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Don Raphael and Scipio, in Gil Blas. Upon my
What, from your entertaining books ? "
“O! no; from the tailor's shop board, where next I embarked. For one advantage I derived from psalm-singing was this,-a topping tailor in the town, very evangelical, was so struck with it, that he offered to take me 'prentice, if I would sing hymns to him of an evening. This I was persuaded to accept, but soon found my usual longing for liberty; and as there was no other way of cancelling my indentures, one fine. morning I bolted. But it was Gil Blas, I verily believe, which produced this disposition to get loose ; and lucky for me that the examples I read in him, and others of the same kidney, did not make me turn robber, or swindler, or, at best, a common beggar."
66 Like another Reginald Pole Carew,” said I.
“ For heaven's sake, do not mention that book, for it certainly went farther to turn me into a vagabond than any other. Though even, without a printed recommendation, a beggar's life does not seem altogether without enjoyment. I have observed in them,
amidst their rags, a mirth and merriment, which carelessness of all future evils alone can give; and while I sing the famous beggar's ballad of Frank Davison, made in the merry days of Charles the Second, I cannot help agreeing with his view of this singular class.”
“Can you give a specimen of it ? ” 56 Yes :
“ Careless enough,” observed I.
“ There is a great deal more of it, all to the same tune, and it had its effect upon me, I assure you : but what chiefly influenced me to be a knight of the pack, was Autolycus, in Shakspeare. O! he was a first-rate fellow !”
“ If you mean the pedlar in the Winter's Tale," replied I, “ he was a first-rate scoundrel.”
I said this sternly, for I really now began to eye my new acquaintance with something very like suspicion. Perhaps he perceived it, for he instantly returned,
560! I am aware of that; but, as in the other instances I mentioned, I could separate the bad from the good. I hope you do not suspect me of follow
ing the evil parts of his character. Why, he was a downright thief, and picks a pocket on the stage: God preserve me from such wickedness! It was only the agreeable parts of Autolycus that I felt disposed to admire."
" Pray, what are they ? ” said I, drily; to which he answered,
“ His extraordinary ascendency over men's imaginations and credulity, which must have been a neverfailing scource of amusement, and even of study-the study of human nature. I wish I could remember the passage, but I have got the play in my pack; I am seldom without it.” So saying, he unlocked his bag, and producing the play, turned to what he seemed to read with unction :
« • Ha, ha! what a fool honesty is, and trust his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman! I have sold all my trumpery. Not a counterfeit stone, not a ribbon, glass, pomander, brooch, table-book, ballad, knife, tape, glove, shoe-tye, or horn-ring, to keep my pack from fasting : they throng, who shall buy first; as if my trinkets had been hallowed, and brought a benediction to the buyer.'
“ He must have had a rare trade of it, that Autolycus, and this I own was what chiefly made me turn pedlar; for if men will be gulls, I have no business to prevent them.”
“ Excellent morality,” said I.
“ But then he sung so well," continued Handcock, “ that everybody must have been fascinated, and that alone would make people buy.
‘Lawn as white as driven snow;
Masks for faces, and for noses.'
“ Well, I never came to a farm-house, but by singing I was asked in, sold my wares, set people atalking, and got at their secrets.
O! with your curiosity, the life would suit you to a T. Perhaps I may yet see you one of us. At
any rate, you see it is a pleasant life, and you cannot wonder that I shirked the tailor."
I own I now did not know what to make of Mr. Autolycus Handcock. That he might by possibility be honest, I would not deny; that, by more than possibility, he was a rogue, was I thought clear; and I began to consider how I might shake him off. Other suspicions came into my head. It was equally clear that his attentions to the fair girl of the house boded no good to the latter ; she evidently looked up to him as a superior being, and though he was above forty years old, had a copper nose, the effect of drink, a furrowed cheek, and a pimpled skin, tanned almost black with travelling in the sun, she was evidently so pleased with his ready talk, his apparent openness, his merriment, his songs, and his tales, and above all, with his unceasing compliments to herself, that all disparity, whether of age or person, seemed long to have ceased in her mind, and if they did not marry, it was evidently not her fault. Her mother, a decent woman, had now joined us, and I would have given
much to have known how to warn her of her daughter's danger; but, stranger as I was to both, I could not manage it ;--and I not only felt that any thing I could say to the pedlar himself would be laughed at, but he now declared his intention of staying where he was all night, a thing which I found he had not unfrequently done before.
In the end, what he did by choice, I was compelled to do against my will, for I too was forced to remain, by what there is no answering for—the elements,