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losses from pretended alchemists, appealed to Balsamo for help in recovering his disbursements.
"I could do it for you," said Balsamo, "if you have faith."
Now faith was Marano's weak point, and he readily acceded to Balsamo's propositions, when he appointed to meet him next day at the chapel of Santa Rosalia, whence he conducted him to a grotto, some miles farther up the mountains.
"There is a treasure in that grotto," said Balsamo, "but I cannot appropriate it to myself without losing angelic protection. He must be a Jew to enable him to take it from the infernal spirits that keep guard."
"We must And then a clear harmonious
"What am I to do to obtain it?" exclaimed the delighted jeweller. "You cannot learn that from my lips," replied Balsamo. appeal to the angels; so on your knees." voice, descending from above, declared that there were in that grotto sixty ounces of pearls, sixty ounces of rubies, and sixty ounces of diamonds, in a golden box weighing one hundred and twenty ounces. The Jew who enters to claim this treasure must deposit sixty ounces of gold at the threshold to conciliate the spirits of evil.
"Sixty ounces of gold!" sighed the Jew. But Balsamo had got up, and was walking away quite unconcerned.
"You have heard," was all he vouchsafed to reply.
Marano followed in silence till the time for separation came, near Palermo. He could then hold no longer.
'Well, then," he said, "let it be so. Sixty ounces of gold! At what hour to-morrow?"
"At six in the morning. I shall be there."
The next day, true to his word, Balsamo was there, as calm as ever, and the Jew with his bag of gold. They approached the grotto together. It was not without many misgivings that the Jew deposited the bag at the entrance.
"Is there no danger going into this grotto ?" he inquired. "Not if the amount is correct," was the reply.
He stepped forward, and then came back again to look at Balsamo and at the bag; but there was nothing but an expression of supreme indifference on the countenance of the latter. At length he ventured boldly onwards to grasp the treasure, but, alas! he was himself seized by three black and muscular demons, who, after giving him a sound drubbing, cast him down on the ground, and bade him not move at the risk of his life. It was not till all had been long silent that the unfortunate Jew ventured to crawl out of this fearful cave, and when he got to the entrance it is almost needless to say that Balsamo, the gold, and the three demons had all gone off together.
This was the point of departure for a long life of adventures on the part of Balsamo, who at once flying from Palermo, travelled all over the world, under the assumed names of Count Harat, Count Fenice, Marquis d'Anna, Marquis de Pellegrini, Zischis, Belmonte, Melissa, and, finally, of "Count de Cagliostro." The old Jew was not wrong when he imagined that he recognised the young impostor in the middle-aged Grand Copt on the bridge of Kehl.
Cagliostro left Strasbourg in 1788, and after a brief excursion in
Italy, we find him at Bordeaux, where he made a triumphal entry on the 8th of November, 1783. The influx of persons anxious to avail themselves of his supposed miraculous powers was so great that he had to seek the protection of the police to preserve order. This, however, was probably nothing but a manoeuvre of the charlatan. It is certain that Father Hervier, a man who stood high among magnetisers, ventured at this epoch to meet him as an antagonist, and was publicly defeated, for which folly he was blamed by the whole society of mesmerists.
Cagliostro says in his memoir before alluded to, and indited in the Bastille, that the same description of persecutions which had driven him out of Strasbourg made Bordeaux too hot for him, and he went to Lyons in October, 1784; but he only remained three months in the latter town, whence he took his departure for Paris, where he arrived January 30, 1785. "My first care on arriving at the metropolis," he says, was to declare my intention of living quietly, and that I no longer intended to occupy myself with cures."
Cagliostro, like a clever fellow that he undoubtedly was, thought that the pretension to miraculous cures in Paris might subject him to a close system of inquiry on the part of the profession, to which he was very naturally much opposed. Again, even his uncontested powers in distributing the vital fluids were jeopardised amidst the intense concurrence of the day, which, when men were fatigued, had supplanted them by magnetised trees! So he entered upon a totally new line-one which went beyond the limits of all academical investigation, and only struck the minds of the populace with greater wonder-he evoked the shades of the dead; in other words, he turned necromancer, and made the spirits of the departed appear at his command, either in a mirror, like Dr. Dee, or in a carafe full of water.
He so far succeeded on this new field as to eclipse, for the time being, all his contemporaries. Wonder and admiration rapidly attained the point of fanaticism. He was publicly spoken of as the "divine" Cagliostro. His portrait was everywhere on snuff-boxes, on rings, even on the fans of ladies. Unfortunately, Diderot, D'Alembert, Voltaire, and the other Encyclopædists, were no longer in existence, and he had it all his own way. It is one thing to rationalise religion, and another to overthrow all inductive philosophy. Cagliostro was not the man to stop at anything when he could find a public ignorant and stupid enough to have faith in him. The very walls were placarded with Louis XVI.'s declaration, that any one doing an injury to the impostor would be considered as guilty of high treason. It was current that at Versailles he had not only made the dead appear in mirrors and in carafes of water, but he had invoked the very spirits of the dead themselves, and summoned the animated and moving spectres into the presence of the living.
The author of a work called " Mémoires Authentiques pour Servir à l'Histoire de Cagliostro" has described one of these scenes. The supper took place in the Rue Saint-Claude, where Cagliostro dwelt at that time. A round table was laid out for twelve guests, six living and six dead, with extraordinary luxury. Cagliostro made the odd number. The servants were dismissed with an understanding that if any one of them ventured to open a door without being summoned, he should be shot dead. It was the suppers of the Regency revived.
Oct.-VOL. CXXIII. NO.CCCcxc.
Each guest in his turn then asked for the deceased person whom he wished to see. Cagliostro wrote down the names, and quietly placed them in his waiscoat-pocket, declaring that their shades should appear when he evoked them after the Egyptian dogma, according to which there were no dead. The additional guests thus summoned from their graves were the Duke of Choiseul, Voltaire, D'Alembert, Diderot, the Abbé de Voisenon, and Montesquieu. The living wished, at all events, to be in good company.
The names were pronounced in a loud voice, and with all the power of will that Cagliostro was endowed with. The moment of suspense that ensued among those present, among whom was a prince of royal blood, was intense, but it was brief; the six guests summoned soon made their appearance, and took their places with perfect courtesy.
When the living had regained sufficient composure, conversation began. One of the first questions asked was
"How do you feel yourselves in the other world ?"
"There is no other world," vouchsafed D'Alembert. "Death is only a cessation of the evils that have tormented us. There is no kind of pleasure, but, at the same time, there is no pain. I have not met with Mademoiselle Lespinasse, but, on the other hand, I have not seen Linguet. They are very candid there. Some dead people who have joined us have told me that I was already forgotten. This gave no annoyance. Men are not worth the while that one should attempt to benefit them. I know that now; I never loved them, now I despise them."
"Of what avail are all your acquirements there below ?" asked another of Diderot. "I never was a man of pretensions," replied the latter, "although such was so generally believed. I merely arranged, discussed, and methodised the opinions of others. The business of an editor is to put available matter into shape and form. The man who wrote the index had as much to do with the Encyclopædia almost as I had, yet nobody gives him any credit."
"I, on my part," observed Voltaire, "praised the undertaking largely because it seconded my philosophical views. But I have since become somewhat shaken even in those views; for, since my decease, I have conversed with half a dozen popes, and I have found them to be quite as liberal-minded and as philosophical as myself. It was their profession to be austere here, but in their inner minds their convictions were no stronger than those of other people. Opposition in the world above is evoked in order to have something to combat. I have found Clement XIV. and Benoit to be especially men of good sense, and free from all superstitions."
"What annoys me a little," said the Duke of Choiseul, " is, that there is no sex in the realms that we inhabit, and whatever may be said of it, the carnal envelope of our souls was not a bad invention." "How do you recognise one another, then?" interrupted another of the living. "By their caprices, pretensions, and a thousand little weaknesses, which are considered as graces with you, and are estimated at their true value as ridiculous there."
"That which gives me real pleasure," said the Abbé Voisenon, "is that, with us, one is soon cured of the mania of being clever.
have no idea how I have been laughed at for my literary labours. It was in vain that I assured all present that I only attached their real value to those literary puerilities. Whether it was that my assertions did not tally with my pride as an academician, or that my age and profession were not deemed to tally with such frivolities, certain it is that I have to expiate daily the errors of my human existence."
It is easy to perceive the anti-Encyclopaedic spirit of the reporter of this extraordinary sitting, but the most strange part of the thing is, that every body believed in its reality at the time, that the persons had actually appeared, that they had spoken as reported, and had sat down in person to supper with six great personages, one of whom was a prince royal! Cagliostro was certainly, in his palmy days, the prince of impostors, and how perfectly he must have trained his valets or his accomplices!
Amidst all these feats of daring, what is curious is, that he steadily pursued one idea, which appears, indeed, to have been the aim of his existence, when he was not busy making dupes. This was no less than the founding of a new order of freemasonry. He announced himself as the guardian of the secrets of Isis and Anubis, he had founded lodges in most of the towns that he had favoured with his presence, and he wished to establish the chief of all in Paris. He soon found plenty of followers, many of them persons of high rank, and he assembled them together to expound the new doctrine. His success was brilliant; he spoke with consummate art and no little eloquence, and his auditors believed themselves to be the depositaries of those secrets of nature that were preserved in the temple of Apis, at the epoch when Cambyses had the inflexible deity publicly fustigated. The initiations to the new society were, however, mainly confined to wealthy persons or aristocrats, and there is reason to believe that the fees were very exorbitant.
Certain ladies of quality, who had heard of the mysterious scenes enacted at the supper with the dead Encyclopædists, became anxious to witness something similar. Without letting their intentions known to their husbands, they appealed to Madame de Cagliostro for permission to be present at one of these fantastic sittings, on condition that no man should be there. The reply given was, that as soon as they could obtain thirty-six subscribers of 100 Louis each the thing should be done. The whole number was obtained the same day.
Madame de Cagliostro accordingly hired a commodious house buried in trees in the Rue Verte, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, at that epoch a solitary quarter. The sitting was fixed for the 7th of August. Not one of the thirty-six failed to be there. They were all dressed in white, and divided into groups of six by different-coloured waistbands. Each had also a large veil. They were shown into a temple lighted up from above, and in which were thirty-six arm-chairs covered with black satin. Lorenza, dressed in white, was seated on a kind of throne, supported by two gigantic and spectral figures, the sex of which it was impossible to determine. The ladies, after being attached to as many columns in a rather inconvenient and not very delicate posture, were addressed by the grand mistress of Egyptian masonry, who announced to them that their position was emblematical of their condition, placed as they were under passive dependence on their husbands. But they had
other trials to undergo; they were to break with the shameful yoke and the worldly bonds imposed upon them by man. To conquer their liberty, they were subjected to a fearful ordeal. They were removed six by six into as many different apartments in the garden: here they met the shades of husbands, lovers, and all that was most dear to them. The temptations of Saint Anthony were trifles compared with those to which they were subjected; yet every one of them came forth triumphant, and were felicitated accordingly by the grand mistress, who received them in a semi-obscurity in the great temple. After a few minutes devoted to recruiting their strength after such extraordinary conflicts, the dome of the temple opened, and a man came down on a golden ball, with a serpent in his hand and a brilliant flame on his head.
"It is the Genius of Truth," said the grand mistress, "who will tell you the secrets of which your sex has been so long deprived. He whom you are about to hear is the celebrated, the immortal, the divine Cagliostro, issued from the bosom of Abraham without having been conceived, and the depositary of all that has been, all that is, and all that will be known on earth."
We are obliged to drop the veil over the next ordeal to which these ladies of title were subjected. The attitude assumed by all parties was symbolic of innocence and purity, and it is best to suppose it was truly so. Cagliostro contented himself, however, upon this occasion with explaining that magic was merely the initiation into the secrets of nature. These mysteries were to be learnt gradually. The ladies were to return; this was only a first and preliminary meeting. Supper was afterwards served up, and the evening terminated in the most agreeable manner possible. The Marquis de Luchet, the historian of the meeting, insinuates that the Genius of Truth also gave the "baiser de l'amitié," a ceremony the nature of which had to be explained by the grand-mistress to these nude ladies, but we are willing to believe this to have been only a little bit of scandal, with no foundation save the narrator's distorted fancy.
From that day forth, the Countess of Cagliostro, who was very handsome, passed for the accomplished type of all perfections. The house on the Boulevard du Temple, at the extremity of the Rue Saint-Claude, and which afterwards became the home of Barras, became one of the most frequented by the fashionables of Paris. Cagliostro, who had given up operating any further miraculous cures, had honours positively forced upon him. The Prince of Soubise, brother to the Cardinal de Rohan, had been given up by the faculty; the cardinal prevailed upon the great empiric to visit him. Whether he magnetised him, or that he parted with his own excess of vital fluid to aid the prince, is not known, but certain it is that the prince got rapidly well after the impostor's visits. Ennobled by this miraculous cure, Cagliostro was everywhere received with vociferous acclamations. Hundreds of carriages waited in a file in the Rue Saint-Claude. His bust was cut in marble and founded in bronze, and beneath his portrait the following quatrain was to be read:
De l'ami des humains reconnaissez les traits,
Tous ses jours sont marqués par de nouveaux bienfaits.