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in a paralysis of astonishment; and having first diligently ascertained the exact rate of his pulse, and discovered that it was beating with the most perfect regularity, he began to stretch one by one all his limbs, and finally to feel the whole surface of his body. From the successful result of these experiments he drew the very natural conclusion that where there was no pain there could be no disease; and somewhat reassured by his distrust of the astrologer's prophetic powers, he walked home in tolerable good spirits, and desired his wife to hasten supper.
When, however, the viands smoked upon the board, the steward's appetite had totally deserted him, and after a long fit of abstraction, he expressed a wish to go to bed. Whilst he was unrobing himself he sighed piteously every now and then, and to the pressing inquiries of his wife as to the cause of his dejection, he replied that he had had an altercation with his employer which weighed in some degree upon his mind. Francesca pretended to console him, and the steward at length got into bed, but with very little inclination to sleep. He passed a miserable night, to the great entertainment of his wife; and rising soon after day-light feverish and unrested, hastened to his office, not a little delighted at the failure of his friend's predictions. On his return home towards evening, he met the vicar of his parish, with a friar, and two or three laymen, all of whom had been engaged by the painter in the conspiracy. What a melancholy circumstance is the sudden demise of poor Anselmo,' remarked the vicar. • Aye,' replied the friar, ‘only think of his having died without the benefit of the last consolatory duties of our order, unabsolved, and unforgiven, like a dog as he was. What a dreadful shock it must have been to his unfortunate wife, to find him stark and cold by her side when she awoke in the morning. The worst of the business,' observed one of the laybrothers, ‘is, that he was duly warned of his danger by a learned astrologer, whose friendly auguries he was so obstinate as to disbelieve and despise; and he has now furnished an impressive example, which ought to operate upon all incredulous people, and teach them to avoid his miserable end ; that of having departed this life like a brute, without having either confessed his sins, or endowed the most holy order of St. Iago with his ill. gotten wealth.' Yes, yes,' ejaculated a third,“ he has left a rich widow, who, if report be not a liar, would have no great wealth to boast of if every man had his own. Voto a dios, he was a consummate rogue ; but come along, for it is too cold to loiter here gossiping about a rascally usurer, whose soul is doubtless at this moment undergoing a summary purification in purgatory. Anselmo's first impulse was to stop these worthies, and inquire of them whether any person of his name had recently died; but they were already almost out of sight, and the bewildered steward sat down on the steps of a public-house in a paroxysm of shame, fear, and indignation. Having recovered from his reverie, he was about to proceed upon his way, when who should come down the steps upon which he had been sitting but the astrologer and the painter, who began to converse within his hearing.
Such,' said the philomath, with a loud voice, and significant gesture, • be the fate of all contemners of the divine science of astrology. He would not credit my assurance that he must die before day-break, I should like to know what he thinks of my prognostic now. Very true, indeed,' rejoined the painter, ‘ and I trust his sins are forgiven him, for though I had a great esteem for him I believe him to have been one of the most accomplished villains that ever existed. I always expected that his hot suppers and his debaucheries would send him to his long account some day or other in an apoplectic fit. He was of a full habit of body, poor devil; a thumping head anda short neck, and was in all respects just the subject for a sudden death.'
This was too much for the endurance of our sceptical major-domo. With his blood boiling in every vein he burst at once upon their colloquy, exclaiming with the voice of a stentor- What is the meaning of all this, gentlemen ? What right have you, I should be glad to learn, to preach your funeral orations over a man who is just as much an inhabitant of this world as you are. I would have
you to know, senors, that I am alive, in a state of perfect convalescence, and likely to live many years, and confound your scandalous fabrications.'
His auditors did not await the peroration of his address. No sooner did they catch the sound of his voice than away they ran, crossing themselves in their transit, and manifesting at the same time the utmost consternation and horror. Mercy upon us,' cried the painter, ‘Anselmo's ghost cannot rest for his ill-gotten pelf. Avaunt! unhappy spectre, resumed he, ‘follow us not, but speak, and say what it is that troubles thee.'
With this adjuration they both disappeared, and the steward, ready to faint with alarm, had great difficulty in making his way to his own house, in the neighbourhood of which he encountered Senor Agraz, who, to speak the truth, had been in attendance there nearly an hour. The Senor, who had his part of the tragi-comedy by rote, no sooner caught sight of Anselmo than he staggered backward as if he had been shot. • Blessed Spirits of Purgatory ! cried he, “is this some dreadful illusion, or do I indeed see the shade of my ill-starred friend.' * It is Anselmo himself, my dear Agraz.' said the perplexed and trembling major-domo, and no ghost, the saints be praised! What ails you, why do you cross yourself with such an extravagant shew of devotion ?' Having said this he seized Agraz by the cloak to prevent his escape, after the fashion of his other tormentors, but the old man, dropping on his knees, began in great haste to untie the string which fastened it to his doublet, roaring aloud, Avaunt, evil spirit! Away, thou devourer of souls! I owe Anselmo nothing but thirty maravedis, that he won of me at arguella. If that is what you want, take my cloak and sell it, if you think proper. I disclaim all connection with a ghost who is shabby enough to come all the way from the other world to frighten his friend for so paltry a sum. He then jumped up, and ran off with extraordinary agility, leaving the steward as mad as any man has a right to be in a public highway.
Why,' apostrophized Anselmo to himself, of what earthly use can it be to dispute the matter any longer ; I am dead enough, there can be no doubt. Perhaps I am allowed to return to this world for a given time in order to dispose of my property, and settle my affairs. Heaven bless me, how is it that I know so little of the other world, that I have not yet seen the devil. Again, how happens it that I have got my every day apparel on as usual. This is a matter in which there can be no deception, for I know the musty smell of my poor old doublet too well to he mistaken in it. It is very odd too that I cannot remember any thing of the pangs of death. Perhaps I died suddenly; I think I remember to have heard it said that I did. Or is it after all merely some trick of this carnival season ; and now I recollect, I seem to frighten nobody but my own acquaintance. But no ! that will not do, for how should any one else be aware of my decease.'
The last of these consolatory reflections brought him to his own threshhold. Finding the door shut, he knocked loudly, when his servant-maid, who was at least as cunning an impostor as her mistress, after a decent delay, inquired in a doleful tone of voice who was there.
Open the door,' vociferated our peregrinating corpse, 'open the door.
Who is it,' rejoined the maid, 'that knocks at the gate of widowhood and mourning?
• Open the door, you jade,' bellowed Anselmo, I am your master. Open the door, for it rains, and I am wet to the skin.'
• Oh would that it were indeed my poor master,' replied the girl; but alas he is deep enough under ground, poor man; and I am afraid it goes but hardly with stewards in the other world.'
She had scarcely time to finish this encomium upon her master's honesty, before his foot was applied to the door with such mortal force and dexterity, that the lock flew off into the passage, and it opened to its full width. The maid ran away screaming with all the strength of lungs of which she was mistress, and out of the parlour stalked Francesca in deep mourning, and feigning the greatest alarm at the disturbance. But no sooner had she perceived her husband, than with a loud shriek, and an exclamation of · Heavens, what do I see! she fell to all appearance insensible on the floor. The stekrard's doubts were now at an end, and he was most effectually convinced that he was dead. Delighted however with the demonstration of affection afforded him by his wife, he raised her from the ground with the utmost tenderness, and put her very carefully to bed, whilst the servant-maid ran up to her garret to laugh at her leisure. The defunct, who had not yet weaned himself from his earthly cravings, then began to be disturbed with certain terrestrial longings for his supper; and accordingly ransacked the pantry for provisions, and finding a loin of veal, and a bottle of wine, so far forgot his spectral character as to make a very hearty meal. Having ascertained that his powers of digestion were in no respect deteriorated by his decease, and that a glass of good wine continued to prove as grateful as ever to his palate, he made use of his time to such excellent advantage, that before two hours had elapsed, no animated mass of mortality, however propitious the circumstances in which it might be placed, could be more consummately drunk. He began to undress himself as well as he could; and after a good deal of serpentining from one end of the room to the other, he at length made shift to stagger into bed, where he lay snoring like twenty thousand pigs until late in the ensuing day, dreaming of payments, purgatory, and the devil and all his imps.
In the meantime, his wife's friends called to inquire the progress of her affairs, when they learned from the servant maid how shamefully her master had degraded his ghostly character by his sensuality. The next day Francesca being convinced that there was no chance of her husband's waking in a hurry, got up and dressed herself in her accustomed attire, and then proceeded to remove every vestige of mourning from the chamber. Having done this, she repaired to his bedside and tweaking him heartily by the nose, with much difficulty contrived at last to awaken him.
• Do you ever mean to rise again?' said she, ‘or is your last night's draught still in your brain? Get up, for shame, you are surely not going to lie here all day like a sot." With this she pulled him half out of bed,
and he now began, for the first time, to notice with infinite astonishment his wife's metamorphosis and the calmness and self-possession of her manner.
• Why, what the deuce, Francesca,'cried he, “are you dead too, my dear? Are we man and wife still? What disorder did you die of? But it is of no use asking you that question, for I swear (that is, if one may swear after death without offence) I neither remember when, where, or how I died. What brought our bed and this old cupboard to heaven? I suppose that when a man dies without making his will, his baggage is sent after him to the other world,' • Upon my word,' rejoined Francesca, 'you are keeping Carnival with a witness to it. What nonsense is this you are raving about? Get up this moment, for your master the Grandee has already sent two messengers after you.'
Pray, my dear,' returned the steward, am I not dead, and was I not buried yesterday ? • Buried!' said his wife, I know of nothing that has been buried save the wine that you interred in your capacious stomach last night.' • Very true, my love, I have a distinct recollection of what became of the wine, but I tell you I heard the vicar say that he had just performed the funeral service over my remains. I suppose you will not pretend to deny that you fainted away when you met me in the hall ;-—that you were in mourning, the maid in tears, and the house shut up. You cannot deny that I imagine, nor attempt to contradict me against the evidence of my own senses.'
I have evidence enough that you are drunk,' retorted Donna Francesca; "and to make short work of a long story, will you be pleased to go forthwith to your master the Grandee, for I can assure you he is extremely angry with you for your delay.'
Ah my dear,' returned the steward, 'I am afraid my soul is in a pitiable condition if I am in that part of the next world appropriated to the accommodation of Grandees and stewards.
Have done with this nonsense,' cried Donna Francesca. Do not drive me mad with your absurdities, but get up and attend to your business.'
'I protest, my dear love,' said Anselmo, I have now been dead more than four and twenty hours, and I must have been buried nearly half that time, though I cannot pretend that I recollect much about it. However, ask our neighbour the astrologer-ask the maid-ask old Agraz—ask our friend the painter,--and if their evidence will not convince you—just try the effect of your own apparition upon them, for you are as dead as I am, if you could but be persuaded of it.
What folly is all this,' said Francesca. Do recollect yourself, you simpleton. Did we not sup together, and sleep together as usual, last night? What maggots have you got into your head about deaths and funerals ? Casilda, (said she to the maid) go to our neighbour the astrologer, and beg him to favour your master with a visit, at his earliest convenience, for strong drink and bad company have absolutely disordered his intellects.'
Anselmo was now thoroughly puzzled to know whether he was yet in the flesh or not, but after mature deliberation he made up his mind that he was only permitted to return to this world for the purpose of winding up his affairs, and making his will. Whilst he was discussing with himself the propriety of this conclusion, the two principal actors in this ridiculous farce came into the room, and began to insist on his being in Madrid, and in his own house; nay, the astrologer went so far as to hint that if the
police should chance to hear of his behaviour he would certainly be sent to some asylum for lunatics. This insinuated threat had its proper effect upon the steward, who replied in an angry tone of voice, “If I am not dead, as you think fit to assert, what necessity was there for your crossing yourself and running away in such a fright when you met me last evening?
I meet you last night!' rejoined the conjuror. Why, my good fellow, I have been locked up in my study the whole of the last week, endeavouring to discover a thief who has stolen a diamond from a lady of quality.'
And as for me,' said the painter, there is not a monk in the monastery of St. Jerome who cannot testify that I have remained there day and night for the last fortnight, and I only came out to call upon you at your instigation.'
Then I really seem to be going on from bad to worse,' replied the steward, who began to be apprehensive that his senses were really deserting him. “Now, my worthy man of stars and almanacks, do answer me, did you not remark the ashy paleness of my countenance the night before last, and inform me that you knew by my looks I should die before sun-rise ?'
I l'emphatically rejoined the philomath, I have not seen you this week, and I do not care to have these liberties taken with my name and character. Father not your ridiculous dreams upon me, sir.'
I have it, I have it,' exclaimed the steward; it was a dream sure enough. Hurrah! I must protest though, I was a little frightened! A dream; yes, yes, it was but a dream after all. By St. Jerome, if I find that I am really alive, you shall all have a capital dinner next ShroveTuesday.'
• Now you talk like a man of sense,' continued his tormentors, and if you will get up and dress yourself we will take a walk, and the fresh air will soon relieve you from the effects of the wine you have swallowed.'
Our incredulous major-domo did as he was desired; and encountering in the course of his walk the vicar and his associates, who feigning the most unqualified astonishment at his assertions, he began to be firmly convinced that he had been labouring under the delusion of a drunken dream. He kept his promise of the dinner very cheerfully, and then went into the country for a fortnight, to escape the raillery of his friends and acquaintance. When he returned, he informed his wife, to her great satisfaction, that he was determined to resign his agency, the toil of which was burthensome and oppressive; and that in future he meant to live like a gen. tleman upon his own property. The successful result of her plot induced Donna Francesca to consider the diamond ring as already hers; but when we have recounted the exploits of her rivals, our readers will be better able to judge how far she was correct in her estimate of her own ingenuity.
(To be concluded in our next number.)