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The Superstitious Couple






In the letters from a gentleman on his travels in Italy to his friend in
England, is the following curious account of an experiment tried with
the Bolognian stone, of which phosphorus is made.

There was an English maid-servant in the house where we lodged,
(observes this gentleman), and her bed-chamber was immediately over the
one occupied by myself and friend. My companion having found his way
into it, or, at least, supposing he had done so, wrote with some paste
made merely with flour and water, the terrible words--"REMEMBER DEATH!"
in great capitals, on the inside of the bed-curtains. Over the wet
letters he strewed some of the crust prepared from this stone, which he
had powdered for that purpose in a mortar; and, when he had so done,
called me up, to see the words in letters of fire. We sat up for the
discovery; but something very different from what we had expected,
happened. The Italians are bigots, and consequently superstitious. It
happened that the room, into which my friend had found his way, was not,
as he imagined, that of the maid-servant, but of a couple of devout
people, who accidentally slept in the house. We heard them undress; and
followed our scheme, by getting on the upper stairs near the door of the
room: we heard two voices, and we saw the candle on a table near the
bed-side. The lady was first in bed; and the good man no sooner
followed, than the candle was put out. On the instant of its extinction,
appeared the terrible words. The lady screamed her prayers; the husband
trembled over his Ave-Marias. The letters were absolutely fire, and the
bed was not injured. The language was unintelligible to those who saw
the words; and, perhaps, it was in that respect more terrifying, than if
the admonition had been understood. The Mene Tekel of the prophet came
into both their minds at once. They jumped out of bed, and alarmed the
whole house. We were first in the room. My friend took occasion, in
their confusion, to scrape off the whole matter very cleanly with his
pocket knife. The company brought candles--there was nothing to be seen.
Both husband and wife pointed to the place where the writing had
appeared; but nothing but some smeared dirt was visible there. My friend
kept his counsel, and the miracle was blazed all over Bologna the next
day; and we left a legion of wondering priests in the house at our
departure!





Next: The Haunted Bed-room

Previous: The Dominican Friar



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