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This Colloquy shews the Dotage of an old Man, otherwise a very prudent Person, upon this Art; being trick'd by a Priest, under Pretence of a two-Fold Method in this Art, the long Way and the short Way. By the long Way he puts an egregious Cheat upon old Balbinus: The Alchymist lays the Fault upon his Coals and Glasses. Presents of Gold are sent to the Virgin Mary, that she would assist them in their Undertakings. Some Courtiers having come to the Knowledge that Balbinus practis'd this unlawful Art, are brib'd. At last the Alchymist is discharg'd, having Money given him to bear his Charges.


Phi. What News is here, that Lalus laughs to himself so that he e'en giggles again, every now and then signing himself with the Sign of the Cross? I'll interrupt his Felicity. God bless you heartily, my very good Friend Lalus; you seem to me to be very happy.

La. But I shall be much happier, if I make you a Partaker of my merry Conceitedness.

Phi. Prithee, then, make me happy as soon as you can.

La. Do you know Balbinus?

Phi. What, that learned old Gentleman that has such a very good Character in the World?

La. It is as you say; but no Man is wise at all Times, or is without his blind Side. This Man, among his many good Qualifications, has some Foibles: He has been a long Time bewitch'd with the Art call'd Alchymy.

Phi. Believe me, that you call only Foible, is a dangerous Disease.

La. However that is, notwithstanding he had been so often bitten by this Sort of People, yet he has lately suffer'd himself to be impos'd upon again.

Phi. In what Manner?

La. A certain Priest went to him, saluted him with great Respect, and accosted him in this Manner: Most learned Balbinus, perhaps you will wonder that I, being a Stranger to you, should thus interrupt you, who, I know, are always earnestly engag'd in the most sacred Studies. Balbinus gave him a Nod, as was his Custom; for he is wonderfully sparing of his Words.

Phi. That's an Argument of Prudence.

La. But the other, as the wiser of the two, proceeds. You will forgive this my Importunity, when you shall know the Cause of my coming to you. Tell me then, says Balbinus, but in as few Words as you can. I will, says he, as briefly as I am able. You know, most learned of Men, that the Fates of Mortals are various; and I can't tell among which I should class myself, whether among the happy or the miserable; for when I contemplate my Fate on one Part, I account myself most happy, but if on the other Part, I am one of the most miserable. Balbinus pressing him to contract his Speech into a narrow Compass; I will have done immediately, most learned Balbinus, says he, and it will be the more easy for me to do it, to a Man who understands the whole Affair so well, that no Man understands it better.

Phi. You are rather drawing an Orator than an Alchymist.

La. You shall hear the Alchymist by and by. This Happiness, says he, I have had from a Child, to have learn'd that most desirable Art, I mean Alchymy, the very Marrow of universal Philosophy. At the very Mention of the Name Alchymy, Balbinus rais'd himself a little, that is to say, in Gesture only, and fetching a deep Sigh, bid him go forward. Then he proceeds: But miserable Man that I am, said he, by not falling into the right Way! Balbinus asking him what Ways those were he spoke of; Good Sir, says he, you know (for what is there, most learned Sir, that you are ignorant of?) that there are two Ways in this Art, one which is call'd the Longation, and the other which is call'd the Curtation. But by my bad Fate, I have fallen upon Longation. Balbinus asking him, what was the Difference of the Ways; it would be impudent in me, says he, to mention this to a Man, to whom all Things are so well known, that Nobody knows them better; therefore I humbly address myself to you, that you would take Pity on me, and vouchsafe to communicate to me that most happy Way of Curtation. And by how much the better you understand this Art, by so much the less Labour you will be able to impart it to me: Do not conceal so great a Gift from your poor Brother that is ready to die with Grief. And as you assist me in this, so may Jesus Christ ever enrich you with more sublime Endowments. He thus making no End of his Solemnity of Obtestations, Balbinus was oblig'd to confess, that he was entirely ignorant of what he meant by Longation and Curtation, and bids him explain the Meaning of those Words. Then he began; Altho' Sir, says he, I know I speak to a Person that is better skill'd than myself, yet since you command me I will do it: Those that have spent their whole Life in this divine Art, change the Species of Things two Ways, the one is shorter, but more hazardous, the other is longer, but safer. I account myself very unhappy, that I have laboured in that Way that does not suit my Genius, nor could I yet find out any Body who would shew me the other Way that I am so passionately desirous of; but at last God has put it into my Mind to apply myself to you, a Man of as much Piety as Learning; your Learning qualifies you to answer my Request with Ease, and your Piety will dispose you to help a Christian Brother, whose Life is in your Hands. To make the Matter short, when this crafty Fellow, with such Expressions as these, had clear'd himself from all Suspicion of a Design, and had gain'd Credit, that he understood one Way perfectly well, Balbinus's Mind began to have an Itch to be meddling. And at last, when he could hold no longer, Away with your Methods, says he, of Curtation, the Name of which I never heard before, I am so far from understanding it. Tell me sincerely, Do you throughly understand Longation? Phoo! says he, perfectly well; but I don't love the Tediousness of it. Then Balbinus asked him, how much Time it wou'd take up. Too much, says he; almost a whole Year; but in the mean Time it is the safest Way. Never trouble yourself about that, says Balbinus, although it should take up two Years, if you can but depend upon your Art. To shorten the Story: They came to an Agreement, that the Business should be set on foot privately in Balbinus's, House, upon this Condition, that he should find Art, and Balbinus Money; and the Profit should be divided between them, although the Imposter modestly offered that Balbinus should have the whole Gain. They both took an Oath of Secrecy, after the Manner of those that are initiated into mysterious Secrets; and presently Money is paid down for the Artist to buy Pots, Glasses, Coals, and other Necessaries for furnishing the Laboratory: This Money our Alchymist lavishes away on Whores, Gaming, and Drinking.

Phi. This is one Way, however, of changing the Species of Things.

La. Balbinus pressing him to fall upon the Business; he replies, Don't you very well know, that what's well begun is half done? It is a great Matter to have the Materials well prepar'd. At last he begins to set up the Furnace; and here there was Occasion for more Gold, as a Bait to catch more: For as a Fish is not caught without a Bait, so Alchymists must cast Gold in, before they can fetch Gold out. In the mean Time, Balbinus was busy in his Accounts; for he reckoned thus, if one Ounce made fifteen, what would be the Product of two thousand; for that was the Sum that he determined to spend. When the Alchymist had spent this Money and two Months Time, pretending to be wonderfully busy about the Bellows and the Coals, Balbinus enquired of him, whether the Business went forward? At first he made no Answer; but at last he urging the Question, he made him Answer, As all great Works do; the greatest Difficulty of which is, in entring upon them: He pretended he had made a Mistake in buying the Coals, for he had bought Oaken ones, when they should have been Beechen or Fir ones. There was a hundred Crowns gone; and he did not spare to go to Gaming again briskly. Upon giving him new Cash, he gets new Coals, and then the Business is begun again with more Resolution than before; just as Soldiers do, when they have happened to meet with a Disaster, they repair it by Bravery. When the Laboratory had been kept hot for some Months, and the golden Fruit was expected, and there was not a Grain of Gold in the Vessel (for the Chymist had spent all that too) another Pretence was found out, That the Glasses they used, were not rightly tempered: For, as every Block will not make a Mercury, so Gold will not be made in any Kind of Glass. And by how much more Money had been spent, by so much the lother he was to give it over.

Phi. Just as it is with Gamesters, as if it were not better to lose some than all.

La. Very true. The Chymist swore he was never so cheated since he was born before; but now having found out his Mistake, he could proceed with all the Security in the World, and fetch up that Loss with great Interest. The Glasses being changed, the Laboratory is furnished the third Time: Then the Operator told him, the Operation would go on more successfully, if he sent a Present of Crowns to the Virgin Mary, that you know is worshipped at Paris; for it was an holy Act: And in Order to have it carried on successfully, it needed the Favour of the Saints. Balbinus liked this Advice wonderfully well, being a very pious Man that never let a Day pass, but he performed some Act of Devotion or other. The Operator undertakes the religious Pilgrimage; but spends this devoted Money in a Bawdy-House in the next Town: Then he goes back, and tells Balbinus that he had great Hope that all would succeed according to their Mind, the Virgin Mary seem'd so to favour their Endeavours. When he had laboured a long Time, and not one Crumb of Gold appearing, Balbinus reasoning the Matter with him, he answered, that nothing like this had ever happened all his Days to him, tho' he had so many Times had Experience of his Method; nor could he so much as imagine what should be the Reason of this Failing. After they had beat their Brains a long Time about the Matter, Balbinus bethought himself, whether he had any Day miss'd going to Chapel, or saying the Horary Prayers, for nothing would succeed, if these were omitted. Says the Imposter you have hit it. Wretch that I am, I have been guilty of that once or twice by Forgetfulness, and lately rising from Table, after a long Dinner, I had forgot to say the Salutation of the Virgin. Why then, says Balbinus, it is no Wonder, that a Thing of this Moment succeeds no better. The Trickster undertakes to perform twelve Services for two that he had omitted, and to repay ten Salutations for that one. When Money every now and then fail'd this extravagant Operator, and he could not find out any Pretence to ask for more, he at last bethought himself of this Project. He comes Home like one frighted out of his Wits, and in a very mournful Tone cries out, O Balbinus I am utterly undone, undone; I am in Danger of my Life. Balbinus was astonished, and was impatient to know what was the Matter. The Court, says he, have gotten an Inkling of what we have been about, and I expect nothing else but to be carried to Gaol immediately. Balbinus, at the hearing of this, turn'd pale as Ashes; for you know it is capital with us, for any Man to practice Alchymy without a License from the Prince: He goes on: Not, says he, that I am afraid of Death myself, I wish that were the worst that would happen, I fear something more cruel. Balbinus asking him what that was, he reply'd, I shall be carried away into some Castle, and there be forc'd to work all my Days, for those I have no Mind to serve. Is there any Death so bad as such a Life? The Matter was then debated, Balbinus being a Man that very well understood the Art of Rhetorick, casts his Thoughts every Way, if this Mischief could be prevented any Way. Can't you deny the Crime, says he? By no Means, says the other; the Matter is known among the Courtiers, and they have such Proof of it that it can't be evaded, and there is no defending of the Fact; for the Law is point-blank against it. Many Things having been propos'd, but coming to no conclusion, that seem'd feasible; says the Alchymist, who wanted present Money, O Balbinus we apply ourselves to slow Counsels, when the Matter requires a present Remedy. It will not be long before they will be here that will apprehend me, and carry me away into Tribulation. And last of all, seeing Balbinus at a Stand, says the Alchymist, I am as much at a Loss as you, nor do I see any Way left, but to die like a Man, unless you shall approve what I am going to propose, which is more profitable than honourable; but Necessity is a hard Chapter. You know these Sort of Men are hungry after Money, and so may be the more easily brib'd to Secrecy. Although it is a hard Case to give these Rascals Money to throw away; but yet, as the Case now stands, I see no better Way. Balbinus was of the same Opinion, and he lays down thirty Guineas to bribe them to hush up the Matter.

Phi. Balbinus was wonderful liberal, as you tell the Story.

La. Nay, in an honest Cause, you would sooner have gotten his Teeth out of his Head than Money. Well, then the Alchymist was provided for, who was in no Danger, but that of wanting Money for his Wench.

Phi. I admire Balbinus could not smoak the Roguery all this While.

La. This is the only Thing that he's soft in, he's as sharp as a Needle in any Thing else. Now the Furnace is set to work again with new Money; but first, a short Prayer is made to the Virgin Mary to prosper their Undertakings. By this Time there had been a whole Year spent, first one Obstacle being pretended, and then another, so that all the Expence and Labour was lost. In the mean Time there fell out one most ridiculous Chance.

Phi. What was that?

La. The Alchymist had a criminal Correspondence with a certain Courtier's Lady: The Husband beginning to be jealous, watch'd him narrowly, and in the Conclusion, having Intelligence that the Priest was in the Bed-Chamber, he comes Home before he was look'd for, knocks at the Door.

Phi. What did he design to do to him?

La. What! Why nothing very good, either kill him or geld him. When the Husband being very pressing to come, threatned he would break open the Door, if his Wife did not open it, they were in bodily Fear within, and cast about for some present Resolution; and Circumstances admitting no better, he pull'd off his Coat, and threw himself out of a narrow Window, but not without both Danger and Mischief, and so got away. Such Stories as these you know are soon spread, and it came to Balbinus's Ear, and the Chymist guess'd it would be so.

Phi. There was no getting off of this Business.

La. Yes, he got off better here, than he did out at the Window. Hear the Man's Invention: Balbinus said not a Word to him about the Matter, but it might be read in his Countenance, that he was no Stranger to the Talk of the Town. The Chymist knew Balbinus to be a Man of Piety, and in some Points, I was going to say, superstitious, and such Persons are very ready to forgive one that falls under his Crime, let it be never so great; therefore, he on Purpose begins a Talk about the Success of their Business, complaining, that it had not succeeded as it us'd to do, and as he would have it; and he-wondered greatly, what should be the Reason of it: Upon this Discourse, Balbinus, who seemed otherwise to have been bent upon Silence, taking an Occasion, was a little moved: It is no hard Matter, says he, to guess what the Obstacle is. Sins are the Obstacles that hinder our Success, for pure Works should be done by pure Persons. At this Word, the Projector fell down on his Knees, and beating his Breast with a very mournful Tone, and dejected Countenance, says, O Balbinus, what you have said is very true, it is Sin, it is Sin that has been the Hinderance; but my Sins, not yours; for I am not asham'd to confess my Uncleanness before you, as I would before my most holy Father Confessor: The Frailty of my Flesh overcame me, and Satan drew me into his Snares; and O miserable Wretch that I am! Of a Priest, I am become an Adulterer; and yet, the Offering that you sent to the Virgin Mother, is not wholly lost neither, for I had perish'd inevitably, if she had not helped me; for the Husband broke open the Door upon me, and the Window was too little for me to get out at; and in this Pinch of Danger, I bethought myself of the blessed Virgin, and I fell upon my Knees, and besought her, that if the Gift was acceptable to her, she would assist me, and in a Minute I went to the Window, (for Necessity forced me so to do) and found it large enough for me to get out at.

Phi. Well, and did Balbinus believe all this?

La. Believe it, yes, and pardon'd him too, and admonish'd him very religiously, not to be ungrateful to the blessed Virgin: Nay, there was more Money laid down, upon his giving his Promise, that he would for the future carry on the Process with Purity.

Phi. Well, what was the End of all this?

La. The Story is very long; but I'll cut it short. When he had play'd upon Balbinus long enough with these Inventions, and wheedled him out of a considerable Sum of Money, a certain Gentleman happen'd to come there, that had known the Knave from a Child: He easily imagining that he was acting the same Part with Balbinus, that he had been acting every where, admonishes Balbinus privately, and acquainted him what Sort of a Fellow he harbour'd, advising him to get rid of him as soon as possible, unless he had a Mind to have him sometime or other, to rifle his Coffers, and then run away.

Phi. Well, what did Balbinus do then? Sure, he took Care to have him sent to Gaol?

La. To Gaol? Nay, he gave him Money to bear his Charges, and conjur'd him by all that was sacred, not to speak a Word of what had happened between them. And in my Opinion, it was his Wisdom so to do, rather than to be the common Laughing-stock, and Table-Talk, and run the Risk of the Confiscation of his Goods besides; for the Imposter was in no Danger; he knew no more of the Matter than an Ass, and cheating is a small Fault in these Sort of Cattle. If he had charg'd him with Theft, his Ordination would have say'd him from the Gallows, and no Body would have been at the Charge of maintaining such a Fellow in Prison.

Phi. I should pity Balbinus; but that he took Pleasure in being gull'd.

La. I must now make haste to the Hall; at another Time I'll tell you Stories more ridiculous than this.

Phi. When you shall be at Leisure, I shall be glad to hear them, and I'll give you Story for Story.

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