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« Don't say we," said Parley; "pray come alone; I would not see the rest of the gang for the world; but I think there can be no great harm in talking to you through the bars, if you came alone; but I am determined not to let you in. Yet I can't say but I wish to know what you can tell me so much to my advantage ; indeed, if it is for my good, I ought to know it."
Flatterwell. (Going out, turns back.) Dear Mr. Parley, there is one thing I had forgotten. I cannot get over the hedge at night without assistance. You know there is a secret in the nature of that hedge; you in the house may get over to us in the wilderness of your own accord, but we cannot get to your side by our own strength. You must look about, to see where the hedge is thinnest, and then set to work to clear away here and there a little bough for me; it won't be missed; and if there is but the smallest hole made on your side, those on ours can get through; otherwise, we do but labor in vain. To this Parley made some objection, through the fear of being seen. Flatterwell replied, that the smallest hole from within would be sufficient, for he could then work his own way. “Well," said Parley, “I will consider of it. To be sure, I shall even then be equally safe in the castle, as I shall have all the bolts, bars, and locks, between us; so it will make but little difference.”
“ Certainly not,” said Flatterwell—who knew it would make all the difference in the world. So they parted, with mutual protestations of regard. Parley went home charmed with his new friend. His eyes were now clearly opened as to his master's prejudices against the robbers; and he was convinced there was more in the name than in the thing. “But,” said he, “though Mr. Flatterwell is certainly an agreeable companion, he may not be so safe an inmate. There can, however, be no harm in talking at a distance, and I certainly won't let him in.”
Parley, in the course of the day, did not forget his promise to thin the hedge of separation a little. At first, he only tore off a handful of leaves, then a little sprig, then he broke away a bough or two. It was observable, the larger the breach became, the worse he began to think of his master, and the better of himself. Every peep he took through the broken hedge increased his desire to get out into the wilderness, and made the thoughts of the castle more irko some to him.
He was continually repeating to himself, “I wonder what Mr. Flatterwell can have to say so much to my advantage ?
I see he does not wish to hurt my master; he only wishes to serve me.” As the hour of meeting, however, drew near, the master's orders now and then came across Parley's thoughts. So, to divert them, he took up THE BOOK. He happened to open it at these words, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” For a moment his heart failed him. “ If this admonition should be sent on purpose!” said he; “ but, no, 'tis a bugbear. My master told me, that if I went to the bounds, I should get over the hedge. Now, I went to the utmost limits, and did not get over.” Here conscience put in, “ Yes, but it was because you were watched.” “I am sure,” continued Parley,“ one may always stop where one will; and this is only a trick of my master's to spoil sport. So I will even hear what Mr. Flatterwell has to say so much to my advantage. I am not obliged to follow his counsels ; but there can be no harm in hearing them.”
Flatterwell prevailed on the rest of the robbers to make no public attack on the castle that night. “My brethren,” said he, “ you now and then fail in your schemes, because you are for violent beginnings, while my soothing, insinuating measures hardly ever miss. You come blustering and roaring, and frighten people, and set them on their guard. You inspire them with terror of you, while my whole scheme is to make them think well of themselves, and ill of their master. If I once get them to entertain hard thoughts of him, and high thoughts of themselves, my business is done, and they fall plump into my snares. So let this delicate affair alone to me. Parley is a softly fellow; he must not be frightened, but cajoled. He is the very sort of man to succeed with, and worth a hundred of your sturdy, sensible fellows. With them, we want strong arguments and strong temptations ; but with such fellows as Parley, in whom vanity and sensu. ality are the leading qualities (as, let me tell you, is the case with far the greater part), flattery, and a promise of ease and pleasure, will do more than your whole battle array. If you will let me manage, I will get you all into the castle before midnight.”
At night the castle was barricaded as usual, and no one had observed the hole which Parley had made in the hedge. This oversight arose that night from the servants neglecting one of the master's standing orders—to make a nightly examination of the state of things. The neglect did not proceed so much from wilful disobedience, as from having passed the evening in sloth and diversion, which often amounts to nearly the same in its consequences.
As all was very cheerful within, so all was very quiet without. And before they went to bed, some of the servants observed to the rest, that, as they heard no robbers that night, they thought they might now begin to remit something of their diligence in bolting and barring; that all this fastening and locking was very troublesome, and they hoped the danger was now pretty well over. It was rather remarkable, that they never made these sort of observations, but after an evening of some excess, and when they had neglected their “private business with their master.” All, however, except Parley, went quietly to bed, and seemed to feel uncommon security.
Parley crept down to his lodge. He had half a mind to go to bed too. Yet he was not willing to disappoint Mr. Flatterwell. So civil a gentleman! To be sure, he might have bad designs. Yet what right had he to suspect any body who made such professions, and who was so very civil ? “Besides, it is something for my advantage,” added Parley. "I will not open the door, that is certain ; but as he is to come alone, he can do me no harm through the bars of the windows; and he will think I am a coward, if I don't keep my word. No, I will let him see that I am not afraid of my own strength; I will show him I can go what length I please, and stop short when I please.” Had Flatterwell heard this boastful speech, he would have been quite sure of his man.
About eleven, Parley heard the signal agreed upon. It was so gentle as to cause little alarm. So much the worse. Flatterwell never frightened any one, and therefore seldom failed of any one. Parley stole softly down, planted himself at his little window, opened the casement, and spied his new friend. It was pale star-light. Parley was a little frightened ; for he thought he perceived one or two persons behind Flatterwell; but the other assured him it was only his own shadow, which his fears had magnified into a company. “Though I assure you," said he, “I have not a friend but what is as harmless as myself.”
They now entered into serious discourse, in which Flatterwell showed himself a deep politician. He skilfully mixed up in his conversation a proper proportion of praise on the pleasures of the wilderness, of compliments to Parley, of ridicule on his master, and of abusive sneers on the book in which the master's laws were written. Against this last he had always a particular spite, for he considered it as the grand instrument by which the Lord maintained his servants in their allegiance, and when they could once be brought to
sneer at the BOOK, there was an end of submission to the Lord. Parley had not penetration enough to see his drift. “As to THE BOOK, Mr. Flatterwell,” said he, “I do not know whether it be true or false. I rather neglect than disbelieve it. I am forced, indeed, to hear it read once a week, but I never look into it myself, if I can help it.” “Excellent," said Flatterwell to himself, “ that is just the same thing. This is safe ground for me. For whether a man does not believe in THE BOOK, or does not attend to it, it comes pretty much to the same, and I generally get him at last.”
“Why cannot we be a little nearer, Mr. Parley ?” said Flatterwell; “I am afraid of being overheard by some of your master's spies. The window from which you speak is so high, I wish you would come down to the door.” “Well.” said Parley, “I see no great harm in that. There is a little wicket in the door, through which we may converse with more ease and equal safety. The same fastenings will be still between us.” So down he went, but not without a degree of fear and trembling.
The little wicket being now opened, and Flatterwell standing close on the outside of the door, they conversed with great ease. “Mr. Parley," said Flatterwell, “I should not have pressed you so much to admit me into the castle, but out of pure disinterested regard to your own happiness. I shall get nothing by it, but I cannot bear to think that a person so wise and amiable should be shut up in this gloomy dungeon, under a hard master, and a slave to the unreasonable tyranny of his BOOK OF LAWS. If you admit me, you need have no more waking, no more watching." Here Parley involuntarily slipped back the bolt of the door. “ To convince you of my true love," continued Flatterwell, “I have brought a bottle of the most delicious wine that grows in the wilderness. You shall taste it, but you must put a glass through the wicket to receive it, for it is a singular property in this wine, that we of the wilderness cannot succeed in conveying it to you of the castle, without you hold out a vessel to receive it." “O, here is a glass,” said Parley, holding out a large goblet, which he always kept ready to be filled by any chance-comer. The other immediately poured into the capacious goblet a large draught of that delicious intoxicating liquor, with which the family of the Flatterwells have for near 6000 years gained the hearts and destroyed the souls of all the inhabitants of the castle, whenever they have been able to prevail on them to hold out a hand to receive it. This the wise master of the castle well knew would be the case, for he knew what was in
men; he knew their propensity to receive the delicious poison of the Flatterwells; and it was for this reason that he gave them THE BOOK of his laws, and planted the hedge, and invented the bolts, and doubled the locks.
As soon as poor Parley had swallowed the fatal draught, it acted like enchantment. He at once lost all power of resistance. He had no sense of fear left. He despised his own safety, forgot his master, lost all sight of the house in the other country, and reached out for another draught as eagerly as Flatterwell held out the bottle to administer it. “What a fool have I been,” said Parley, “ to deny myself so long!” “Will you now let me in?” said Flatterwell. “Ay, that I will,” said the deluded Parley. Though the train was now increased to near a hundred robbers, yet so intoxicated was Parley, that he did not see one of them, except his new friend. Parley eagerly pulled down the bars, drew back the bolts, and forced open the locks, thinking he could never let in his friend soon enough. He had, however, just presence of mind to say, “My dear friend, I hope you are alone.” Flatterwell swore he was—Parley opened the door-in rushed, not Flatterwell only, but the whole banditti, who always lurked behind in his train. The moment they had got sure possession, Flatterwell changed his soft tone, and cried out in a voice of thunder, “Down with the castle. Kill, burn, and destroy."
Rapine, murder, and conflagration, by turns took place Parley was the very first whom they attacked. He was overpowered with wounds. As he fell, he cried out, “O, my master, I die a victim to my unbelief in thee, and to my own vanity and imprudence. O that the guardians of all other castles would hear me with my dying breath repeat my master's admonition, that all attacks from without will not destroy unless there is some confederate within.' O that the keepers of all other castles would learn from my ruin, that he who parleys with temptation is already undone; that he who allows himself to go to the very bounds, will soon jump over the hedge; that he who talks out of the window with the enemy, will soon open the door to him; that he who holds out his hand for the cup of sinful flattery, loses all power of resisting; that when he opens the door to one sin, all the rest fly in upon him, and the man perishes as. I now do.”