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care and circumspection into the lower apartment, stood before the old beldame, before she had the least intimation of his approach.
Accustomed as she was to the trade of blood, the hoary hag did not behold this apparition without giving signs of infinite terror and astonishment, believing it was no other than the spirit of her second guest, who had been murdered; she fell upon her knees and began to recommend herself to the protection of the saints, crossing herself with as much devotion as if she had been entitled to the particular care and attention of Heaven. Nor did her anxiety abate, when she was undeceived in this her supposition, and understood it was no phantom, but the real substance of the stranger, who, without staying to upbraid her with the enormity of her crimes, commanded her, on pain of imme. diate death, to produce his horse, to which being conducted, he set her upon the saddle without delay, and, mounting behind, invested her with the management of the reins, swearing, in a most peremptory tone, that the only chance she had for her life was in directing him safely to the next town; and that, so soon as she should give him the least cause to doubt her fidelity in the performance of that task, he would on the instant act the part of her executioner.
This declaration had its effects upon the withered Hecate, who, with many supplications for mercy and forgiveness, promised to guide him in safety to a certain village at the distance of two leagues, where he might lodge in security, and be provided with a fresh horse, or other convenience, for pursuing his intended route. On these conditions he told her she might deserve his clemency; and they accordingly took their departure together, she being placed astride upon the saddle, holding the bridle in one hand, and a switch in the other; and our adventurer sitting on the crupper, superintending her conduct, and keeping the muzzle of a pistol close at her ear. In this equipage they travelled across part of the same wood in which his guide had forsaken him; and it is not to be supposed that he passed his time in the most agreeable reverie, while he found himself involved in the labyrinth of those shades, which he considered as the haunts of robbery and assassination.
Common fear was a comfortable sensation to what he felt in this excursion. The first steps he had taken for his preservation were the effects of mere instinct, while his faculties were extinguished or
suppressed by despair; but now, as his reflection began to recur, he was haunted by the most intolerable apprehensions. Every whisper of the wind through the thickets was swelled into the hoarse menaces of murder, the shaking of the boughs was construed into the brandishing of poniards, and every shadow of a tree became the apparition of a ruffian eager for blood. In short, at each of these occurrences he felt what was infinitely more tormenting than the stab of a real dagger; and, at every fresh fillip of his fear, he acted as a remembrancer to his conductress, in a new volley of imprecations, importing that her life was absolutely connected with his opinion of his own safety.
Human nature could not longer subsist under such complicated terror. At last he found himself clear of the forest, and was blessed with the distant view of an inhabited place. He then began to exercise his thoughts upon a new subject. He debated with himself, whether he should make a parade of his intrepidity and public spirit, by disclosing his achievement, and surrendering his guide to the penalty of the law; or leave the old hag and her accomplices to the remorse of their own consciences, and proceed quietly on his journey to Paris in undisturbed possession of the prize he had already obtained. This last step he determined to take, upon recollecting that, in the course of his information, the story of the murdered stranger would infallibly attract the attention of justice, and, in that case, the effects he had borrowed from the defunct must be refunded for the benefit of those who had a right to the succession. This was an argument which our adventurer could not resist; he foresaw that he should be stripped of his acquisition, which he looked upon as the fair fruits of his valour and sagacity; and, moreover, be detained as an evidence against the robbers, to the manifest detriment of his affairs. Perhaps, too, he had motives of conscience, that dissuaded him from bearing witness against a set of people whose principles did not much differ from his own.
Influenced by such considerations, he yielded to the first importunity of the beldame, whom he dismissed at a very small distance from the village, after he had earnestly exhorted her to quit such an atrocious course of life, and atone for her past crimes, by sacrificing her associates to the demands of justice. She did not fail to vow a perfect reformation, and to prostrate herself before him for the favour
she had found; then she betook herself to her habitation, with full purpose of advising her fellow murderers to repair with all dispatch to the village, and impeach our hero, who, wisely distrusting her professions, stayed no longer in the place than to hire a guide for the next stage, which brought him to the city of Chalons-sur-Marne.
84.-SCENE FROM OLD FORTUNATUS.
DEKKER. THOMAS DEKKER, or DECKER, was one of the numerous band of dramatists that belong to the Shaksperian æra. The exact time of his birth and death is not known. Between Dekker and Ben Jonson there was a fearful feud, and they each satirized the other on the public stage. There is much vigour and dramatic force, with, occasionally, very beautiful poetry, in many of Dekker's plays. Like several of his contemporary dramatists he wrote many plays in union with other writers. The drama of Old Fortunatus,' is founded upon the story of Fortunatus's purse;—it is very extravagant in parts; but the opening scene, the greater part of which we subjoin, is a favourable specimen of the author's power :-)
Enter a Gardener, a Smith, a Monk, a Shepherd, all crowned ; a Nymph
with a Globe, another with Fortune's Wheel, then Fortune : after her four Kings with broken Crowns and Sceptres, chained in Silver Gyves, and led by her. The first four come out singing; the four Kings lie down at the feet of Fortune, who treads on their Bodies as she ascends her Chair.
And bend, and bend, and merrily,
All. Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily,
Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily.
All the Kings. Accursed queen of chance ! damn'd sorceress!
For. No more! curse on; your cries to me are music,
Circled about with wonder of all eyes,
Monk. True centre of this wide circumference,
The rest. Thy excellence our tongues shall only sound.
2nd King. Thou painted strumpet! that with honied smiles Opened'st the gates of heaven, and cried’st, come in ; Whose glories being seen, thou with one frown (In pride) lower than hell tumbled'st us down.
All Kings. Even for ever will we ban thy name.
[She comes down.
[Music awhile, and he waketh. Carry their sacred sounds, and make each sense To stand amazed at our bright eminence.