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as “The Mysterious Boy.” After two years of adventure, the youngster returned home, in time to be folded in his mother's arms and to see her die. He was fifteen when he appeared in England, and had rare success, but did not venture upon the London boards till he was eighteen. Good fortune welcomed him from the first, and would have waited on him to the last had he not been cheated by his managers. His Irish and Scotch tours were full of incident and anecdote. In 1834, in his twenty-fifth year, he landed in America, and performed at Niblo's Garden, where he met Norton, the great cornet-player, so well known in Philadelphia, and witnessed the long contest between him and his rival on the same instrument, Signor Gambati, and played some of his best tricks on Hamblin and Price, the distinguished theatrical managers. After a tour of New England and the West, he appeared in Philadelphia under the patronage of Maelzel, the proprietor of the celebrated Automaton Chess Player, the Burning of Moscow, the Automaton Trumpeter, and the wonderful Rope Dancer, and made his bow at the northeast corner of Eighth and Chestnut Streets in that city. What scenes of our childhood come back to us at the mere mention of these names ! He next journeyed through the South, the British Provinces, the West Indies, beginning at Barbadoes and ending at Havana. After his return to the United States he settled in Philadelphia, where he has ever since resided, to use his own words, “In my own house, with ample means for all the necessaries and comforts of life, surrounded by a host of near and dear friends, whose warm hearts and smiling faces always greet and cheer me." It was in Philadelphia that he spent most of his time, not relaxing his work, and giving pleasure to thousands of all conditions in life, in public and in private. No social party in the winter is complete without his cheering presence and amusing deceptions.
I have read the autobiography of Signor Blitz, published in 1872, not so much because it is the story of a successful nec
romancer, as to show how invariably he turned his talent to good account, and how often a ventriloquist and a "magician" may accomplish what defies the physician, the lawyer, and the philosopher. Some of these experiences will show that the good Signor has not labored as a mere juggler, but has left a broad white mark in history showing that he had a higher aspiration than the tricks of his trade.
His landlady in London was so alarmed by his skill, which she regarded as superhuman, that she begged him to leave her house. “Do go away sir, do; and, there, let me give you this, and perhaps you will not be tempted again;" and she handed him a Bible. He accepted it; but, on opening it, found and handed her a five-pound note from between the leaves, placed there quietly by himself, and then she felt that he was not in league with Satan. This same landlady had a son, who was the pride of her heart, but secretly an inveterate gambler, who playcd away all his earnings, and finally used his employers' money. The Signor resolved to save him if the young man would agree to his conditions. He gladly consented, and the Signor was duly introduced to the gambling-saloon, and began to play cards. At first he lost, but gradually won until he had secured one hundred and fifty pounds, when, with his friend, he left the place. But let Mr. Blitz tell the sequel :
“ After I had gained the street, and was a considerable way from the house, where my visit had not been a very agreeable one to some, who wished me to remain longer, I turned and said : ‘There, Harry, you see what I have done. This fortune, as you gamblers call it, is a cheat, and the money which I have taken from those scoundrels who robbed you, was done in accordance with their own principles. Here are the cards I played with,' and beneath the light of a street-lamp I showed him a pack of cards, so arranged that I could always hold the game in my hands.. Besides, I designated marks by which I could tell the character of every card in the hands of my opponents.
“There,' said I, in those and similar ways lies the art of gambling. You have been duped, but I know that you will not be so again.
“I see it all-but now it is too late!' exclaimed the poor fellow. “Now I see my disgrace.'
“Not yet; promise me but one thing and you shall be saved.
“«What is it? I will do—aye, be any thing, only for my poor mother's sake.'
“Give me your word of honor, then, that you will never again touch card or dice-box, and there is the money which I have
Take it; pay back the sum which you have taken from your employers, make what honest and true account you can to your mother, and remember as long as you live the night of the Ioth of March, 1829.'
“The young man promised, and I never had occasion to doubt but that he kept his word.”
He not only puzzled and amused the ignorant, but the educated and the scientific, among the latter the celebrated Dr. Crampton, of Dublin, forty years ago, who fled with his students from his dissecting-room, when the Signor, who was present, threw his voice into the body of a female subject, and protested against the sacrifice. At Limerick, one of the female servants stole some jewelry from one of the ladies, and the Signor was called on to point out the culprit. He called all the servants of the hotel together, told them of the theft, and said he knew the guilty one was in the room; but, to avoid all exposure, he would wait a few hours, to give a chance for the return of the property. At midnight the poor girl came to his room, gave back the jewelry, and on her knees begged forgiveness, and prayed she might not be exposed, as it was her first offense. He promised, kept his faith to her, and restored the trinkets to their owner. The incident added vastly to his fame. A rascally tax-collector was seen carrying off one of his rabbits, and the Signor proceeded to his house and demanded it. The
scamp denied his crime, and a dispute ensued, when the rabbit broke from its concealment, exclaiming, in a gruff tone, “ You are a scamp, and the Lord have mercy on your soul.” “Who dares call me a scamp?” screamed the thief. “I do!” the rabbit answered. “You never paid a ha'penny for me, Ryan. Did you not bring me here last night from the hall? To-night I will call my imps from below, and take you to the deepest regions of fire.” The scoundrel took fright, and restored the rabbit as one “bewitched.” The whole community were relieved at the detection of the dishonest official. One day he frightened an exorbitant landlord into decency by making a parrot echo his own denunciation of the tyrant. He was introduced to ex-President Van Buren (often called “the Little Magician") in New York, and exchanged compliments, which closed by Mr. Van Buren saying, “I have often seen our names coupled, as wielding the magic wand; but I resign to you the superiority. You, Signor, please and delight all ages and sexes,
, while my jugglery is for political purposes.” O'Connell, the Duke of Wellington, and many of the nobility visited his rooms, just as Van Buren, Clay, and Webster patronized him in this country. Once he saved his life by imitating a conversation with different persons in different voices, and mingling all with the barking of two dogs. This was when he lived near the New York Croton Works, while they were in course of construction, and when Fifty-third Street was beset by ruffians. His jokes were never cruel, as, for instance, his taking a bottle of whisky out of the hat of Governor Briggs, of Massachusetts, a noted temperance man, or his asking the Boston philanthropist, Josiah Bradley, to lend him his coat for one of his tricks, which the good old man did, to the infinite amusement of Daniel Webster, who sat in the audience. He was welcome at Harvard University, and played for the alumni and the acolytes. The great and graceful Justice Story came often to his exhibitions, and would take a seat among the boys on the front bench, en
CONJURATION AND MIGHTY MAGIC.
joying himself to the full, “ where he would laugh away dull care,” and, returning home refreshed, “would write till morning; for nothing so restores the brain as a good hearty laugh.” He met Millard Fillmore on a canal-boat in the West, and years after saw him in Washington, when Mr. Fillmore said, “ Little did I expect, Signor, when traveling with you on the canal, I should ever become President of the United States." His description of the great Automaton Chess Player, and of the two players—Maelzel, the inventor, outside, and Schlomberg within the figure—both masters of that scientific game, is full of interest. “Maelzel and Schlomberg were, in their time, the great living representatives of chess; their hearts and feelings were so identified with the game that they dreamed of it by night and practiced it by day. At every meal and in all intervals a portable chess-board was before them. They ate, drank, and played, while not a word escaped their lips. It was a quiet, earnest, mental combat, and the anxiety of every pause and move was defined in each countenance, their features revealing what the tongue could not express." Schlomberg died of a fever, and poor Maelzel expired on his way from Havana to Philadelphia, and was buried in the
The Automaton Chess Player was destroyed by fire with the Chinese Museum, and the Automaton Trumpeter is now the property of Mr. E. N. Scherr, the retired piano-maker of Philadelphia. He relates a pleasing incident of the illustrious John Bannister Gibson, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, one of his best friends, who was surprised to find the Signor's wallet in his pocket, though he sat at a distance from him. His interviews with Webster and Clay, during John Tyler's administration, proved the respect they had for him. “Give me," he said to Webster, “one hundred thousand Treasury notes to count, and watch closely, and you will find only seventy-five thousand when I return them." "Signor," responded Webster, with lively animation, “there is no chance; there are better magicians here than you ; there