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An echo returned on the cold grey morn,
Like the breath of a spirit sighing..
Who had yearned for his voice while dying ! The panting steed, with a drooping crest,
And, that dumb companion eyeing,
To the halls where my love lay dying !”
MYNHEER VON WODENBLOCK.
HENRY GLASSFORD BELL. This story has been admirably versified by the late Thomas Hudson, comic song writer and vocalist, and will be recognised by many as the original of the far-famed comic song of “The Cork Leg.”]
He who has been at Rotterdam will remember a house of two stories, which stands in the suburbs, just adjoining the basin of the canal that runs between that city and the Hague, Leyden, and other places. I say he will remember it, for it must have been pointed out to him, as having been once inhabited by the most ingenious artist that Holland ever produced, to say nothing of his daughter, the prettiest maiden ever born within hearing of the croaking of a frog. It is not with the fair Blanche, unfortunately, that we have at present anything to do; it is with the old gentleman, her father. His profession was that of a surgical instrument maker, but his fame principally rested on the admirable skill with which he constructed wooden and cork legs. So great was his reputation in this department of human science, that they whom nature or accident had curtailed, caricatured, and disappointed in so very necessary an appendage to the body, came limping to him in crowds, and, however desperate their case might be, were very soon, as the saying is, set upon their legs again. Many a cripple, who had looked upon his deformity as incurable, and whose only consolation consisted in an occasional sly hit at Providence, for having intrusted his making to a journeyman, found himself so admirably fitted—so elegantly propped up by Mynheer Turningvort—that he almost began to doubt whether a timber or cork supporter was not, on the whole, superior to a more commonplace and troublesome one of flesh and blood. And, in good truth, if you had seen how very handsome and delicate were the understandings fashioned by the skilful artificer, you would have been puzzled to settle the question yourself, the more especially if, in your real toes, you were ever tormented with gout or corns.
One morning, just as Master Turningvort was giving its final smoothness and polish to a calf and ankle, a messenger entered his studio (to speak classically), and requested that he would immediately accompany him to the mansion of Mynheer Von Wodenblock. It was the mansion of the richest merchant in Rotterdam; so the artist put on his best wig, and set forth with his threecornered hat in one hand, and his silver-headed stick in the other. It so happened that Mynheer Von Wodenblock had been very laudably employed, a few days before, in turning a poor relation out of doors, but, in endeavouring to hasten the odious wretch's progress down stairs by a slight impulse a posteriore (for Mynheer seldom stood upon ceremony with poor relations), he had unfortunately lost his balance, and, tumbling headlong from the top to the bottom, found, on recoverhis senses, that he had broken his right leg, and that he had lost three teeth. He had at first some thoughts of having his poor relation tried for murder; but being naturally of a merciful disposition, he only sent him to jail on account of some unpaid debt, leaving him there to enjoy the comfortable reflection that his wife and children were starving at home. A dentist soon supplied the invalid with three teeth, which he had pulled out of an indigent poet's head at the rate of ten stivers a-piece, but for which he prudently charged the rich merchant one hundred dollars. The doctor, upon examining his leg, recollecting that he was at that moment rather in want of a subject, cut it carefully off, and took it away with him in his carriage, to lecture upon it to his pupils. So Mynheer Von Wodenblock, considering that he had been hitherto accustomed to walk, and not to hop, and being, perhaps, somewhat prejudiced in favour of the former mode of locomotion, sent for our friend at the canal basin, in order that he might give him directions about the representative with which he wished to be supplied fo. his lost member.
The artificer entered the wealthy burgher's apartment. He was reclining on a couch, with his left leg looking as respectable as ever, but with his unhappy right stump wrapped up in bandages, as if conscious and ashamed of its own littleness. “Turningvort, you have heard of my misfortune; it has thrown me into a fever, and all Rotterdam into confusion; but let that pass. You must make me a leg; and it must be the best leg, sir, you ever made in your life.” Turningvort bowed. “I don't care what it costs," Turningvort bowed yet lower, “provided it outdoes everything you have yet made of a similar sort. I am for none of your wooden spindleshanks. Make it of cork; let it be light and elastic; and cram it as full of springs as a watch. I know nothing of the business, and cannot be more specific in my directions; but this I am determined upon, that I shall have a leg as good as the one I have lost. I know such a thing is to be had, and if I get it from you, your reward is a thousand guineas.” The Dutch Pronetheus declared, that, to please Mynheer Von Wodenblock, he would do more than human ingenuity had ever done before, and undertook to bring him, within six days, a leg which would laugh to scorn the mere common legs possessed by common
This assurance was not meant as an idle boast. Turningvort was a man of speculative as well as practical science, and there was a favourite discovery which he had long been endeavouring to make, and in accomplishing which, he imagined he had at last succeeded that very morning. Like all other manufacturers of terrestrial legs, he had ever found the chief difficulty, in his progress towards perfection, to consist in its being apparently impossible to introduce into them anything in the shape of joints, capable of being regulated by the will, and of performing those important functions achieved under the present system by means of the admirable mechanism of the knee and ankle. Our philosopher had spent years in endeavouring to obviate this grand inconvenience; and though he had undoubtedly made greater progress than anybody else, it was not till now that he believed himself completely master of the great secret. His first attempt to carry it into execution was to be in the leg he was about to make for Mynheer Von Wodenblock.
It was on the evening of the sixth day from that to which I have already alluded, that, with this magic leg carefully packed up, the acute artizan again made his appearance before the expecting and impatient Wodenblock. There was a proud twinkle in Turningvort's grey eye, which seemed to indicate that he valued even the thousand guineas, which he intended for Blanche's marriage portion, less than the celebrity—the glorythe immortality, of which he was at length so sure. He untied his precious bundle, and spent some hours in displaying and explaining to the delighted burgher the number of additions he had made to the internal machinery, and the purpose which each was intended to serve. The evening wore away in discussions concerning wheels within wheels, and springs acting upon springs. When it was time to retire to rest, both were equally satisfied of the perfection of the work; and, at his employer's earnest request, the artist consented to remain where he was for the night, in order that, early next morning, he might fit on the limb, and see how it performed its duty.
Early next morning all the necessary arrangements were completed, and Mynheer Von Wodenblock walked forth to the street in ecstasy, blessing the inventive powers of one who was able to make so excellent a hand of his leg. It seemed indeed to act to admiration—in the merchant's mode of walking there was no stiffness, no effort, no constraint. All the joints performed their office without the aid of either bone or muscle. Nobody, not even a connoisseur in lameness, would have suspected that there was anything uncommon, any great collection of accurately adjusted clockwork, under the full, well-slashed pantaloons of the substantial-looking Dutchman. Had it not been for a slight tremulous motion occasioned by the rapid whirling of about twenty small wheels in the interior, and a constant clicking, like that of a watch, though somewhat louder, he would even himself have forgotten that he was not, in all respects, as he used to be, before he lifted his right foot to bestow a parting benediction on his poor relation.
He walked along in the renovated buoyancy of his spirits, till he came in sight of the Stadt-House; and just at the foot of the flight of steps that lead up to the principal door, he saw his old friend, Mynheer Vanoutern, waiting to receive him. He quickened his pace, and both mutually held out their hands to each other by way of congratulation, before they were near enough to be clasped in a friendly embrace. At last, the merchant reached the spot where Vanoutern stood; but what was that worthy man's astonishment to see