Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/565

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549
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

Kofta Ben Lukas made his salaam to the Commander of the Faithful, than he was presented with a purse of four hundred and fifty golden denari, and offered fifty more if he would leave the capital before night. He had been summoned through a misunderstanding, they told him, and the Caliph did not wish it to become public that by his mistake an illustrious scholar had thus been foolishly interrupted in his studies.

——Marshal Vendôme.—If cynicism had not ceased to rank as a branch of philosophy, France could boast of having produced the greatest philosopher of the last twenty centuries. Louis-Joseph, Duke of Vendôme, great-grandson of Henry IV, was a man of principles. He used to take a bath on the first day of every month, and during the remaining four weeks avoided water in every form—his toilet-articles being limited to a jackknife and a piece of beeswax. On the day of the monthly purification his rooms were also cleansed, his study with a broom and his bedroom with a shovel, for a pack of hunting-dogs shared his couch and often reared their progeny under his bed. The destruction of all earthly laundries would not have shaken the peace of his manly soul; his underwear consisted of a buckskin shirt and short socks of the same material, his bed of a bunk and three blankets, one of them rolled up in the shape of a pillow. At the table of the Comte d'Amblève he often gorged himself till he could hardly rise from his chair; but at home he used to avoid that difficulty by taking his meals in bed, and there were weeks when he did not leave his bed at all. Brushes, combs, looking-glasses, marriage-rings, prayer-books, handkerchiefs, soap and wash-basins, were luxuries the noble warrior managed to dispense with; ceremonies were his grand aversion, and the demerits of the frail sex the subject of his daily anathemas. But this man, whom the priests accused of all the vices mentioned in Peter Lombard's revised catalogue, was a Mars on the battle-field, the idol of the army, and, in the opinion of Prince Eugene, the one soldier who could have saved France if the petticoat-government had not thwarted him.

——Curious Predictions.Mother Shipton, too, has foundered on a cliff that is strewed with the wreck of numerous vaticinations. On this side of the Indus, it seems, Messiahs are not sufficiently encouraged to venture upon a second advent. "This whole business of the Delphic fraternity," says Professor Hegel, "is nothing but Scheiben-schiessen im Nebel—target-practice in a fog." Still, it must be admitted that some of the marksmen have scored remarkable hits. Not all prophets have "prophesied after the event," for it can not be denied that, eight years before the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte, the author of the "Contrat Social" (Jean Jacques Rousseau) recorded in print the following augurium: "J'ai un présentiment que la Corse produira un homme qui étonnera le monde"—("I have a presentiment that Corsica is going to produce a man who will astonish the world)." Napoleon himself believed in omens and portents as firmly as any Roman Cæsar, and openly professed his confidence in certain lucky days (the 2d of December and 24th of October, for instance). He confessed to Las Casas that in the night before the battle of Leipsic he was on the point of revoking all his orders and abandoning his position, having been seized with a sudden misgiving, which only the stronger fear of ridicule helped him to overcome; and after his Russian campaign he certainly had some excuse for being a little superstitious. In the winter of 1807 the arbiter of Europe took it into his head one day to consult the famous clairvoyante Lenormand, whose feats in "astrology" were setting all Paris agog. The Pythoness told him that his fears of another outbreak in Austria were unfounded. "Your power has not culminated yet,"