Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

to be done by them, and beside their livelihood, they earn something for the public.

• They all wear a peculiar habit of a certain colour, their hair is cropt a little above their ears, and a piece of one of -their ears is cut off. Their friends are allowed to give them meat, drink, or clothes of the prescribed colour ; but if they give them money, it is death to the giver and receiver. Nor is it less punishable for any freeman to take money from them on any account whatever; and it is death for any of these slaves (as they are called) to handle arms. Those ef each division of the country are distinguished by a peculiar badge. It is a capital crime if they lay this aside, if they exceed their bounds, or talk to a slave of another jurisdiction. The very attempt at an escape is no less punishable than an escape itself. It is death for any other slave to be accessory to it, and if a freeman engage in it he is condemned to slavery. Those who discover such a design are rewarded ; if freemen, with money, if slaves, with liberty, with a pardon for being accessory; that they may find their account in repenting of such an engagement, rather than in persisting in it.

• These are their laws and regulations in regard to robbery; and it is obvious that they are no less advantageous than mild. For not only vice is destroyed and men preserved, but they are treated in a manner to convince them of the necessity of 'honesty, and of employing their remaining days in repairing the injuries they have formerly done to society. Nor is there a hazard of their relapsing into their old ways. So little do travellers apprehend from them, that they use them as guides from one district to another. For, they have neither the means of robbing, nor would they reap any advantage by it, being unarmed, and the very possession of money being a conviction of them. And as they are certainly punished, if discovered, so they cannot hope to escape; for their habit differing throughout from what is commonly worn, their only resource could be to go naked, and even then their cropped ear would betray them.

• The only danger to be apprehended was, their conspiring against the government. But one division could do nothing to any purpose, and a general conspiracy of the slaves of the several districts cannot be accomplished, since they cannot meet and talk together. Nor is it likely any would venture on a design where concealment was so dangerous and the discovery so profitable. None are quite hopeless of recovering their freedom, for by their obedience and patience, and by giving reason to believe that they will change their course of life, they may expect it at last. Some are yearly restored to it, on the good character which is given of them.”

- When I had said all this, I added, I saw not why such a method might not be followed, even in England, with more advantage, than could ever be expected from that severe justice which the counsellor so much applauded...

Vol. II.

It could never take place in England,' he replied, ' without endangering the whole country;' and as he said this, he shook his head, made some grimaces, and was silent.

All the company seemed of his opinion except the cardinal, who said, it was not easy to form a judgment of its success, since it had not been tried. “But if,' said he, · when sentence of death is passed on a thief, the prince would reprieve him a while and make the experiment, denying him a sanctuary, and that it had a good effect upon him, it might take place; and if it succeeded not, the sentence could be executed at last. I see not,' he added, • why it would be unjust, inconvenient, or in the least dangerous, to allow of such a delay. Vagabonds, in my opinion, ought to be treated in the same manner; against whom, though we have made many laws, yet have we not been able to gain our end..

· When the cardinal had said this, they all commended the notion, though they had despised it when it came from me. And they particularly applauded what related to the vagabonds, because it was his own observation. I know not whether it be worth while repeating what followed, for it was very ridiculous. But, as it is not foreign to this matter, and that some good use may be made of it, I will venture to do it.

• A jester stood by, who counterfeited the fool so naturally, that he appeared to be one in reality. His jests were

so cold and dull, that we laughed more at him than at them. Yet sometimes he said things, by chance as it were, which were pleasant enough ; confirming the old proverb, he who often throweth the dice will sometimes make a lucky hit.

• When one of the company had said, I had taken care of the thieves and the cardinal of the vagabonds, so that nothing remained but that some public provision be made for the poor, whom sickness or age disabled from labour ; • Leave that to me,' said the fool, · I shall take care of them, for there are none whose sight I abhor more, having been so often vexed with them and their complaints. But dolefully as they have told their tale, they could never draw one penny from me; for either I had no mind to give them any thing, or when I had a mind, I had nothing to give them. They now know me so well, that they lose not their labour, but let me pass without troubling me, for they expect nothing, any more in faith than if I was a priest. But I would have a law made for sending all these beggars to monasteries; the men to the Benedictines to be made lay-brothers, the women to be nuns.'

· The cardinal smiled and approved of this in jest, while the rest liked it in earnest.

* A divine was present, who, though a grave man, was so pleased with the reflection on the priests and monks, that he began to joke with the fool, and said to him, this will not clear you of all beggars, unless you take care of us friars.

. That is done already,' answered the fool, for the car. dinal hath provided for you by his proposal for vagabonds. -I know no vagabonds like you.'

• This amused the whole company, who, looking at the cardinal, perceived he was not displeased at it. But the friar, as you may imagine, was vexed, and grew into such passion that he could not help calling the fool, knave, slanderer, backbiter, and son of perdition, and then citing some dreadful denunciations against him from Scripture.

The jester thought he was now in his element, and laid about him freely. " Good friar,' he said, “ be not angry, for it is written, in patience possess your soul.

· The friar answered, (I give you his own words), “ I am not angry, you hang-dog, at least I sin not in it, for the Psalmist saith, be ye angry and sin not.'

On this the cardinal admonished him gently, and wished him to govern his passion.

• No, my lord,' said he, · I speak not but from a good zeal, which I ought to have. For the holy have had a good zeal, as it is said, the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. And we sing in our church, that those who mocked Elisha as he went up to the house of God, felt the effect of his zeal, which that mocker, that rogue, that scoundrel, will perhaps feel!

« VorigeDoorgaan »