The Dead Man And Anatomical Professor
Many, who were personally acquainted with Mr. Junker, have frequently
heard him relate the following anecdote.
Being Professor of Anatomy, he once procured, for dissection, the bodies
of two criminals who had been hanged. The key of the dissecting room not
being immediately at hand, when they were carried home to him, he
ordered them to be laid down in a closet which opened into his own
apartment. The evening came; and Junker, according to custom, proceeded
to resume his literary labour before he retired to rest. It was now near
midnight, and all his family were fast asleep, when he heard a rumbling
noise in his closet. Thinking that, by some mistake, the cat had been
shut up with the dead bodies, he arose, and, taking the candle, went to
see what had happened. But what must have been his astonishment, or
rather his panic, on perceiving that the sack which contained the two
bodies was rent through the middle. He approached, and found that one
of them was gone.
The doors and windows were well secured, and he thought it impossible
the bodies could have been stolen. He tremblingly looked round the
closet, and observed the dead man seated in a corner.
Junker stood for a moment motionless: the dead man seemed to look
towards him; he moved both to the right and left, but the dead man still
kept his eyes upon him.
The Professor then retired, step by step, with his eyes still fixed upon
the object of his alarm, and holding the candle in his hand, until he
reached the door. The dead man instantly started up, and followed him. A
figure of so hideous an appearance, naked, and in motion--the lateness
of the hour--the deep silence which prevailed--every thing concurred to
overwhelm him with confusion. He let fall the only candle which he had
burning, and all was darkness. He made his escape to his bed-chamber,
and threw himself on the bed: thither, however, he was pursued; and he
soon felt the dead man embracing his legs, and loudly sobbing. Repeated
cries of "Leave me! leave me!" released Junker from the grasp of the
dead man; who now exclaimed, "Ah! good executioner! good executioner!
have mercy upon me."
Junker soon perceived the cause of what had happened, and resumed his
fortitude. He informed the re-animated sufferer who he really was, and
made a motion, in order to call up some of the family. "You wish then to
destroy me," exclaimed the criminal. "If you call any one, my adventure
will become public, and I shall be taken and executed a second time. In
the name of humanity, I implore you to save my life."
The physician struck a light, decorated his guest with an old
night-gown, and, having made him take off a cordial, requested to know
what had brought him to the gibbet. It would have been a truly singular
exhibition, observed Junker, to have seen me, at that late hour, engaged
in a tete-a-tete with a dead man decked out in a night-gown.
The poor wretch informed him, that he had enlisted as a soldier, but
that, having no great attachment to the profession, he had determined to
desert; that he had unfortunately entrusted his secret to a kind of
crimp, a fellow of no principle, who recommended him to a woman, in
whose house he was to remain concealed: that this woman had discovered
his retreat to the officers of police, &c.
Junker was extremely perplexed how to save the poor man. It was
impossible to retain him in his own house, and keep the affair a secret;
and to turn him out of doors, was to expose him to certain destruction.
He therefore resolved to conduct him out of the city, in order that he
might get into a foreign jurisdiction; but it was necessary to pass the
gates of the city, which were strictly guarded. To accomplish this
point, he dressed the man in some of his old clothes, covered him with a
cloak, and, at an early hour, set out for the country, with his
protege behind him. On arriving at the city gate, where he was well
known, he said in a hurried tone, that he had been sent for to visit a
sick person who was dying in the suburbs. He was permitted to pass.
Having both got into the open fields, the deserter threw himself at the
feet of his deliverer, to whom he vowed eternal gratitude; and, after
receiving some pecuniary assistance, departed, offering up prayers for
Twelve years after, Junker, having occasion to go to Amsterdam, was
accosted on the Exchange by a man well-dressed and of the best
appearance, who, he had been informed, was one of the most respectable
merchants in that city. The merchant, in a polite manner, inquired
whether he was not Professor Junker of Halle; and, on being answered in
the affirmative, he requested, in an earnest manner, his company to
dinner. The Professor consented. Having reached the merchant's house,
he was shewn into an elegant apartment, where he found a beautiful wife,
and two fine healthy children: but he could scarcely suppress his
astonishment at meeting with so cordial a reception from a family with
whom, he thought he was entirely unacquainted.
After dinner, the merchant, taking him into his counting-room, said,
"You do not recollect me?"--"Not at all."--"But I well recollect you;
and never shall your features be effaced from my remembrance. You are my
benefactor. I am the person who came to life in your closet, and to whom
you paid so much attention. On parting from you, I took the road to
Holland. I wrote a good hand, was tolerably expert at accounts; my
figure was somewhat interesting; and I soon obtained employment as a
merchant's clerk. My good conduct, and my zeal for the interests of my
patron, procured me his confidence, and his daughter's love. On his
retiring from business, I succeeded him, and became his son-in-law. But
for you, however, I should not have lived to experience all these
enjoyments. Henceforth, look upon my house, my fortune, and myself, as
at your disposal."
Those who possess the smallest portion of sensibility can easily
represent to themselves the feelings of Junker.
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