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The Ventriloquist






The following anecdote is related by Adrianus Turnibis, the greatest
critic of the sixteenth century, and who was admired and respected by
all the learned in Europe.

"There was a crafty fellow," says he, "called Petrus Brabantius, who, as
often as he pleased, would speak from his stomach, with his mouth indeed
open, but his lips unmoved, of which I have been repeatedly an eye and
ear witness. In this manner he put divers cheats on several persons:
amongst others, the following was well known.

"There was a merchant of Lyons, lately dead, who had acquired a great
estate by unjust dealings. Brabantius happening to be at Lyons, and
hearing of this, comes one day to Cornutus, the son and heir of this
merchant, as he walked in a portico behind the church-yard, and tells
him that he was sent to inform him of what was to be done by him; and
that it was more requisite to think about the soul and reputation of his
father, than thus wander about the church-yard, lamenting his death. In
an instant, while they were thus discoursing, a voice was heard, as if
it was that of the father, though, in reality, it proceeded from his
own stomach. Brabantius seemed terribly affrighted. The voice informed
the son the state his father was in by reason of his injustice, what
tortures he endured in purgatory, both on his own, and his son's
account, whom he had left heir of his ill-gotten goods: that no freedom
was to be expected by him, till just expiation was made by giving alms
to such as stood most in need, and that these were the Christians who
were taken by the Turks: that he should put entire confidence in the man
who was by special providence now come to him, and give him money, to be
employed by religious persons for the ransom of so many as were captives
at Constantinople. Cornutus, who was a good sort of a man, yet loth to
part with his money, told Brabantius that he would advise upon it; and
desired he would meet him in the same place the next day. In the mean
time, he began to suspect there might be some fraud in the place, as it
was shady, dark, and fit for echoes or other delusions. The next day,
therefore, he takes him to an open plain, where there was neither bush
nor briar; but there, notwithstanding all his precaution, he hears the
same story, with this addition, that he should forthwith deliver
Brabantius six thousand franks, and purchase three masses daily to be
said for him, or else the miserable soul of his father could not be
freed. Cornutus, though thus bound by conscience, duty, and religion,
yet with reluctance delivered him the money, without taking any receipt,
or having any witness to the payment of it. Having thus dismissed him,
and hearing no more of his father, he became somewhat more pleasant than
he had been since his father's death. One day this change in him was
observed by some friends, who were at dinner at his house; upon which he
told them what had befallen him: when his friends so derided him, one
and all, for his credulity, in being so simply cheated of his money,
that, for mere grief and vexation, within a few days after, he died."





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