brought before the very tribunal at which he once presided. The account he gave of himself was by no means satisfactory. He could produce no friends to vindicate his character, wherefore, as the Saracens knew not their prisoner, and as they had no direct proofs against him, they were content with condemning him to be publicly whipped as a vagabond.

The execution of this sentence was accordingly performed with the utmost rigour. Bidderman was bound to the post, the executioner seeming disposed to add to the cruelty of the sentence, as he received no bribe for lenity. Whenever Bidderman groaned under the scourge, the other, redoubling his blows, cried out, « Does the villain murmur?» If Bidderman entreated but a moment's respite from torture, the other only repeated his former exclamation, « Does the villain murmur?»

From this period, revenge as well as patriotism took entire possession of his soul. His fury stooped so low as to follow the executioner with unremitting resentment. But conceiving that the best method to attain these ends was to acquire some eminence in the city, he laid himself out to oblige its new masters, studied every art, and practised every meanness, that serve to promote the needy, or render the poor pleasing; and by these means, in a few years, he came to be of some note in the city, which justly belonged entirely to him.

The executioner was therefore the first object of his resentment, and he even practised the lowest fraud to gratify the revenge he owed him.

A piece of plate, which Bidderman had previously stolen from the Saracen governor, he privately conveyed into the executioner's house, and then gave information of the theft. They who are any way acquainted with the rigour of the Arabian laws, know that theft is punished with immediate death. The proof was direct in this case; the executioner had nothing to offer in his own defence, and he was therefore condemned to be beheaded upon a scaffold in the public market-place. As there was no executioner in the city but the very man who was now to suffer, Bidderman himself undertook this, to him most agreeable office. The criminal was conducted from the judgment-seat, bound with cords: the scaffold was erected, and he placed in such a manner as he might lie most convenient for the blow.

But his death alone was not sufficient to satisfy the resentment of this extraordinary man, unless it was aggrayated with every circumstance of cruelty. Wherefore, coming up the scaffold, and disposing every thing in readiness for the intended blow, with the sword in his hand he approached the criminal, and whispering in a low voice, assured him that he himself was the person that had once been used with so much cruelty; that to his knowledge he died very innocently, for the plate had been stolen by himself, and privately conveyed into the house of the other. « 0, my countrymen,» cried the criminal, « do

you

hear what this man says?».

»« Does the villain murmur?» replied Bidderman, and immediately at one blow severed his head from his body.

Still, however, he was not content till he had ample vengeance of the governors of the city, who condemned him. To effect this, he hired a small house adjoining to the townwall, under which he every day dug, and carried out the earth in a basket. In this unremitting labour he continued several years, every day digging a little, and carrying the earth unsuspected away. By this means he at last made a secret communication from the country into the city, and only wanted the appearance of an enemy in order to betray it. This opportunity at length offered; the French army came into the neighbourhood, but had no thoughts of sitting down before a town which they considered as impregnable. Bidderman, however, soon altered their resolutions, and, upon communicating his plan to the general, he embraced it with ardour. Through the private passage above mentioned, he introduced a large body of the most resolute soldiers, who soon opened the gates for the rest, and the whole army rushing in, put every Saracen that was found to the sword.

« PředchozíPokračovat »