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“ I will -- not by physical force, but by persuasion. Friend, it is not for the church that I wish to save those things—the church can afford to buy other holy vessels; it is for your sake, who cannot purchase salvation from sin at any price.”
“My good man, do you think that it is the first time that L’Artifaille has committed sacrilege? Besides, as to my soul, that concerns my wife; she is pious enough for two, and will save mine with hers.”
“ Yes, friend, your wife is a good and a pious woman, but who would die of grief did she know the sin you are now about to commit. For her sake and your own, I offer you 1000 crowns; 1000 francs to be given now, 2000 after I have sold my mother's heritage to obtain them, if you will restore those objects to their places.”
“ Your mother is rich, then ?" observed the bandit.
“No; she is poor, and will be ruined; but she will give up her all gladly, if she knows it is to save a soul. Now, will you follow me to the presbytery ?"
The bandit did as was desired, casting, however, many furtive glances around him, lest he should be betrayed into an ambuscade. Arrived at the presbytery, he remained at the door while the abbé went in to fetch the money. He soon returned, carrying a weighty bag.
“ And now," said the bandit, “I give you six weeks to pay me the other two thousand ; and you may place them in the hands of my wife, but you must not tell her how I came by them.”
“ It shall be done; and now go, brother, and sin no more.” And the good priest turned away, and bending on his knees, he prayed humbly and earnestly for the conversion of the bandit. He had not finished his prayer before there came a knock at the door. "Come in,” said the abbé, without rising; and when he did so, L'Artifaille stood behind him.
Here,” he said, " I bring you back your money. I do not want it, or your other two thousand.” And so saying, he deposited the bag on the side-board.
“What do you want?” said the priest to the bandit, seeing hesitation depicted on his countenance.
have done is well: do not be ashamed to do better.”
“ You believe that, by the intercession of our Lady, a man, however guilty he may be, can be saved at the hour of death ?" observed L’Artifaille. “Give me then, in exchange for my three thousand francs, a relic or chaplet, such as I can carry about with me, and embrace at the last moment."
The holy man did not hesitate; he took the consecrated medal, which had wrought so much good to himself, from his neck, and he gave it to the bandit. The latter pressed it to his lips, and hurried away.
A year elapsed before the good abbé heard anything more of the bandit. At the expiration of that period, he left his diocese for a short time to visit his mother; who being unwell, he remained with her for six weeks. Upon his return, he heard that the celebrated robber had been captured near Orleans, and having been condemned to death, had been sent to Etampes, as the principal scene of his misdeeds, and that he had suffered the last penalty of the law the very morning of his return.
Without stopping even to shake the dust off his shoes, the good priest repaired at once to the house of the widow; who, he was informed, had
been incessant in her applications during his absence. He found her engaged in prayer,
& Åh! M. l'Abbé," she exclaimed, on seeing her visitor, “ you come too late; he died without confession. He would not confess to any other but you; and saying so, he embraced with fervour a medal which hung suspended to his neck.”
6 Was that all he said ?” inquired the abbé.
“ No; he told me that you would come to see me to-night, and he begged me as a last request- I dare scarcely tell you what strange favour! -actually that you should go where his body hangs, and repeat five Paters and five Aves. He said
would not refuse." “And he said right,” replied the holy man; “I shall go and do his last bidding. His soul may then be in repose.”
The widow embraced the hands of the priest, and wept with gratitude.
It was about half-past ten o'clock in the latter days of April; the sky was clear, and the air refreshing. The good priest followed the city walls till he came to the gate of Paris - the only one that remained open at that late hour. The point to which his steps were directed was an esplanade which domineered over the whole town, and upon which, to the present day, are to be seen the traces of the scaffold, upon which in former times three gibbets were erected. But we shall now proceed with our story in the words of the narrator—the worthy abbé himself.
My heart beat. The feeling came over me that I was going to see, not that which I came to see, but something unexpected. Still I kept ascending.
Arrived at a certain height, I began to perceive the summit of the gibbet, composed of three pillars and their horizontal beams of oak.
I distinguished at the same moment the body of the unfortunate Artifaille driven to and fro by the wind, like a moveable shade.
Suddenly I stopped; the gibbet was now exposed to me from its summit to its base, and I perceived a mass without form, that looked like an animal on four legs, and that moved about. I stopped, and hid myself behind a rock. The animal was larger than a dog and inore massive than a wolf.
Suddenly it raised itself upon its hind legs, and I discovered that the animal was neither more nor less than that which Plato designated as an animal with two feet and without feathers: that is to say, a man.
What could a man be doing under the gibbet at such an hour, unless he came with a religious heart, to pray-or with an irreligious heart, to commit some sacrilege?
Under any circumstance I determined to keep aloof and to watch. At the same moment the moon came forth from behind a cloud, and shone brightly upon the gibbet. I could now distinguish a man distinctly, and see every move. ment that he made. The man picked up a ladder from the ground, and placed it against the upright that was nearest to the swinging body. He then mounted the ladder. The next moment he formed with the hanging body a strange group, in which the living and the dead appeared to be confounded in a mutual embrace.
Suddenly a fearful shriek resounded through the air. I saw the two bodies moving as if in conflict. I heard cries of help shouted by a voice which seemed to be strangling; and at the same moment one of the bodies detached itself from the gibbet, whilst the other remained suspended by the cord, beating with its arms and legs.
It was impossible that I should comprehend what was really taking place under the infamous machine; but certainly-work of man or work of the devil ---something extraordinary had taken place-something that called for help, that claimed assistance.
I accordingly hastened forward. At the sight of a new comer, the struggles of the hanging man increased; whilst beneath him lay the body which had fallen from the gibbet, motionless and lifeless.
I ran first to the living. I hastily ascended the steps of the ladder, and, cutting
the cord with a knife, the hanging man fell to the ground, and I jumped down to him from the ladder. He was rolling on the ground in fearful convulsions, whilst the other body continued to be perfectly motionless.
I saw that the running-knot was still strangling the poor devil, so I knelt down, and with great difficulty loosened it. Whilst so doing I saw the man's face, and recognised that that man was no other than the executioner.
His eyes were starting out of their orbits; his face was blue, his jaw distorted. I placed him against a stone: gradually the fresh air revived him; he breathed more freely, and finished by looking at me. His surprise was not much less than mine had been.
“ Monsieur l'Abbé,” he said, hesitatingly, and with an effort,“ is it you?” “ Yes, it is I. What were you doing here?"
He appeared to take some time to collect his ideas; and then, turning round, he looked at the corpse lying close by.
“Oh, Monsieur l'Abbé!” he then exclaimed; “let us hasten from this place. In the name of Heaven let us go!"
“Why so? I have promised to say five Paters and five Aves for the soul of the gibbetted man.”
“For his soul, Monsieur l'Abbé! He is Satan personified. Did you not see him hang me?"
“ Hang 'you! why, I thought it was you who had rendered him that particular service."
“ Truly so; and I thought that I had hung him as well as a man could be hung; but it appears that I was deceived. I wonder, when he made me take his place, he did not take advantage of the circumstance to run away.”
“Run away! why, he is dead and motionless. There is some mystery beneath this. Tell me what brought you here.”
“Well, I suppose I must tell you, in confession or otherwise. The miscreant, then, do you know, Monsieur l'Abbé, would not confess, even at his last moments. He always asked for you on his way here, and again at the gibbet.
Is the abbé not come?' he repeated at each step. "No,' I answered. There is nothing so annoying as to be perpetually asked the same question. I put the cord round his neck, and bade him mount the ladder. 'Stop a moment,' he said, when he had got up about one-third, • let me see if the abbé is not arrived. "You may look,'I answered; and I thought I had nothing to do but to push him off, but he anticipated me. 'One moment more,' he said; “I wish to kiss a medal of our Lady, which is suspended to my neck.' 'Well, as to that,' I said, 'it is but fair-kiss away.' And my last wish,' he added, “is to be buried with this medal.' •Hum!' says I, all that is upon a man that is hung belongs to his executioner.' • That does not concern me,' he insisted; ‘I will be buried with this medal.' 'You will, will you?' said I, losing all patience; you may go to the devil.' And so saying, I threw him off, and jumping at the same moment upon his shoulders. Our Lady have pity!' he said; but the cord strangled the man and the sentence at the same time.”
Well, but all this does not explain to me why you came here this night.” " That is because that is the most difficult part of the story to relate.” “Well, I will save you the trouble; you came to take the medal.”
“ You are right. The devil tempted me. I said to myself, “ You will? That is all very good; but when night is come we will see.' So when night came I returned to the gibbet. I had left my ladder in the neighbourhood, and knew where to find it. After carefully looking around, and seeing that nobody was watching me, I placed my ladder against the nearest upright, I got up, and drew the corpse towards me.'
“ Well! and what then?"
“Why, I had got hold of the medal, and had just succeeded in drawing it off the neck, when, believe me if you will, the corpse seized me bodily, and withdrawing its head from the running knot, passed my head in instead of his, and just threw me off as I had thrown him off. That is exactly what happened.”
“ Impossible! you must be mistaken.”
“Did you find me hanging, or not? Well, I promise you that I did not hang niyself.”
« And the medal? Where is it?" I inquired.
“You must search for it on the ground. When I felt that I was hanging, I was glad enough to get rid of it.”
I accordingly sought for the medal, and was not long in discovering it. Having picked it up, I once more fastened it to the neck of the ex-bandit. At the moment that it came in contact with his chest, a shudder pervaded his whole frame, and he uttered a sharp and painful cry. The executioner made a spring on one side, and trembled like a leaf. I, however, insisted upon his replacing the corpse in its former situation. He at first refused, but by pointing out to him that the bad demon had left the corpse, I ultimately prevailed, and once more the body swung in the void, motionless and inanimate. I then went down on my knees and repeated the prayers which the sufferer had demanded of me. As I finished, midnight struck at Nôtre Dame.
"Come,” I said to the executioner, “we have nothing more to do here."
We quitted the Esplanade together, my companion turning round every ten paces to see if the body was really there.
The next morning, when I woke up, I was told that the bandit's wife was waiting for me below.
Her face wore an expression of satisfaction, and of a mind relieved.
“M. l'Abbé,” she said to me, “I have come to thank you: my husband appeared to me last night, just as it struck twelve by Nôtre Dame, and said to me, Go to-morrow morning to the Abbé's, and tell him that, thanks to him and to our Lady, I am saved!" »
In our times, when the marvellous and the supernatural are fast disappearing ; when the superstitions which have chequered the horizon of the human mind in different ages have been found to have foreshadowed the revelation of important scientific truths ; when the law of sensorial illusions has explained away the mysteries of second sight, ghosts, and dreams; when the phenomena of mesmerism, including mesmeric coma, sleep-talking, convulsions and insensibility, have explained satisfactorily the whole history of witchcraft and imputed demoniacal possession--we must not despair of some explanation being offered, even of the above strange and half ludicrous incident. There may have been a magnetic power in the medal which plays so important a part in the good abbé's story; but allowing a magnetic or mesmeric shock to have thrown the corpse out of the halter, why the executioner should have put his head into it, unless the same jerk that loosened the one threw it over the other, or that he was in such a dreadful state of trepidation as not to know what he was doing, would be difficult to say.
There are still those who believe that there is a class of superstitions which are purely imaginary, and the elements of which escape any mode of palpable demonstration. Such more particularly is the vampire tradition, which has been generally assumed to be a pure fiction. A wellknown medical philosopher, Dr. Herbert Mayo, has, however, in a work recently published at Frankfort, and entitled “ Letters on the Truths contained in Popular Superstitions," undertaken to vindicate the possible authenticity of even this most incredible and horrible of all traditions. Dr. Mayo does not actually go so far as to believe in vampires ; but believing, as we do, that there is a certain amount of truth in
delusion—that as there can be no effect in the physical world without some fixed cause, so no belief will attain popularity without some cause for its prevalence, -he supposes that the bodies found in the so-called vampire state, instead of being in a new or mystical condition, were simply alive in the common way, or had been so some time subsequent to their interment; that, in short, they were the bodies of persons who had been buried alive, and whose life, where it yet lingered, was finally extinguished through the ignorance and barbarity of those who disinterred them.
Having premised so much, we must leave it to the reader to determine
how far in the following story the possible solution offered by the medical philosopher can be made to explain away the difficulties of the case. The story is told by Dumas, as related to him by a Polish lady, a native of Sandomir.
The year 1825 [says the narrator], witnessed one of those terrible struggles between Russia and Poland in which one would expect all the blood of a nation would be exhausted, as we sometimes see in the case of a family.
My father and my two brothers had taken arms against the new Tsar, and had gone to fight under the flag of Polish independence, always struck down, yet always raised up again.
One day I learnt that my youngest brother was slain; the next day I was informed that my elder brother was mortally wounded. At length, after a day, during the whole of which I had been listening in horror to the sound of guns and musketry, which kept coming nearer and nearer, I saw my father arrive with 100 horsemen, all that remained of 3000 men whom he had led to battle!
He came to shut himself up in our castle, determined to be buried under its ruins.
My father, who feared nothing for himself, trembled for me. Choosing ten from among the hundred men that remained to him, and collecting all the gold and jewellery that was at hand, he remembered that at the time of the second departition of Poland, my mother had found a safe asylum in the monastery of Sahasten, situate in the heart of the Carpathians; and he ordered the house steward to conduct me, under the appointed guard, to that monastery, which having preserved the mother, might also shelter the daughter.
I hastened to put on the dress of an Amazon, in which I was accustomed to accompany my brothers upon hunting expeditions. My horse was brought out; my father gave me his own pistols. Our last interview was not a long one: the Russians were approaching.
All night long, and during the whole of the next day, we kept along the banks of a tributary to the Vistula, and got twenty leagues from my ancestral home. This took us beyond the reach of the enemy. By the falling rays of the sun we had seen the snowy summits of the Carpathians. By the end of the next day we reached the outlying ranges of this great mountain barrier, and the day following entered into its rugged passes.
The scenery was magnificent--rocks, and wood, and water, in every kind of wild contrast. Ten days passed by without accident. We could already perceive the summit of Mount Pion, which lifts its head above all the surrounding family of giants, and on whose southern slope is the monastery of Sahasten. Three days more, and we were there. It was near the end of July: the day had been extremely hot, and we had just begun to enjoy the cool breeze of evening, when the sound of a gun was suddenly heard, and our guide, who was a little in advance, fell dead. At the same moment a loud shout was heard, and about thirty bandits showed themselves from among the rocks. Every one seized his arms; they were old soldiers that accompanied me, and they soon returned the fire of the brigands, while I set the example of endeavouring to force our way to a plain beyond. But this movement had been anticipated. While the bandits kept up annoying us on our flank, our further progress was soon disputed in front by a young man, who awaited us at the head of a dozen mounted followers. All these men were covered with sheep-skins, and wore great round hats like Hungarians. As to their leader, he was scarcely twenty-two years of age, of a pallid complexion, with large black eyes, and his hair fell in locks on his shoulders. He wore a Moldavian habit trimmed with fur, and fastened to the waist by a sash of silk and gold. A curved sabre glittered in his hand, and four pistols sparkled in his waistband. The bandits on foot kept up a continual fire with their long Turkish muskets; and as, the moment they had discharged their pieces, they threw themselves on the ground, they avoided the shots that were given in return.
One after the other, two-thirds of my defenders had fallen. Four that remained grouped themselves around me, resolved to die rather than forsake me. The young chief pointed expressively with his sabre to this little group, and in a moment a dozen muskets were directed towards us. At that instant another young man rushed down from among the rocks, shouting out in a loud tone of voice “ Enough!” This arrival of unlooked-for help had more effect upon me than the combat. I fainted away.