« PreviousContinue »
few days, and died in great misery:- a fresh and sad instance that people who abuse the grace of God, and resist his Spirit, find it difficult to repent when they will.
Except the minister and Jack Weston, no one came to see poor Giles, besides Tommy Price, who had been so sadly wronged by him. Tom often brought him his own rice-milk or apple-dumpling: and Giles, ignorant and depraved as he was, often cried out, “ That he thought now there must be some truth in religion, since it taught even a boy to deny himself, and to forgive an injury." Mr. Wilson, the next Sunday, made a moving discourse on the danger of what are called petty offences. This, together with the awful death of Giles, produced such an effect, that no poacher has been able to show his head in that parish ever since.
TAWNY RACHEL; OR THE FORTUNE-TELLER:
WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF DREAMS, OMENS, AND CONJURORS.
Tawny RACHEL was the wife of poaching Giles. There seemed to be a conspiracy in Giles's whole family to maintain themselves by tricks and pilfering. Regular labour and honest industry did not suit their idle habits. They had a sort of genius at finding out every unlawful means to support a vagabond life. Rachel travelled the country with a basket on her arm. She pretended to get her bread by selling laces, cabbagenets, ballads, and history books, and used to buy old rags and rabbit skins. Many honest people trade in these things; and I am sure I do not mean to say a word against honest people, let them trade in what they will. But Rachel only made this traffic a pretence for getting admittance into farmers' kitchens, in order to tell fortunes.
She was continually practising on the credulity of silly girls; and took advantage of their ignorance, to cheat and deceive them. Many an innocent servant has she caused to be suspected of a robbery, while she herself, perhaps, was in league with the thief. Many a harmless maid has she brought to ruin by first contriving plots and events herself, and then pretending to foretell them. She had not, to be sure, the
of really foretelling things, because she had no power of seeing into futurity: but she had the art sometimes to bring them about according as she bad foretold them. So she got that credit for her wisdom which really belonged to her wickedness.
Rachel was also a famous interpreter of dreams, and could distinguish exactly between the fate of any two persons who happened to have a mole on the right or the left cheek. She had a cunning way of getting herself off when any of her prophecies failed. When she explained a dream according to the natural appearance of things, and it did not come to pass, then she would get out of that scrape by saying, that this sort of dreams went by contraries. Now, of two very opposite things the chance always is, that one of them may turn out to be true; so in either case she kept up the cheat.
Rachel, in one of her rambles, stopped at the house of Farmer Jenkins. She contrived to call when she knew the master of the house was from
home, which indeed was her usual way. She knocked at the door; the maids being in the field hay-making, Mrs. Jenkins went to open it herself. Rachel asked her if she would please to let her light her pipe ? This was a common pretence, when she could find no other way of getting into a house. While she was filling her pipe, she looked at Mrs. Jenkins, and said, she could tell her some good fortune. The farmer's wife, who was a very inoffensive, but a weak and superstitious woman, was curious to know what she meant. Rachel then looked about very carefully, and, shutting the door with a mysterious air, asked her if she was sure nobody would hear them. This appearance of mystery was at once delightful and terrifying to Mrs. Jenkins, who, with trembling agitation, bade the cunning woman speak out.
Then,” said Rachel in a solemn whisper, " there is, to my certain knowledge, a pot of money hid under one of the stones in your cellar." “ Indeed !” said Mrs. Jenkins. “It is impossible, for, now I think of it, I dreamt last night I was in prison for debt.” “ Did you really ?"
” said Rachel, “ that is quite surprising. Did you dream this before twelve o'clock or after ?" “ Oh! it was this morning, just before I awoke.” “ Then I am sure it is true, for morning dreams always go by contraries,” cried Rachel.“ How lucky it was you dreamt it so later” Mrs. Jenkins could hardly contain her joy, and asked how the money was to be come at. “ There is but one way,” said Rachel ; “ I must go into the cellar. I know by my art under which stone it lies, but I must not tell.” Then they both went down into the cellar, but Rachel refused to point at the stone unless Mrs. Jenkins would put five pieces of gold into a basin, and do as she directed. The simple woman, instead of turning her out of doors for a cheat, did as she was bid. She put the guineas into a basin,
a which she gave into Rachel's hand. Rachel strewed some white powder over the gold, muttered some barbarous words, and pretended to perform the black art. She then told Mrs. Jenkins to put the basin quietly down within the cellar; telling her, that if she offered to look into it, or even to speak a word, the charm would be broken. She also directed her to lock the cellar door, and on no pretence to open it in less than forty-eight hours. “ If,” added she, “ you closely follow these directions, then, by the power
“ of my art, you will find the basin conveyed to the very stone under which the money lies hid; and a fine treasure it will be!" Mrs. Jenkins, who firmly believed every word the woman said, did exactly as she was told, and Rachel took her leave with a handsome reward.
When Farmer Jenkins came home, he desired his wife to draw him a cup of cider; this she put off doing so long, that he began to be displeased. At last she begged he would be so good to drink a little beer instead. He insisted on knowing the reason, and when at last he grew angry, she told him all that had passed ; and owned, that as the pot of gold happened to be in the cider cellar, she did not dare open the door, as she was sure it would break the charm. “And it would be a pity, you know,” said she, “ to lose a good fortune for the sake of a draught of cider.” The farmer, who was not so easily imposed upon, suspected a trick. He demanded the key, and went and opened the cellar door ; there he found the basin, and in it five round pieces of tin covered with powder. Mrs. Jenkins burst out a-crying ; but the farmer thought of nothing but of getting a warrant
to apprehend the cunning woman! Indeed, she well proved her claim to that name, when she insisted that the cellar door might be kept locked till she had time to get out of the reach of all pursuit.
Poor Sally Evans! I am sure she rued the day that ever she listened to a fortune-teller! Sally was as harmless a girl as ever churned a pound of butter ; but Sally was credulous, ignorant, and superstitious. She delighted in dream-books, and had consulted all the cunning women in the country, to tell her whether the two moles on her cheek denoted that she was to have two husbands, or only two children. If she picked up an old horseshoe going to church, she was sure that would be a lucky week. She never made a black-pudding without borrowing one of the parson's old wigs to hang in the chimney, firmly believing there were no other means to preserve them from bursting. She would never go to bed on Midsummer eve without sticking up in her room the well-known plant called Midsummer-men, as the bending of the leaves to the right or to the left would not fail to tell her whether Jacob, of whom we shall speak presently, was true or false. She would rather go five miles about than pass near a church-yard at night. Every seventh year she would not eat beans, because they grew downward in the pod, instead of upward ; and, though a very neat girl
, she would rather have gone with her gown open, than have taken a pin from an old woman, for fear of being bewitched. Poor Sally had so many unlucky days in her calendar, that a large portion of her time became of little use, because on these days she did not dare set about any new work. And she would have refused the best offer in the country if made to her on a Friday, which she thought so unlucky a day, that she often said what a pity it was that there were any Friday in the week! Sally had twenty pounds left her by her grandmother. She had long been courted by Jacob, a sober lad, with whom she lived fellowservant at a creditable farmer's. Honest Jacob, like his namesake of old, thought it little to wait seven years to get this damsel to wife, because of the love he bore her, for Sally had promised to marry liim when he could match her twenty pounds with another of his own.
Now there was one Robert, a rambling, idle young gardener, who, instead of sitting down steadily in one place, used to roam about the country, and do odd jobs where he could get them. No one understood anything about him, except that he was a down-looking fellow, who came nobody knew whence, and got his bread nobody knew how, and never had a penny in his pocket. Robert, who was now in the neighbourhood, happened to hear of Sally Evans and her twenty pounds. He immediately conceived a longing desire for the latter. So he went to his old friend Rachel, the fortune-teller, told her all he had heard of Sally, and promised, if she could bring about a marriage between them, she should go sliares in
Rachel undertook the business. She set off to the farm-house, and fell to singing one of her most enticing songs just under the dairy window. Sally was so struck with the pretty tunc, which was unhappily used, as is too often the case, to set off some very loose words, that she jumped up, dropped the skimming-dish into the cream, and ran out to buy the song. While she stooped down to rummage the basket for those songs that had the most tragical pictures, (for Sally had a tender heart, and delighted in
whatever was mournful) Rachel looked stedfastly in her face, and told her she knew by her art that she was born to good fortune, but advised her not to throw herself away. "These two moles on your cheek,” added she, “show you are in some danger.” “Do they denote husbands or children?” cried Sally, starting up, and letting fall the song of the Children in the Wood. “Husbands," muttered Rachel. “Alas! poor Jacob !” said Sally, mournfully," then he will die first, won't he?" "Mum for that," quoth the fortune-teller, “I will say no more.” Sally was impatient; but the more curiosity she discovered, the more mystery Rachel affected. At last she said, “ If you will cross my hand with a piece of silver, I will tell your fortune. By the power of my art, I can do this tlıree ways; first by cards, next by the lines of your hand, or by turning a cup of teagrounds; which will you have ?” “O, all! all !" cried Sally, looking up with reverence to this sun-burnt oracle of wisdom, who was possessed of no less than three different ways of diving into the secrets of futurity. Alas!
persons of better sense than Sally liave been so taken in ; the more is the pity! The poor girl said, she would run up-stairs to her little box, where she kept her money tied up in a bit of an old glove, and would bring down a bright queen Anne's sixpence very crooked. “I am sure, added she, “it is a lucky one, for it cured me of a very bad spring, by only laying it nine nights under my pillow without speaking a word. But then you must know what gave the virtue to this sixpence was, that it had belonged to three young men of the name of John ; I am sure I had work enough to get it. But true it is, it certainly cured me. It must be the sixpence you know, for I am sure I did nothing else for my ague, except indeed taking some bitter stuff every three hours, which the doctor called bark. To be sure I lost my ague soon after I took it, but I am certain it was owing to the crooked sixpence, and not to the bark. And so, good woman, you may come in if you will, for there is not a soul in the house but me." This was the very thing Rachel wanted to know, and very glad she was to learn it.
While Sally was above-stairs untying her glove, Rachel slipped into the parlour, took a small silver cup from the beaufet, and clapped it into her pocket. Sally ran down, lamenting that she had lost her sixpence, which she verily believed was owing to her having put it into a left glove, instead of a right one. Rachel comforted her by saying, that if she gave her two plain ones instead, the charm would work just as well. Simple Sally thought herself happy to be let off so easily, never calculating that a smooth shilling was worth two crooked sixpences. But this skill was a part of the black art in which Rachel excelled. She took the money, and began to examine the lines of Sally's left hand. She bit her withered lip, shook her head, and bade her poor dupe beware of a young man, who had black hair. No, indeed,” cried Sally, all in a fright, “ you mean black eyes, for our Jacob has got brown hair, 'tis liis eyes that are black.” “ That is the very thing I was going to say,” muttered Rachel ; “I meant eyes though I said hair, for I know his hair is as brown as'a chesnut, and his eyes as black as a sloe.” “So they are, sure enough,” cried Sally; “how in the world could you know that ?” forgetting that she herself had just told her so. And it is thus that these hags pick out of the credulous all which they afterwards pretend to reveal to them.
“O, I know a.
pretty deal more than that,” said Rachel, “but you must be aware of this
Why so ?” cried Sally with great quickness. “ Becauso," answered Rachel, “ you are fated to marry a man worth a hundred of him, who has blue eyes, light bair, and a stoop in the shoulders.” “No, indeed, but I can't," said Sally ; “I have promised Jacob, and Jacob I will marry." “ You cannot, child," returned Rachel in a solemn tone; “it is out of your power, you are fated to marry the grey eyes and light hair.” “Nay, indeed,” said Sally, sighing deeply, “ if I am fated I must ; I know there's no resisting one's fate.' This is a common cant with poor deluded girls, who are not aware that they themselves make their fate by their folly, and then complain there is no resisting it. “What can I do?"
“I will tell you that too,” said Rachel. “ You must take a walk next Sunday afternoon to the church.yard, and the first man you meet in a blue coat, with a large posy of pinks and southernwood in his bosom, sitting on the church-yard wall, about seven o'clock, he will be the man." “ Provided,” said Sally, much disturbed, “ that he has grey eyes, and stoops."
Oh, to be sure,” said Rachel, “ otherwise it is not the right man." “But if I should mistake,” said Sally, " for two men may happen to have a coat and eyes of the same colour ?” “To prevent that,” replied Rachel, “if it is the right man, the two first letters of his name will be R. P. This man has got money beyond sca.” "Oh, I do not value his money,” said Sally, with tears in her eyes, “ for I love Jacob better than house or land; but if I am fated to marry another, I can't help it; you know there is no struggling against my fate.”
Poor Sally thought of nothing and dreamt of nothing all the week, but the blue coat and the grey eyes.
She made a hundred blunders at her work. She put her rennet into the butter-pan, and her skimming-dish into the cheese-tub. She gave the curd to the hogs, and put the whey into the vats. She put her little knife out of the pocket, for fear it should cut love; and would not stay in the kitchen if there was not an even number of people, lest it should break the charm. She grew cold and mysterious in her behaviour to faithful Jacob, whom she truly loved. But the more she thought of the fortune-teller, the more she was convinced that brown hair and black eyes were not what she was fated to marry, and therefore, though she trembled to think it, Jacob could not be the
On Sunday she was too uneasy to go to church ; for poor Sally had never been taught that her being uneasy was only a fresh reason why she ought to go thither. She spent the whole afternoon in her little garret, dressing in all her best. First she put on her red ribbon, which she had bought at last Lammas fair: then she recollected that red was an unlucky colour, and changed it for a blue ribbon, tied in a true-lover's knot ; but suddenly calling to mind that poor Jacob had bought this knot for her of a pedlar at the door, and that she had promised to wear it for his sake, her heart smote her, and she laid it by, sighing to think she was not fated to marry the man who had given it to her. When she had looked at herself twenty times in the glass, (for one vain action always brings on another,) she set off, trembling and shaking every step she went. She walked eagerly towards the church-yard, not daring to look to the right or left, for fear she should spy Jacob, who would have offered to