A Man With His Head On Fire And Covered With Blood





The following singular adventure is related by a military captain.



"I was coming home one night on horseback, from a visit I had been

making to a number of the neighbouring villages, where I had quartered

my recruits. It happened there had fallen a deal of rain that day, since

noon, and during all the evening, which had broken up the roads, and it

was raining still with equal violence; but, being forced to join my

company next morning, I set out, provided with a lanthorn, having to

pass a strait defile between two mountains. I had cleared it, when a

gust of wind took off my hat, and carried it so far, that I despaired of

getting it again, and therefore gave the matter up. By great good

fortune, I had with me my red cloak. I covered my head and shoulders

with it, leaving nothing but a little hole to see my way, and breathe

through; and, for fear the wind should take a fancy to my cloak, as well

as my hat, I passed my right arm round my body to secure it: so that,

riding on in this position, you may easily conceive my lanthorn, which

I held in my right hand, was under my left shoulder. At the entrance of

a village on a hill, I met three travellers, who no sooner saw me than

they ran away as fast as possible. For my part, I went on upon the

gallop; and when I came into the town, alighted at an inn, where I

designed to rest myself a little. Soon after, who should enter, but my

three poltroons, as pale as death itself. They told the landlord and his

people, trembling as they spoke, that in the road they had encountered a

great figure of a man all over blood, whose head was like a flame of

fire, and to increase the wonder, placed beneath his shoulder. He was

mounted on a dreadful horse, said they, quite black behind, and grey

before; which, notwithstanding it was lame, he spurred and whipped right

up the mountain with extraordinary swiftness. Here they ended their

relation. They had taken care to spread the alarm as they were flying

from this wondrous apparition, and the people had come with them to the

inn in such a drove, that upwards of an hundred were all squeezed

together, opening both their mouths and ears at this tremendous story.

To make up in some sort for my dismal journey, I resolved to laugh a

little, and be merry at their cost, intending to cure them of such

fright, by shewing them their folly in the present instance. With this

view, I got upon my horse again, behind the inn, and went round about

till I had rode the distance of a mile or thereabouts; when, turning, I

disposed of my accoutrements, that is to say, my cloak and lanthorn, as

before, and on I came upon a gallop towards the inn. You should have

seen the frighted mob of peasants, how they hid their faces at the

sight, and got into the passage. There was no one but the host had

courage to remain, and keep his eye upon me. I was now before the door,

on which I shifted the position of my lanthorn, let my cloak drop down

upon my shoulders, and appeared the figure he had seen me by his kitchen

fire. It was not without real difficulty, we could bring the simple

people who had crowded in for safety from their terror: the three

travellers, in particular, as the first impression was still strong

within them, they could not credit what they saw. We finished by a

hearty laugh at their expence, and by drinking to the man whose head was

like a flame of fire, and placed beneath his shoulder."





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