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brim, and a little black cloak, whích, short as he was, scarcely reached below his knees. He sought no intimacy or acquaintance with any one; appeared to take no interest in the pleasures or the little broils of the village; nor ever talked, except sometimes to himself in an outlandish tongue.
He commonly carried a large book, covered with sheepskin, under his arm; appeared always to be lost in meditation; and was often met by the peasantry, sometimes watching the dawn of day, sometimes, at ņoon, seated under a tree, poring over his volume, and sometimes, at evening, gazing, with a look of sober tranquillity, at the sun, as it gradually sunk below the horizon.
The good people of the vicinity beheld something prodigiously singular in all this. A profound mystery seemed to hang about the stranger, which, with all their sagacity, they could not penetrate; and, in the excess of worldly charity, they pronounced it a sure sign “that he was no better than he should be:"-a phrase innocent enough in itself, but which, as applied in common, signifies nearly every thing that is bad.
The young people thought him a gloomy mis'anthrope, because he never joined in their sports :—the old men thought still more hardly of him, because he followed no trade, nor ever seemed ambitious of earning a farthing and, as to the old gossips, baffled by the inflexible taciturnity of the stranger, they unanimously decreed, that a man, who could not, or would not talk, was no better than a dumb beast.
The little man in black, careless of their opinions, seemed resolved to maintain the liberty of keeping his own secret; and the consequence was, that, in a little while, the whole village was in an uproar : for, in little communities of this description, the members have always the privilege of being thoroughly versed, and even of meddling, in all the affairs of each other.
A confidential conference was held, one Sunday morning, after sermon, at the door of the village church, and the character of the unknown fully investigated. The schoolmaster gave, as his opinion, that he was the wandering Jew :-the sexton was certain that he must be a free-mason, from his silence :--a third maintained, with great obstinacy, that he was a High German doctor, and that the book, which he carried about with him, contained the secrets of the black art:--but the most prevailing opinion seemed to be, that he was a witch,-a race of beings at that time abounding in those parts,--and a sagacious old mātron proposed to ascertain the fact, by sousing him into a kettle of hot water.
Suspicion, when once afloat, goes with wind and tide, and soon becomes certainty. Many a stormy night was the little man in black seen, by the flashes of lightning, frisking and curvet'ing in the air upon a broomstick; and it was always observable that, at those times, the storm did more mischief than at any other. The old lady, in particular, who suggested the humane ordeal of the boiling kettle, lost, on one of these occasions, a fine brindle cow; which accident was entirely ascribed to the vengeance of the little man in black.
If ever a mischievous hireling rode his master's favourite horse to a distant frolic, and the animal was observed to be lame and jaded in the morning, the little man in black was sure to be at the bottom of the affair: nor could a high wind howl through the village at night, but the old women shrugged up their shoulders, and observed, that the little man in black was in his tantrums.
In short, he became the bugbear of every house; and was as effectual in frightening little children into obedience and hysterics as the redoubtable Raw-head-and-bloody-bones himself; nor could a house-wife* of the village sleep in peace, except under the guardianship of a horse-shoe nailed to the door.
The object of these direful suspicions remained, for some time, totally ignorant of the wonderful quandary he had occasioned: but he was soon doomed to feel its effects. An individual, who is once so unfortunate as to incur the odium of a village, is, in a great measure, outlawed and proscribed, and becomes a mark for injury and insult; particularly if he has not the power, or the disposition, to recriminate. The little venomous passions, which, in the great world, are dissipated and weakened by being widely diffused, act, in the narrow limits of a country town, with collected vigour, and become rancorous, in proportion as they are confined in their sphere of action.
The little man in black experienced the truth of this. Every mischievous urchin, returning from school, had full liberty to break his windows : and this was considered as a most daring exploit'; for, in such awe did they stand of him, that the most adventurous school-boy was never seen to approach his threshold; and, at night, would prefer going round by the by-roads, where a traveller had been murdered by the Indians, rather than pass by the door of his forlorn Labitation.
* Pron. huz'-wift.
The only living creature, that seemed to have any care or affection for this deserted being, was an old turnspit,—the companion of his lonely mansion, and his solitary wanderings,--the sharer of his scanty meal, and, -sorry am I to say it,--the sharer of his persecutions. The turnspit, like his master, was peaceable and inoffensive,-never known to bark at a horse, to growl at a traveller, or to quarrel with the dogs of the neighbourhood.
He foilowed close at his master's heels, when he went out, and, when he returned, stretched himself in the sunbeams, at the door; demeaning himself, in all things, like a civil and well disposed turnspit. But, notwithstanding his ex'emplary deportment, he fell, likewise, under the ill report of the village, as being the familiar* of the little man in black, and the evil spirit that presided at his incantations. The old hovel was considered as the scene of their unhallowed rites, and its harmless tenants regarded with a detestations which their inoffensive conduct never merited..
Though pelted and jeered at by the brats of the village, and frequently abused by their parents, the little man in black never turned to rebuke them; and his faithful dog, when wantonly assaulted, looked up wistfully in his master's face, and there learned a lesson of patience and forbearance.
The same, concluded.
The movements of this inscrutable being had long been the subject of speculation at Cockloft Hall; for its inmates were full as much given to wondering as their descendants. The patience with which he bore his persecutions, particularly surprised them; for patience is a virtue but little known in the Çockloft family.
My grandmother, who, it appears, was rather superstitious, saw in this humility nothing but the gloomy sullenness of a wizard, who restrained himself for the present, in hopes of midnight vengeance. The parson of the village, who was a man of some reading, pronounced it the stubborn insensibility of a stoic philosopher. My grandfather, who, worthy soul, seldom wandered abroad in search of conclusions, took data from his own excellent heart, and regarded it as the humble forgiveness of a Christian.
* A demon, supposed to attend at call :-Johnson. Pron. det-tes-ta'-shun.
But, however different were their opinions as to the character of the stranger, they agreed in one particular, namely, in never intruding upon his solitude; and my grandmother, who was, at that time, nursing my mother, never left the room without wisely putting the large family Bible into the cradle,-a sure talisman, in her opinion, against witchcraft and nec'romancy.
One stormy winter night, when a bleak north-east wind moaned about the cottages, and roared around the village steeple, my grandfather was returning from club, preceded by a seryant with a lantern. Just as he arrived opposite the desolate abode of the little man in black, he was arrested by the piteous howling of a dog, which, heard in the pauses of the storm, was exquisitely mournful; and he fancied, now and then, that he caught the low and broken groans of some one in distress.
He stopped for some minutes, hesitating between the benevolence of his heart, and a sensation of genuine delicacy, which, in spite of his eccentricity, he fully possessed, and which forbade* him to pry into the concerns of his neighbours. Perhaps, too, this hesitation might have been strengthened by a little taint of superstition; for, surely, if the unknown had been addicted to witchcraft, this was a most propitious night for his vaga'ries.
At length the old gentleman's philanthropy predominated : he approached the hovel, and, pushing open the door,--for poverty has no occasion for locks and keys, beheld, by the light of the lantern, a scene that smote his generous heart to the core.
On a miserable bed, with a pallid and emaciated visage, and hollow eyes,—in a room destitute of every convenience, without fire to warm, or friend to console him,-lay this helpless mortal, who had been so long the terror and wonder of the village. His dog was crouching on the scanty eoverlet, and shivering with cold. My grandfather stepped softly and hesitatingly to the bed-side, and accosted the forlorn sufferer in his usual accents of kindness.
* Pron. forbad.
The little man in black seemed recalled, by the tones of compassion, from the lethargy into which he had fallen; for, though his heart was almost frozen, there was yet one chord that answered to the call of the good old man who bent over him : the tones of sympathy, so novel to his ear, called back his wandering senses, and acted like a restorative to his solitary feelings.
He raised his eyes, but they were vacant and haggard :he put forth his hand, but it was cold :-he essayed to speak, but the sound died away in his throat :-he pointed to his mouth, with an expression of dreadful meaning, and, sad to relate ! my grandfather understood, that the harmless stranger, deserted by society, was perishing with hunger.With the quick impulse of humanity, he despatched the servant to the Hall for refreshment. A little warm pourishment renovated him for a short time, but not long :-it was evident that his pilgrimage was drawing to a close, and he was about entering that peaceful asylum, where “ the wicked cease from troubling."
His tale of misery was short, and quickly told. Infirmities had stolen upon him, heightened by the rigours of the season :--he had taken to his bed, without strength to rise and ask for assistance :- “And if I had,” said he, in a tone of bitter despondency, “ to whom should I have applied ? I have no friend, that I know of, in the world! The villagers, avoid me as something loathsome and dangerous; and here, in the midst of Christians, should I have perished without a fellow being to soothe the last moments of existence, and close my dying eyes, had not the howlings of my faithful dog excited your attention.”
He seemed deeply sensible of the kindness of my grandfather; and, at one time, as he looked up into his old benefactor's face, a solitary tear was observed to steal adown the parched furrows of his cheek. Poor outcast! It was the last tear he shed ;-but, I warrant, it was not the first, by millions.
My grandfather watched him all night. Towards morning he gradually declined; and, as the rising sun gleamed through the window, he begged to be raised in his bed, that he might look at it for the last time. He contem'plated it a moment with a kind of religious enthusiasm, and his lips moved as if engaged in prayer. The strange conjectures concerning him rushed on my grandfather's mind :—“He is an idolater," thought he, "and is worshipping the sun."