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tide, and soon becomes certainty. Many a stormy night was the little man in black seen by the flashes of lightning, frisking, and curvetting in the air upon a broomstick; and it was always observed, 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, “ 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 housewife 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 schoolboy was ne
ver seen to approach his threshold, and at night would prefer going round by the cross-roads, where a traveller had been murdered by the Indians, rather than pass by the door of his forlorn habitation.
The only living creature that seemed to have any care or affection for this deserted being was an old turnspit,—the companion of this lonely mansion and his solitary wanderings;—the sharer of his scanty meals, 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 followed close by his master's heels when he went out, and when he returned stretched himself in the sunbeams at the dojr; demeaning himself in all things like a civil and well
posed turnspit. But notwithstanding his exemplary 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 detestation 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 movements of this inscrutable being had long been the subject of speculation at Cockloft-hall, for its inmates were full as much given to wandering as their descendants. The patience with which he bore his persecutions particularly surprised them-for patience is a virtue but little known in the Cockloft 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 datum from his own excellent heart, and regarded it as the humble forgiveness of a Christian. 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 in the cradle—a sure talisman, in her opinion, against witchcraft and necromancy.
One stormy windy night, when a bleak north-east wind moaned about the cottages, and howled around the village steeple, my grandfather was returning from club preceded by a servant 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 a 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 fülly 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; or surely, if the unknown had been addicted to witchcraft, this was a most propitious night for his vagaries. 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
On a miserable bed, with 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 coverlet, and shivering with cold. My grandfather stepped softly and hesitatingly to the bedside, and accosted the forlorn sufferer in his usual accents of kindness. 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 nourishment renovated him for a short time, but not long: it was evident 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 sooth 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 by him all night. Towards morning he gradually declined; and as the rising sun gleamed through the windows, he begged to be raised in his bed, that he might look at it for the last time. He contemplated it for a moment with a kind of religious enthusiasm, and his lips moved as if engaged in prayer. The strange conjecture concerning him rushed on my grandfather's mind. "He is an idolater!” thought he, “and is worshipping the sun!” He listened a moment, and blushed at his own uncharitable suspicion; he was only engaged in the pious devotions of a Christian. His simple orison being finished, the little man in black withdrew his eyes from the east, and taking my grandfather's hand in one of his, and making a motion with the other towards the sun“I love to contemplate it," said he; “ 'tis an emblem of the universal benevolence of a true Christian;and it is the most glorious work of him who is philanthropy itself!” My grandfather blushed still deeper at his ungenerous surmises; he had pitied the stranger at first, but now he revered him:-he turned once more to regard him, but his countenance had undergone a change; the holy enthusiasm that had lighted up each feature had given place to an expression of mysterious import:--a gleam of grandeur seemed to steal across his Gothic visage, and he appeared full of some mighty secret which he hesitated to impart. He raised the tattered nightcap that had sunk almost over his eyes, and waving his withered hand with a slow and feeble expression of dignity—“ In me,” said he, with a laconic solemnity,—“ In me you behold the last descendant of the renowned Linkum Fidelius!” My grandfather gazed at him with reverence; for though he had never heard of the illustrious personage thus pompously announced, yet there was a certain black-letter dignity in the name that peculiarly struck his fancy and commanded his respect.