« PreviousContinue »
horror with which darkness, rain, and wind, fill persons who have lost their way in the night; and who, consequently, have not the pleasant prospect of warm fires, dry clothes, and other refreshments, to support their minds in struggling with the inclemencies of the weather. A very imperfect idea of this horror will, however, serve sufficiently to account for the conceits which now filled the head of Partridge, and which we shall presently be obliged to open.
Jones grew more and more positive that they were out of their road; and the boy himself, at last, acknowledged he believed they were not in the right road to Coventry; though he affirmed, at the same time, it was impossible they should have missed the way. But Partridge was of a different opinion. He said, When they first set out, he ima gined some mischief or other would happen. ---Did not you observe, sir,' said he to Jones, that old. woman who stood at the door just as you was taking horse? I wish you had given her a small matter, with all my heart; for she said then you might repent it; and at that very instant it began to rain, and the wind hath continued rising ever since. Whatever some people may think, I am very certain it is in the power of witches to raise the wind whenever they please. I have seen it happen very often in my time; and, if ever I saw a witch in all my life, that old woman was certainly
I thought so to myself at that very time; and if I had had any halfpence in my pocket, I would have given her some; for to be sure it is always good to be charitable to those sort of people, for fear what may happen; and many a person hath lost his cattle by saving a halfpenny.'
Jones, though he was horridly vexed at the delay which this mistake was likely to occasion in his journey, could not help smiling at the superstition of his friend, whom an accident now greatly confirmed in his opinion. This was a tumble from his
horse; by which, however, he received no other injury than what the dirt conferred on his clothes.
Partridge had no sooner recovered his legs, than he appealed to his fall, as conclusive evidence of all he had asserted; but Jones finding he was unhurt, answered with a smile: This witch of yours, Partridge, is a most ungrateful jade, and doth not, I find, distinguish her friends from others in her resentment. If the old lady had been angry with me. for neglecting her, I don't see why she should tumble you from your horse, after all the respect you have expressed for her.'
It is ill jesting,' cries Partridge, with people who have power to do these things; for they are often very malicious. I remember a farrier, who provoked one of them, by asking her, when the time she had bargained with the devil for would be out; and within three months from that very day one of his best cows was drowned. Nor was she satisfied with that; for a little time afterwards he lost a barrel of his best drink: for the old witch pulled out the spigot, and let it run all over the cellar the very first evening he had tapped it to make merry with some of his neighbours. short, nothing ever thrived with him afterwards; for she worried the poor man so, that he took to drinking; and in a year or two his stock was seized, and he and his family are now come to the parish.'
The guide, and perhaps his horse too, were both so attentive to this discourse, that, either through want of care, or by the malice of the witch, they were now both sprawling in the dirt.
Partridge entirely imputed this fall, as he had done his own, to the same cause. He told Mr. Jones, it would certainly be his turn next; and earnestly entreated him to return back, and find out the old woman, and pacify her. We shall very soon,' added he, reach the inn; for though we have seemed to go forward, I am very certain we
are in the identical place in which we were an hour ago; and I dare swear, if it was day-light, we might now see the inn we set out from.'
Instead of returning any answer to this sage advice, Jones was entirely attentive to what had happened to the boy, who received no other hurt than what had before befallen Partridge, and which his clothes very easily bore, as they had been for many years inured to the like. He soon regained his side-saddle, and, by the hearty curses and blows. which he bestowed on his horse, quickly satisfied Mr. Jones that no harm was done.
THEY now discovered a light at some distance, to the great pleasure of Jones, and to the no small terror of Partridge, who firmly believed him. self to be betwitched, and that this light was a Jack with a Lantern, or somewhat more mischievous.
But how were these fears increased, when, as they approached nearer to this light (or lights, as they now appeared), they heard a confused sound. of human voices; of singing, laughing, and halloo. ing, together with a strange noise that seemed to proceed from some instruments; but could hardly be allowed the name of music! indeed, to favour a little the opinion of Partridge, it might very well be called music bewitched.
It is impossible to conceive a much greater degree of horror than what now seized on Partridge; the contagion of which had reached the post-boy, who had been very attentive to many things that the other had uttered. He now, therefore, joined in petitioning Jones to return; saying, he firmly be lieved what Partridge had just before said, that
though the horses seemed to go on, they had not moved a step forwards during at least the last half-hour.
Jones could not help smiling in the midst of his vexation, at the fears of these poor fellows. Either we advance,' says he, towards the lights, or the lights have advanced towards us; for we are now at a very little distance from them; but how can either of you be afraid of a set of people who appear only to be mery-making?"
'Merry-making, sir,' cries Partridge; who could be merry-making at this time of night, and in such a place, and such weather? They can be nothing but ghosts, or witches, or some evil spirits or other, that's certain.'
Let them be what they will,' cries Jones, I am resolved to go up to them, and inquire the way to Coventry. All witches, Partridge, are not such illnatured hags as that we had the misfortune to meet with last.'
O Lord, sir,' cries Partridge, there is no knowing what humour they will be in; to be sure it is always best to be civil to them; but what if we should meet with something worse than witches, with evil spirits themselves?-Pray, sir, be advised; pray, sir, do. If you had read so many terrible accounts as I have of these matters, you would not be so fool-hardy.The Lord knows whither we have got already, or whither we are going; for sure such darkness was never seen upon earth, and I question whether it can be darker in the other world.'
Jones put forwards as fast as he could, notwithstanding all these hints and cautions, and poor Partridge was obliged to follow: for though he hardly dared to advance, he dared still less to stay behind by himself.
At length they arrived at the place whence the lights and different noises had issued. This Jones
perceived to be no other than a barn, where a great number of men and women were assembled, and diverting themselves with much apparent jollity.
Joues no sooner appeared before the great doors. of the barn, which were open, than a masculine and very rough voice from within demanded who was there To which Jones gently answered, a friend! and immediately asked the road to Coventry.
If you are a friend,' cries another of the men in the barn, you had better alight till the storm is over,' (for indeed it was now more violent than ever): you are very welcome to put up your horse; for there is sufficient room for him at one end of the barn.'
You are very obliging,' returned Jones; and I will accept your offer for a few minutes, whilst the rain continues; and here are two more, who will be glad of the same favour.' This was accorded with more good-will than it was accepted: for Par. tridge would rather have submitted to the utmost inclemency of the weather, than have trusted to the clemency of those whom he took for hobgoblins; and the poor post-boy was now infected with the same apprehensions; but they were both obliged to follow the example of Jones; the one because he durst not leave his horse, and the other because he feared nothing so much as being left by himself.
Had this history been writ in the days of super. stition, I should have had too much compassion for the reader to have left him so long in suspense, whether Beelzebub or Satan was about actually to appear in person, with all his hellish retinue; but as these doctrines are at present very unfortunate, and have but few, if any, believers, I have not been much aware of conveying any such terrors. To say truth, the whole furniture of the infernal regions hath long been appropriated by the ma nagers of playhouses, who seem lately to have lain