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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