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This Colloquy detects the Artifices of Impostors, who impose upon the credulous and simple, framing Stories of Apparitions of Daemons and Ghosts, and divine Voices. Polus is the Author of a Rumour, that an Apparition of a certain Soul was heard in his Grounds, howling after a lamentable Manner: At another Place he pretends to see a Dragon in the Air, in the middle of the Day, and persuades other Persons that they saw it too; and he prevails upon Faunus, a Parish-Priest of a neighbouring Town, to make Trial of the Truth of the Matters, who consents to do it, and prepares Exorcisms. Polus gets upon a black Horse, throws Fire about, and with divers Tricks deceives credulous Faunus, and other Men of none of the deepest Penetration.


Tho. What good News have you had, that you laugh to yourself thus, as if you had found a Treasure?

Ans. Nay, you are not far from the Matter.

Tho. But won't you impart it to your Companion, what good Thing soever it is?

Ans. Yes, I will, for I have been wishing a good While, for somebody to communicate my Merriment to.

Tho. Come on then, let's have it.

Ans. I was just now told the pleasantest Story, which you'd swear was a Sham, if I did not know the Place, the Persons, and whole Matter, as well as you know me.

Tho. I'm with Child to hear it.

Ans. Do you know Polus, Faunus's Son-in-Law?

Tho. Perfectly well.

Ans. He's both the Contriver and Actor of this Play.

Tho. I am apt enough to believe that; for he can Act any Part to the Life.

Ans. He can so: I suppose too, you know that he has a Farm not far from London.

Tho. Phoo, very well; he and I have drank together many a Time there.

Ans. Then you know there is a Way between two straight Rows of Trees.

Tho. Upon the left Hand, about two Flight Shot from the House?

Ans. You have it. On one Side of the Way there is a dry Ditch, overgrown with Thorns and Brambles; and then there's a Way that leads into an open Field from a little Bridge.

Tho. I remember it.

Ans. There went a Report for a long Time among the Country-People, of a Spirit that walk'd near that Bridge, and of hideous Howlings that were every now and then heard there: They concluded it was the Soul of somebody that was miserably tormented.

Tho. Who was it that raised this Report?

Ans. Who but Polus, that made this the Prologue to his Comedy.

Tho. What did he mean by inventing such a Flam?

Ans. I know nothing; but that it is the Humour of the Man, he takes Delight to make himself Sport, by playing upon the Simplicity of People, by such Fictions as these. I'll tell you what he did lately of the same Kind. We were a good many of us riding to Richmond, and some of the Company were such that you would say were Men of Judgment. It was a wonderful clear Day, and not so much as a Cloud to be seen there. Polus looking wistfully up into the Air, signed his Face and Breast with the Sign of the Cross, and having compos'd his Countenance to an Air of Amazement, says to himself, O immortal God, what do I see! They that rode next to him asking him what it was that he saw, he fell again to signing himself with a greater Cross. May the most merciful God, says he, deliver me from this Prodigy. They having urg'd him, desiring to know what was the Matter, he fixing his Eyes up to Heaven, and pointing with his Finger to a certain Quarter of it, don't you see, says he, that monstrous Dragon arm'd with fiery Horns, and its Tail turn'd up in a Circle? And they denying they saw it, he bid them look earnestly, every now and then pointing to the Place: At last one of them, that he might not seem to be bad-sighted, affirmed that he saw it. And in Imitation of him, first one, and then another, for they were asham'd that they could not see what was so plain to be seen: And in short, in three Days Time, the Rumour of this portentous Apparition had spread all over England. And it is wonderful to think how popular Fame had amplified the Story, and some pretended seriously to expound to what this Portent did predict, and he that was the Contriver of the Fiction, took a mighty Pleasure in the Folly of these People.

Tho. I know the Humour of the Man well enough. But to the Story of the Apparition.

Ans. In the mean Time, one Faunus a Priest (of those which in Latin they call Regulars, but that is not enough, unless they add the same in Greek too, who was Parson of a neighbouring Parish, this Man thought himself wiser than is common, especially in holy Matters) came very opportunely to pay a Visit to Polus.

Tho. I understand the Matter: There is one found out to be an Actor in this Play.

Ans. At Supper a Discourse was raised of the Report of this Apparition, and when Polus perceiv'd that Faunus had not only heard of the Report, but believ'd it, he began to intreat the Man, that as he was a holy and a learned Person, he would afford some Relief to a poor Soul that was in such dreadful Torment: And, says he, if you are in any Doubt as to the Truth of it, examine into the Matter, and do but walk near that Bridge about ten a-Clock, and you shall hear miserable Cries; take who you will for a Companion along with you, and so you will hear both more safely and better.

Tho. Well, what then?

Ans. After Supper was over, Polus, as his Custom was, goes a Hunting or Fowling. And when it grew duskish, the Darkness having taken away all Opportunity of making any certain Judgment of any Thing, Faunus walks about, and at last hears miserable Howlings. Polus having hid himself in a Bramble Hedge hard by, had very artfully made these Howlings, by speaking through an earthen Pot; the Voice coming through the Hollow of it, gave it a most mournful Sound.

Tho. This Story, as far as I see, out-does Menander's Phasma.

Ans. You'll say more, if you shall hear it out. Faunus goes Home, being impatient to tell what he had heard. Polus taking a shorter Way, had got Home before him. Faunus up and tells Polus all that past, and added something of his own to it, to make the Matter more wonderful.

Tho. Could Polus keep his Countenance in the mean Time?

Ans. He keep his Countenance! He has his Countenance in his Hand, you would have said that a serious Affair was transacted. In the End Faunus, upon the pressing Importunity of Polus, undertakes the Business of Exorcism, and slept not one Wink all that Night, in contriving by what Means he might go about the Matter with Safety, for he was wretchedly afraid. In the first Place he got together the most powerful Exorcisms that he could get, and added some new ones to them, as the Bowels of the Virgin Mary, and the Bones of St. Winifred. After that, he makes Choice of a Place in the plain Field, near the Bramble Bushes, from whence the Voice came. He draws a very large Circle with a great many Crosses in it, and a Variety of Characters. And all this was perform'd in a set Form of Words; there was also there a great Vessel full of holy Water, and about his Neck he had a holy Stole (as they call'd it) upon which hung the Beginning of the Gospel of John. He had in his Pocket a little Piece of Wax, which the Bishop of Rome used to consecrate once a Year, which is commonly call'd Agnus Dei. With these Arms in Times past, they were wont to defend themselves against evil Spirits, before the Cowl of St. Francis was found to be so formidable. All these Things were provided, lest if it should be an evil Spirit it should fall foul upon the Exorcist: nor did he for all this, dare to trust himself in the Circle alone, but he determined to take some other Priest along with him. Upon this Polus being afraid, that if he took some sharper Fellow than himself along with him, the whole Plot might come to be discover'd, he got a Parish-Priest there-about, whom he acquainted before-hand with the whole Design; and indeed it was necessary for the carrying on the Adventure, and he was a Man fit for such a Purpose. The Day following, all Things being prepared and in good Order, about ten a-Clock Faunus and the Parish-Priest enter the Circle. Polus had got thither before them, and made a miserable Howling out of the Hedge; Faunus begins his Exorcism, and Polus steals away in the Dark to the next Village, and brings from thence another Person, for the Play could not be acted without a great many of them.

Tho. Well, what do they do?

Ans. They mount themselves upon black Horses, and privately carry Fire along with them; when they come pretty near to the Circle, they shew the Fire to affright Faunus out of the Circle.

Tho. What a Deal of Pains did this Polus take to put a Cheat upon People?

Ans. His Fancy lies that Way. But this Matter had like to have been mischievous to them.

Tho. How so?

Ans. For the Horses were so startled at the sudden flashing of the Fire, that they had like to have thrown their Riders. Here's an End of the first Act of this Comedy. When they were returned and entered into Discourse, Polus, as though he had known nothing of the Matter, enquires what was done. Faunus tells him, that two hideous Caco-dæmons appear'd to him on black Horses, their Eyes sparkling with Fire, and breathing Fire out of their Nostrils, making an Attempt to break into the Circle, but that they were driven away with a Vengeance, by the Power and Efficacy of his Words. This Encounter having put Courage into Faunus, the next Day he goes into his Circle again with great Solemnity, and after he had provok'd the Spirit a long Time with the Vehemence of his Words, Polus and his Companion appear again at a pretty Distance, with their black Horses, with a most outragious Noise, making a Feint, as if they would break into the Circle.

Tho. Had they no Fire then?

Ans. No, none at all; for that had lik'd to have fallen out very unluckily to them. But hear another Device: They drew a long Rope over the Ground, and then hurrying from one Place to another, as though they were beat off by the Exorcisms of Faunus, they threw down both the Priest and holy Water-Pot all together.

Tho. This Reward the Parish-Priest had for playing his Part?

Ans. Yes, he had; and for all that, he had rather suffer this than quit the Design. After this Encounter, when they came to talk over the Matter again, Faunus tells a mighty Story to Polus, what great Danger he had been in, and how couragiously he had driven both the evil Spirits away with his Charms, and now he had arriv'd at a firm Persuasion, that there was no Dæmon, let him be ever so mischievous or impudent, that could possibly break into this Circle.

Tho. This Faunus was not far from being a Fool.

Ans. You have heard nothing yet. The Comedy being thus far advanc'd, Polus's Son-in-Law comes in very good Time, for he had married Polus's eldest Daughter; he's a wonderful merry Droll, you know.

Tho. Know him! Ay, I know him, that he has no Aversion for such Tricks as these.

Ans. No Aversion, do you say, nay he would leave the most urgent Affair in the World, if such a Comedy were either to be seen or acted. His Father-in-Law tells him the whole Story, and gives him his Part, that was, to act the Ghost. He puts on a Dress, and wraps himself up in a Shrowd, and carrying a live Coal in a Shell, it appear'd through his Shrowd as if something were burning. About Night he goes to the Place where this Play was acted, there were heard most doleful Moans. Faunus lets fly all his Exorcisms. At Length the Ghost appears a good Way off in the Bushes, every now and then shewing the Fire, and making a rueful Groaning. While Faunus was adjuring the Ghost to declare who he was, Polus of a sudden leaps out of the Thicket, dress'd like a Devil, and making a Roaring, answers him, you have nothing to do with this Soul, it is mine; and every now and then runs to the very Edge of the Circle, as if he would set upon the Exorcist, and then retired back again, as if he was beaten back by the Words of the Exorcism, and the Power of the holy Water, which he threw upon him in great Abundance. At last when this guardian Devil was chased away, Faunus enters into a Dialogue with the Soul. After he had been interrogated and abjured, he answers, that he was the Soul of a Christian Man, and being asked his Name, he answered Faunus. Faunus! replies the other, that's my Name. So then they being Name-Sakes, he laid the Matter more to Heart, that Faunus might deliver Faunus. Faunus asking a Multitude of Questions, lest a long Discourse should discover the Fraud, the Ghost retires, saying it was not permitted to stay to talk any longer, because its Time was come, that it must go whither its Devil pleased to carry it; but yet promised to come again the next Day, at what Hour it could be permitted. They meet together again at Polus's House, who was the Master of the Show. There the Exorcist relates what was done, and tho' he added some Lies to the Story, yet he believed them to be true himself, he was so heartily affected with the Matter in Hand. At last it appeared manifestly, that it was the Soul of a Christian who was vexed with the dreadful Torments of an unmerciful Devil: Now all the Endeavours are bent this Way. There happened a ridiculous Passage in the next Exorcism.

Tho. Prithee what was that?

Ans. When Faunus had called up the Ghost, Polus, that acted the Devil, leap'd directly at him, as if he would, without any more to do, break into the Circle; and Faunus he resisted stoutly with his Exorcisms, and had thrown a power of holy Water, the Devil at last cries out, that he did not value all this of a Rush; you have had to do with a Wench, and you are my own yourself. And tho' Polus said so in Jest, it seemed that he had spoken Truth: For the Exorcist being touched with this Word, presently retreated to the very Centre of the Circle, and whispered something in the Priest's Ear. Polus seeing that, retires, that he might not hear what it was not fit for him to hear.

Tho. In Truth, Polus was a very modest, religious Devil.

Ans. He was so, otherwise he might have been blamed for not observing a Decorum, but yet he heard the Priest's Voice appointing him Satisfaction.

Tho. What was that?

Ans. That he should say the glorious 78th Psalm, three Times over, by which he conjectured he had had to do with her three Times that Night.

Tho. He was an irregular Regular.

Ans. They are but Men, and this is but human Frailty.

Tho. Well, proceed: what was done after this?

Ans. Now Faunus more couragiously advances to the very Edge of the Circle, and challenges the Devil of his own Accord; but the Devil's Heart failed him, and he fled back. You have deceived me, says he, if I had been wise I had not given you that Caution: Many are of Opinion, that what you have once confess'd is immediately struck out of the Devil's Memory, that he can never be able to twit you in the Teeth for it.

Tho. What a ridiculous Conceit do you tell me of?

Ans. But to draw towards a Conclusion of the Matter: This Dialogue with the Ghost held for some Days; at last it came to this Issue: The Exorcist asking the Soul, If there was any Way by which it might possibly be delivered from its Torments, it answered, it might, if the Money that it had left behind, being gotten by Cheating, should be restored. Then, says Faunus, What if it were put into the Hands of good People, to be disposed of to pious Uses? The Spirit reply'd, That might do. The Exorcist was rejoic'd at this; he enquires particularly, What Sum there was of it? The Spirit reply'd, That it was a vast Sum, and might prove very good and commodious: it told the Place too where the Treasure was hid, but it was a long Way off: And it order'd what Uses it should be put to.

Tho. What were they?

Ans. That three Persons were to undertake a Pilgrimage; one to the Threshold of St. Peter; another to salute St. James at Compostella; and the third should kiss _Jesus'_s Comb at Tryers; and after that, a vast Number of Services and Masses should be performed in several great Monasteries; and as to the Overplus, he should dispose of it as he pleas'd. Now _Faunus'_s Mind was fixed upon the Treasure; he had, in a Manner, swallowed it in his Mind.

Tho. That's a common Disease; but more peculiarly thrown in the Priests Dish, upon all Occasions.

Ans. After nothing had been omitted that related to the Affair of the Money, the Exorcist being put upon it by Polus, began to put Questions to the Spirit, about several Arts, as Alchymy and Magick. To these Things the Spirit gave Answers, putting off the Resolution of these Questions for the present, promising it would make larger Discoveries as soon as ever, by his Assistance, it should get out of the Clutches of its Keeper, the Devil; and, if you please, you may let this be the third Act of this Play. As to the fourth Act, Faunus began, in good Earnest, everywhere to talk high, and to talk of nothing else in all Companies and at the Table, and to promise glorious Things to Monasteries; and talk'd of nothing that was low and mean. He goes to the Place, and finds the Tokens, but did not dare to dig for the Treasure, because the Spirit had thrown this Caution in the Way, that it would be extremely dangerous to touch the Treasure, before the Masses had been performed. By this Time, a great many of the wiser Sort had smelt out the Plot, while Faunus at the same Time was every where proclaiming his Folly; tho' he was privately cautioned by his Friends, and especially his Abbot, that he who had hitherto had the Reputation of a prudent Man, should not give the World a Specimen of his being quite contrary. But the Imagination of the Thing had so entirely possess'd his Mind, that all that could be said of him, had no Influence upon him, to make him doubt of the Matter; and he dreamt of nothing but Spectres and Devils: The very Habit of his Mind was got into his Face, that he was so pale, and meagre and dejected, that you would say he was rather a Sprite than a Man: And in short, he was not far from being stark mad, and would have been so, had it not been timely prevented.

Tho. Well, let this be the last Act of the Play.

Ans. Well, you shall have it. Polus and his Son-in-Law, hammer'd out this Piece betwixt them: They counterfeited an Epistle written in a strange antique Character, and not upon common Paper, but such as Gold-Beaters put their Leaf-Gold in, a reddish Paper, you know. The Form of the Epistle was this:

Faunus, long a Captive, but now free. To Faunus, his gracious Deliverer sends eternal Health. There is no Need, my dear Faunus, that thou shouldest macerate thyself any longer in this Affair. God has respected the pious Intention of thy Mind; and by the Merit of it, has delivered me from Torments, and I now live happily among the Angels. Thou hast a Place provided for thee with St. Austin, which is next to the Choir of the Apostles: When thou earnest to us, I will give thee publick Thanks. In the mean Time, see that thou live merrily.

From the Imperial Heaven, the Ides of September, Anno 1498. Under the Seal of my own Ring.

This Epistle was laid privately under the Altar where Faunus was to perform divine Service: This being done, there was one appointed to advertise him of it, as if he had found it by Chance. And now he carries the Letter about him, and shews it as a very sacred Thing; and believes nothing more firmly, than that it was brought from Heaven by an Angel.

Tho. This is not delivering the Man from his Madness, but changing the Sort of it.

Ans. Why truly, so it is, only he is now more pleasantly mad than before.

Tho. I never was wont to give much Credit to Stories of Apparitions in common; but for the Time to come, I shall give much less: For I believe that many Things that have been printed and published, as true Relations, were only by Artifice and Imposture, Impositions upon credulous Persons, and such as Faunus.

Ans. And I also believe that a great many of them are of the same Kind.

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