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When I was a little boy of about six years old, I was standing with a maid-servant in the balcony of one of the upper rooms of my father's house in London—it was the evening of the first day that I had ever been in London, and my senses had been excited, and almost exhausted, by the vast variety of objects that were new to me. It was dusk, and I was growing sleepy, but my attention was awakened by a fresh wonder. As I stood peeping between the bars of the balcony, I saw star after star of light appear in quick succession, at a certain height and distance, and in a regular line, approaching nearer and nearer. I twitched the skirt of my maid's gown repeatedly, but she was talking to some
acquaintance at the window of a neighbouring house, and she M did not attend to me.
I pressed my forehead more closely against the bars of the balcony, and strained my eyes more eagerly towards the object of my curiosity. Presently the figure of the lamp-lighter with his blazing torch in one hand, and his ladder in the other, became visible; and, with as much delight as philosopher ever enjoyed in discovering the cause of a new and grand phenomenon, I watched his operations. I saw him fix and mount his ladder with his little black pot swinging from his arm, and his red smoking torch waving with astonishing velocity, as he ran up and down the ladder. Just when he reached the ground, being then within a few yards of our house, his torch flared on the face and figure of an old man with a long white beard and a dark visage, who, bolding a great bag slung over one shoulder, walked slowly on, repeating in a low, abrupt, mysterious tone, the cry of “Old clothes! Old clothes! Old
clothes!” I could not understand the words he said, but as he looked up at our balcony he saw me-smiled—and I remember thinking that he had a good-natured countenance. The maid nodded to him; he stood still, and at the same instant she seized upon me, exclaiming, “ Time for you to come off to bed, Master Harrington.”
I resisted, and, clinging to the rails, began kicking and roaring.
“ If you don't come quietly this minute, Master Harrington," said she, “I'll call to Simon the Jew there," pointing to him, “and he shall come up and carry you away in his great bag."
The old man's eyes were upon me; and to my fancy the look of his eyes and his whole face had changed in an instant. I was struck with terror-my hands let go their grasp-and I suffered myself to be carried off as quietly as my maid could desire. She hurried and huddled me into bed, bid me go to sleep, and ran down stairs. To sleep I could not go, but full of fear and curiosity I lay, pondering on the thoughts of Simon the Jew and his bag, who had come to carry me away in the height of my joys. His face with the light of the torch upon it appeared and vanished, and flitted before my eyes. The next morning, when daylight and courage returned, I asked my maid whether Simon the Jew was a good or a bad man? Observing the impression that had been made upon my mind, and foreseeing that the expedient, which she had thus found successful, might be advantageously repeated, she answered with oracular duplicity, “Simon the Jew is a good man for naughty boys.” The threat of “Simon the Jew” was for some time afterwards used upon every occasion to reduce me to passive obedience; and when by frequent repetition this threat had lost somewhat of its power, she proceeded to tell me, in a mysterious tone, stories of Jews who had been known to steal poor children for the purpose of killing, crucifying, and sacrificing them at their secret feasts and midnight abominations. The less I understood, the more I believed.
Above all others, there was one story-horrible! most horrible! ---which she used to tell at midnight, about a Jew who lived in Paris in a dark alley, and who professed to sell pork pies; but it was found out at last that the pies were not pork—they were
made of the flesh of little children. His wife used to stand at the door of her den to watch for little children, and, as they were passing, would tempt them in with cakes and sweetmeats. There was a trap-door in the cellar, and the children were dragged down; and -Oh! how my blood ran cold when we came to the terrible trap-door. Were there, I asked, such things in London now?
Oh, yes! In dark narrow lanes there were Jews now living, and watching always for such little children as me; I should take care they did not catch me, whenever I was walking in the streets; and Fowler (that was my maid's name) added, “ There was no knowing what they might do with me."
In our enlightened days, and in the present improved state of education, it may appear incredible that any nursery-maid could be so wicked as to relate, or any child of six years old so foolish as to credit, such tales; but I am speaking of what happened many years ago : nursery-maids and children, I believe, are very different now from what they were then ; and in further proof of the progress of human knowledge and reason, we may recollect that many of these very stories of the Jews, which we now hold too preposterous for the infant and the nursery-maid to credit, were some centuries ago universally believed by the English nation, and had furnished more than one of our kings with pretexts for extortion and massacres.
But to proceed with my story. The impression made on my imagination by these horrible tales was greater than my nurserymaid intended. Charmed by the effect she had produced, she was next afraid that I should bring her into disgrace with my mother, and she extorted from me a solemn promise that I would never tell any body the secret she had communicated. From that moment I became her slave, and her victim. I shudder when I look back to all I suffered during the eighteen months I was under her tyranny. Every night, the moment she and the candle left the room, I lay in an indescribable agony of terror; my head under the bed-clothes, my knees drawn up, in a cold perspiration. I saw faces around me grinning, glaring, receding, advancing, all turning at last into the same face of the Jew with the long beard and the terrible eyes; and that bag, in which I fancied were mangled limbs of children-it opened to receive
me, or fell upon my bed, and lay heavy on my breast, so that I could neither stir nor scream; in short, it was one continued nightmare ; there was no refreshing sleep for me till the hour when the candle returned and my tyrant-my protectress, as I thought her-came to bed. In due course she suffered in her turn; for I could not long endure this state, and, instead of submitting passively or lying speechless with terror, the moment she left the room at night I began to roar and scream till I brought my mother and half the house up “ What could be the matter with the child ?” Faithful to my promise, I never betrayed the secrets of my prison-house. Nothing could be learned from me but that “ I was frightened,” that “I could not go to sleep;" and this, indeed, my trembling condition, and convulsed countenance, sufficiently proved. My mother, who was passionately fond of me, became alarmed for my health, and ordered that Fowler should stay in the room with me every night till I should be quite fast asleep.
So Fowler sat beside my bed every night, singing, caressing, cajoling, hushing, conjuring me to sleep: and when in about an hour's time, she flattered herself that her conjurations had succeeded; when my relaxing muscles gave her hope that she might withdraw her arm unperceived; and when slowly and dexterously she had accomplished this, and, watching my eyelashes, and cautiously shading the candle with her hand, she had happily gained the door; some slipping of the lock, some creaking of the hinge, some parting sound startled me, and bounce I was upright in my bed, my eyes wide open, and my voice ready for a roar: so she was compelled instantly to return, to replace the candle full in my view, to sit down close beside the bed, and, with her arm once more thrown over me, she was forced again to repeat that the Jew's bag could not come there, and, cursing me in her heart, she recommenced her deceitful songs. She was seldom released in less than two hours. In vain she now tried by day to chase away the terrors of the night: to undo her own work was beyond her power. In vain she confessed that her threats were only to frighten me into being a good boy. In vain she told me that I was too old now to believe such nonsense. In vain she told me that Simon was only an old-clothes-man, that his cry was only “Old clothes ! Old clothes !” which she mimicked to take off its terror ; its terror was in that power of association which was beyond her skill to dissolve. In vain she explained to me that his bag held only my old shoes and her yellow petticoat. In vain she now offered to let me see with my own eyes. My imagination was by this time proof against ocular demonstration.
One morning early, she took me down stairs into the housekeeper's room, where Simon and his bag were admitted; she emptied the bag in my presence, she laughed at my foolish fears, and I pretended to laugh, but my laugh was hysterical. No power could draw me within arm’s-length of the bag or the Jew. He smiled and smoothed his features, and stroked his white beard, and, stooping low, stretched out his inoffensive hand to me; my maid placed sugared almonds on the palm of that hand, and bid me approach and eat. No! I stood fixed, and if the Jew approached, I ran back and hid my head in Fowler's lap. If she attempted to pull or push me forwards I screamed, and at length I sent forth a scream that wakened my mother-her bell rang, and she was told that it was only Master Harrington, who was afraid of poor Simon, the old-clothes-man. Summoned to the side of my mother's bed, I appeared nearly in hysterics—but still faithful to my promise, I did not betray my maid ;-nothing could be learned from me but that I could not bear the sight of Old Simon the Jew. My mother blamed Fowler for taking me down to see such a sort of a person. The equivocating maid replied, that Master Harrington could not or would not be easy unless she did ; and that indeed now it was impossible to know how to make him easy by day or by night; that she lost her natural rest with him; and that for her part she could not pretend to stand it much longer, unless she got her natural rest. Heaven knows my natural rest was gone! But, besides, she could not even get her cup of tea in an evening, or stir out for a mouthful of fresh air, now she was every night to sing Master Harrington to sleep.
It was but poetical justice that she who had begun by terrifying me, in order to get me to bed, and out of her way, should end by being forced to suffer some restraint to cure me of my terrors; but Fowler did not understand or relish poetical justice, or any kind of justice : besides, she had heard that Lady de