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CURIOSITIES



OLDEN TIMES.



S. BARING GOULD, M.A.

AUTHOR OF " CURIOUS MYTHS OF THE MIDDLE AGES,
" THE SILVER STORE," ETC.




LONDON :

J. T. HAYES, LYALL PLACE, EATON SQUAEE.
NEW YORK : POTT & AMEEY.



'SAAC FOOT
LIBRARY



LONDON :

SWIFT AND CO., REGENT PRESS, KING STREET,

REGENT STREET, W.



f^ LIBRARY

^00/ UNIVERSITY OF : -^'^ORNlA

dg SANTA I].UlBAi:A



CONTENTS



PREFACE ....

CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER

STRANGE WILLS .

QUEER CULPRITS .

GHOSTS IN COURT

STRANGE PAINS AND PENALTIES

WHAT ARE WOMEN MADE OF?

*' FLAGELLUM SALUTIS "

" HERMIPPUS REDIVIVUS" .

THE BARONESS DE BEAUSOLEIL

MONSIEUR OUFLE

THE JACK-ASS OF VANVRES .

A MYSTERIOUS VALE

KING ROBERT OF SICILY

SORTES SACR^

CHIAPA CHOCOLATE



PAGE

iv
1

27

50

72

91

107

128

148

171

188

205

224

250

274

290



PREFACE.



An antiquary lights on many a curiosity
whilst overhauling the dusty tomes of
ancient writers. This little book is a
small museum in which I have preserved
some of the quaintest relics which have
attracted my notice during my labours.
Several of the articles are reprinted from
" Once a Week," in which they were first
inserted.

Dalton, Thirsk,
July 2Gth, 1869.



CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN
TIMES.



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER.



JN 1680, when M. de Louvois was French
Minister of War, he summoned before
Tsf^p^ him one day a gentleman named
Chamilly, and gave him the following instruc-
tions ;

" Start this evening for Basle, in Switzerland ;
you will reach it in three days ; on the fourth,
punctually at two o'clock, station yourself on
the bridge over the Rhine, with a portfolio, ink,
and a pen. Watch all that takes place, and
make a memorandum of every particular. Con-
tinue doing so for two hours ; have a carriage
and post-horses awaiting you ; and at four pre-
cisely^ mount, and travel night and day till you

B



5i CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

reach Paris. On the instant of yoiu* arrival,
hasten to me with your notes."

De Chamilly obeyed ; he reached Basle, and
on the day and at the hour appointed, stationed
himself, pen in hand, on the bridge. Presently
a market-cart drives by ; then an old woman
with a basket of fruit passes ; anon, a little
urchin trundles his hoop by ; next an old gentle-
man in blue top-coat jogs past on his grey mare.
Three o'clock chimes from the cathedral tower.
Just at the last stroke, a tall fellow in yellow
waistcoat and breeches saunters up, goes to the
middle of the bridge, lounges over, and looks at
the water ; then he takes a step back and strikes
three hearty blows on the footway with his
staff. Down goes every detail in De Chamilly 's
book. At last the hour of release sounds, and
he jumps into his carriage. Shortly before
midnight, after two days of ceaseless travelling,
De Chamilly presented himself before the
minister, feeling rather ashamed at having
such trifles to record. M. de Louvois took the
portfolio with eagerness, and glanced over the
notes. As his eye caught the mention of the
yellow-breeched man, a gleam of joy flashed
across his countenance. He rushed to the king.



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 3

roused him from sleep, spoke in private with him
for a few moments, and then four couriers who
had been lield in readiness since five on the
j)receding evening were despatched with haste.
Eight days after, the town of Strasbourg was
entirely surrounded by French troops, and sum-
moned to surrender : it capitulated and threw
open its gates on the 30th of September, 1681.
Evidently the three strokes of the stick given by
the fellow in yellow costume, at an appointed
hour, were the signal of the success of an
intrigue concerted between M. de Louvois and
the magistrates of Strasboui'g, and the man who
executed this mission was as ignorant of the
motive, as was M. de Charailly of the motive
of his.

Now this is a specimen of the safest of all
secret communications, but it can only be re-
sorted to on certain rare occasions. When a
lengthy despatch is required to be forwarded,
and when such means as those mven above are
out of the qiiestion, some other method must be
employed. Herodotus gives us a story to the
point : it is found also, with variations, in Aulus
Gellius.

" Histiseus, when he was anxious to give Aris-

B 2



4 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

tagoras orders to revolt, could find but one safe
way, as the roads were guarded, of making his
wishes known : which was by taking the trustiest
of his slaves, shaving all the hair from off his
head, and then pricking letters upon the skin,
and waiting till the hair grew again. This
accordingly he did ; and as soon as ever the hair
was grown, he despatched the man to Miletus,
giving him no other message than this : ' When
thou art come to Miletus, bid Ai'istagoras shave
thy head, and look thereon/ Now the marks
on the head were a command to revolt." —
(Bk. V. 35.)

In this case no cypher was employed ; we shall
come, now, to the use of cyphers.

When a despatch or communication runs
great risk of falling into the hands of an enemy,
it is necessary that its contents should be so
veiled, that the possession of the document may
afford him no information whatever. Julius
Caesar and Augustus used cyphers, but they
were of the utmost simplicity, as they consisted
jnerely in placing D in the place of A ; E in
that of B, and so on ; or else in writing B for
A, C for B, &c.

Secret Characters were used at the Council of



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER.

Nicaea ; and Rabanus Maurus, Abbot of Fulda
and Ai'chbishop of Mayence in the ninth
century, has left us an example of two cyphers,
the key to which was discovered by the Benedic-
tines. It is only a wonder that any one could
have failed to unravel them at the first glance.
This is a specimen of the first :

.Nc.p.t v:rs:-:s B::n.f:c.. :rch. gl::r.::s.q:.::
m:rt.r.s

The clue to this is the suppression of the
vowels and the filling of their places by dots, —
one for i, two for a, three for e, four for o, and
five for u. In the second example, the same
sentence would run— Knckpkt vfrsxs Bpnkfbckk,
&c., the vowel-places being filled by the con-
sonants — b, f, k, p, x. By changing every letter
in the alphabet, we make a vast improvement
on this last ; thus, for instance, supplying the
place of a with z, b with x, c with v, and so on.
This is the system employed by an advertiser in
a provincial paper, which we took up the other
day in the waiting-room of a station, where it
had been left by a farmer. As we had some
minutes to spare, before the train was due, we
spent them in deciphering the following :
Jp Sjddjzb rza rzdd ci sijmr, Bziw rzdd xr ndzt :



6 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

and in ten minutes we read : " If William can

call or write, Mary will be glad."

A correspondence was carried on in the

" Times" during Maj, 1862, in cypher. We

give it along with the explanation.

TTj^WS. — Zy Efpdolj T dpye 1 wpeepc ez mjcyp qzc
\Y jzf — xlj T daply qfwwj zy Iww xleepcd le esp
tyepcgtph ? Te xlj oz rzzo. Eci'de ez xj wzgp — T Ix
xtdpclmwp. Hspy xlj T rz ez Nlyepcmfcj tq zjtvj ez
wzzv le jzf. — May 8.

This means — " On Tuesday I sent a letter to
Byrne for you. May I speak fully on all mat-
ters at the interview ? It may do good. Trust
to my love. I am miserable. When may I go
to Canterbury if only to look at you ? "

A couple of days later Bjoiie advertises,

slightly varying the cypher :

"VTtWS. — Sxbrdktg bdbtewxcv " Tmwxqxixdc axzt"
\V iidg pcdewtg psktgexlitbtcc.QNGCT. "Dis-
cover sometbing Exhibition-like for auotber adver-
tisement. Byrne."

This gentleman is rather mysterious : we must

leave our readers to conjecture what he means

by " Exhibition-like." On W^ednesday came

two advertisements, one from the lady — one

from the lover. ^VWS. herself seems rather

sensible —

TYDEPLO zq rztyr ez nlyepcmfcj, T estyv jzf rIo xfns
mpeepc delj le szxp Ivo xtyo jzfc mfdt^-pdd.
— WWS., May 10.



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 7

" Instead of going to Canterbury, I think you
had much better stay at home and mind your
business."

Excellent advice ; but how far likely to be
taken by the eager wooer, who advertises thus ? —

WWS. — Fyetw jzfc qlespc lydhpcd T hzye Idv jzf ez
aczgp jzf wzgp xp. Efpdolj ytrse le zyp znwznv
slgp I dectyr qczx esp htyozh qzc wpeepcd. Tq jzt Icp
yze Imw-p le zj'p T htww hlte. Ezo nzxqzce jzf xj
olcwtyr htqp.

" Until your father answers I won't ask you
to prove you love me. Tuesday night at one
o'clock have a string from the window for
letters. If you are not able at one I will wait.
God comfort you, my darling wife."

Only a very simple Romeo and Juliet could
expect to secure secresy by so slight a displace-
ment of the alphabet.

When the Chevalier de Rohan was in the
Bastille, his friends wanted to convey to him the
intelligence that his accomplice was dead with-
out having confessed. They did so by passing
the following words into his dungeon, written on
a shirt : " Mg dulhxcclgu ghj yxuj ; Im ct ulgc
alj." In vain did he puzzle over the cypher, to
which he had not the clue. It was too short :
for the shorter a cypher letter, the more difficult
it is to make out. The light faded, and he



8



CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.



tossed on his hard bed, sleeplessly revolving the
mjstic letters in his brain, but he could make
nothing out of them. Day dawned, and, M^ith
its first gleam, he was poring over them : still in
A^ain. He pleaded guilty, for he could not
decipher " Le prisorinier est mort ; il na rien
ditr

Another method of veiling a communication
is that of employing numbers or arbitrary^ signs
in the place of letters, and this admits of many
refinements. Here is an example to test the
reader's sagacity :

§ +431 45 2 + 9 +§51 4= 8732+ 287 45 2 + 9
+t= +

We just give the hint that it is a proverb.

The following is much more ingenious, and
difficult of detection.





A
a


B


C


D


E
n


F


G


H


A


d


9


k


2


t


X


B


b


e


h


I





r


u


y


C


c


f


i


m


P


s


w


z



Now suppose that I want to write England ;
I look among the small letters in the foregoing
table for g, and find that it is in a horizontal



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 9

line with b, and vertical line with B, so I write
down Bb ; n is in line with A and E, so I put
AE ; continue this, and England will be repi'e-
sented by Bhaeachdaaaeah. Two letters to
represent one is not over-tedious : but the
scheme devised by Lord Bacon is clumsy
enough. He represented every letter by permu-
tations of a and b ; for instance,

A was written aaarta, B was written aaaab
C „ „ aaaha, D „ „ aahaa

and so through the alphabet. Paris would thus
be transformed into ahhbd, aaaaa, baaaa, abaaa,
baaab. Conceive the labour of composing a
whole despatch like this, and the great likelihood
of making blunders in writing it !

A much simpler method is the following.
The sender and receiver of the communication
must be agreed upon a certain book of a speci-
fied edition. The despatch begins with a number;
this indicates the page to which the reader is to
turn. He must then count the letters from the
top of the page, and give them their value
numerically according to the order in which
they come ; omitting those which are repeated.
By these numbers he reads his despatch. As
an example, let us take the beginning of this



10 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

article : then, J=l, n=2, ?r=3, /«=4, e=^5,
m=6, fZ=7, l=S, w=9, v 10, o=ll, omitting
to count the letters which are repeated. In the
middle of the communication the page may be
varied, and consequently the numerical signi-
ficance of each letter altered. Even this could
be read with a little trouble ; and the word
" impossible" can hardly be said to apply to the
deciphering of cryptographs.

A curious instance of this occurred at the
close of the sixteenth century, when the
Spaniards were endeavouring to establish rela-
tions between the scattered branches of their
vast monarchy, which at that period embraced
a large portion of Italy, the Low Countries, the
Philippines, and enormous disti'icts in the New
AVorld. They accordingly invented a cypher,
which they varied from time to time, in order
to disconcert those who might attempt to pry
into the mysteries of their correspondence. The
cypher, composed of fifty signs, was of great
value to them through all the troubles of the
" Ligue," and the wars then desolating Europe.
Some of their despatches having been inter-
cepted, Henry IV. handed them over to a clever
mathematician, Viete, with the request that he



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 11

would find the clue. He did so, and was able
also to follow it as it varied, and France profited
for two years by his discovery. The court of
Spain, disconcerted at this, accused Viete before
the Roman court as a sorcerer and in league
with the devil. This proceeding only gave rise
to laughter and ridicule.

A still more remarkable instance is that of a
German professor, Hermann, who boasted, in
1752, that he had discovered a cryptograph
absolutely incapable of being deciphered, with-
out the ckie being given by him ; and he defied
all the savants and learned societies of Europe
to. discover the key. However, a French
refugee, named Beguelin, managed after eight
days' study to read it. This cypher — thougli
we have the rules upon which it is formed
before us — is to us perfectly unintelligible. It
is grounded on some changes of numbers and
symbols ; numbers vary, being at one time
multiplied, at another added, and become so
complicated that the letter e, which occurs nine
times in the paragraph, is represented in eight
different ways ; n is used eight times, and has
seven various signs. Indeed the same letter is
scarcely ever represented by the same figure ;



12 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

but this is not all : the character which appears
in the place of i takes that of n shortly after ;
another symbol for n stands also for t. How
any man could have solved the mystery of this
cypher is astonishing.

Now let ns recommend a far simpler system,
and one which is very difficult of detection. It
consists of a combination of numbei's and
letters. Both parties must be agreed on an
arrangement such as that in the second line
below, for on it all depends.

12345 6 789 10
47291 10 536 8

Now in turning a sentence such as "The
army must retire" into cypher, you count the
letters which make the sentence, and find that
T is the first, h the second, r the third, A the
fourth, R the fifth, and so on. Then look at
the table. T is the first letter ; 4 answers to 1 ;
therefore write the fourth letter in the place of
T ; that is A instead of t. For Ji the second,
put the seventh, which is y ; for e, take the
second, h. The sentence will stand " Ayh utsr
emma yhut^r." It is all but impossible to dis
cover this cypher.

All these cryptographs consist in the exchange



CUEIOSITIES OF CYPHEE. 13

of numbers or characters for the real letters ;
but there are other methods quite as intricate,
which dispense with them.

The mysterious cards of the Count de Ver-
gennes are an instance. De Vergennes was
Minister of Foreign Affairs under Louis XVI.,
and he made use of cards of a peculiar nature
in his relations with the diplomatic agents of
France. These cards were used in letters of
recommendation or passports which were given
to strangers about to enter France ; they were
intended to fvirnish information without the
knowledge of the bearers. This was the system.
The card given to a man contained only a few
words, such as ;

ALPHONSE D'ANGEHA.

Becommande a Monsieur

le Comte de Vergennes, par le Marquis de Puysegur,

Ambassadeur de France a la Cour de Lisbonne.

The card told more tales than the words
written on it. Its colour indicated the nation
of the stranger. Yellow showed him to be
English ; red, Spanish ; white, Portuguese ;
green, Dutch ; red and white, Italian ; red and
green, Swiss ; green and white, Russian ; &c.
The person's age was expressed by the shape of



14 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

the card. If it were circular, he was under 25 ;
oval, between 25 and 30 ; octagonal, between
30 and 45 ; hexagonal, between 45 and 50 ;
square, between 50 and (30 ; and oblong showed
that he was over GO. Two lines placed below
the name of the bearer indicated his build. If
he were tall and lean, the lines were waving
and jxirallel ; tall and stout, they converged ;
and so on. The expression of his face was
shown by a flower in the border. A rose
designated an open and amiable countenance,
whilst a tulip marked a pensive and aristocratic
appearance. A fillet round the border, according
to its length, told whether the man was bachelor,
married, or Avidower. Dots gave information as
to his position and fortune. A full stop after
his name showed that he was a Catholic ; a sem-
colon, that he was a Lutheran ; a comma, that
he was a Calvinist ; a dash, that he was a Jew ;
no stop indicated him as an Atheist. So also
his morals and character were pointed out by a
pattern in the angles of the card, such as one
of these



So, at one glance the minister could tell all



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 15

about his man, whether he were a gamester or a
dueUist ; what was his purpose in visiting
France ; whether in search of a wife or to claim
a legacy ; what was his profession — that of
physician, lawyer, or man of letters ; whether
he were to be put under surveillance or allowed
to go his way unmolested.

We come now to a class of cypher which re-
quires a certain amount of literary dexterity to
conceal the clue.

During the Great Rebellion, Sir John Tre-
vanion, a distinguished cavalier, was made
prisoner, and locked up in Colchester castle.
Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle had just
been made examples of, as a warning to " malig-
iiants :" and Trevanion has every reason for
expecting a similar bloody end. As he awaits
his doom, indulging in a hearty curse in round
cavalier terms at the canting, crop-eared scound-
rels who hold him in durance vile, and muttering
a wish that he had fallen, sword in hand, facing
the foe, he is startled by the entrance of the
gaoler who hands him a letter :

"May't do thee good," growls the fellow;
" it has been well looked to before it was per-
mitted to come to thee."



16 CUEIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

Sir John takes the letter, and the gaoler
leaves him his lamp by which to read it :

WoETHiE Sir John, — Hope, that is y® beste
comfort of y*" affiictyd, cauuot much, I fear me,
help you now. That I wolde saye to you, is this
only : if ever I may be able to recjuite that I do
owe you, stand not upon asking of me. 'Tis not
much I can do : but what I can do, bee you verie
sure I wille. I knowe that, if dethe comes, if
ordinary men fear it, it frights not you, account-
ing it for a high honour, to have such a rewarde
of your loyalty. Pray yet that you may be
spared tliis soe bitter cup. I fear not that you
will grudge any sufferings : only if bie submission
you can turn them away, 'tis the part of a wise
man. Tell me, an if you can, to do for you any
thinge that you wolde have done. The general
goes back on Wednesday. Eestinge your servant
to command. E. T.

Now this letter was written according to a
pre-concerted cypher. Every third letter after
a stop was to tell. In this way Sir John made
out — " Panel at east end of chapel slides." On
the following even, the prisoner begged to be
allowed to pass an hour of private devotion in
the chapel. By means of a bribe, this w^as
accomplished. Before the hour had expired,
the chapel was empty — the bird had flown.



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 17

An excellent plan of indicating the telling
letter or word is through the heading of the
letter. " Sir," would signify that every third
letter was to be taken ; "Dear sir," that eveiy
seventh; "My dear sir," that every ninth was
to be selected. A system, very early adopted,
was that of having pierced cards, through the
holes of which the communication was written.
The card was then removed, and the blank
spaces filled up. As for example :

My dear X., — [The] lines I now send yon are
forwarded by the kindness of the [Bearer], who is
a friend. [Is not] the message delivered yet [to]
my Brother ? [Be] quick about it, for I have all
along [trusted] that you would act with discretion
and despatch. Yours ever, Z.

Put your card over the note, and through the
piercings, you will read : " The Bearer is not to
be trusted."

The following letter will give two totally dis-
tinct meanings, according as it is read, straight
through, or only by alternate lines : —
Mademoiselle, —
Je m'empresse de vous ecrire pour vous declarer
que vous vous trompez beaucoup si vous croyez
que vous etes celle pour qui je soupire.
II est bien vrai que pour vous eprouver,
Je vous ai fait mille aveux. Apres quoi

c



18 CURIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

vGiis etes devenue I'objet de ma raillerie. Ainsi

ne doutez plus de ce que vous dit ici celui

qui n'a eu que de raversion pour vous, et

qui aimerait mieux mourir que de

se voir oblige de vous epouser, et de

changer le dessein qu'il a forme de vous

hair toute sa vie, bien loin de vous

aimer, comme il vous I'a declare. Soyez done

desabusee, croyez-moi ; et si vous etes encore

constante et persuadee que vous etes aimee

vous serez encore plus exposee a la risee

de tout le monde, et particulierement de

celui qui n'a jamais ete et ne sera jamais

Votre ser'ture M. N.

We must not omit to mention Chronograms.

These are verses which contain within them the

date of the composition. So at Gratz, on the

mausoleum of the Emperor Ferdinand, is the

foUowdng : —

ferDInanDVs seCVnDVs pie VIXit pie obllt :
that is, 1637.

A very curious one was written by Charles
de Bovelle : we adapt and explain it : —

The heads of a mouse and five cats - m.ccccc
Add also the tail of a bull . - - l
Item, the four legs of a rat - - - mi



And you have my date in fuU - m.cccccliiii

(1554.)

It is now high time that we show the reader



CUKIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 19

how to find the chie to a cypher. And as illustra-
tion is always better than precept, we shall ex-
emplify from om* own experience. With permis-
sion, too, w^e shall di'op the pluralforthe singular.
Well ! My friend Matthew Fletcher came
into a property some years ago, bequeathed to
him by a great uncle. The old gentleman had
been notorious for his parsimonious habits, and
he was known through the county by the nick-
name of Miser Tom. Of course every one be-
lieved that he w^as vastly rich, and that Mat.
Fletcher would come in for a mint of money.
But, somehow, my friend did not find the stores
of coin on which he had calculated, hidden in
worsted stockings or cracked pots ; and the
savings of the old man which he did light upon
consisted of but trifling sums. Fletcher became
firmly persuaded that the money was hidden
somewhere ; where he could not tell, and he
often came to consult me on the best expedient
for discovering it. It is all through my inter-
vention that he did not pull down the whole
house about his ears, tear up every floor, and
root up every flower or tree throughout the
garden, in his search after the precious hoard.
One day he burst into my room with radiant face.

c 2



20 CUEIOSITIES OF OLDEN TIMES.

" My dear fellow ! " he gasped forth ; " I have
found it!"

"Found what? — the treasure?"

" No — but I want your help now :" and he
flung a discoloured slip of paper on my table.

I took it up, and saw that it was covered with
writing in cypher.

" I routed it out of a secret drawer in Uncle
Tom's bureau!" he exclaimed, " I have no doubt
of its purport. It indicates the spot where all
his savings are secreted."

" You have not deciphered it yet, have you ?"

" No. I want your help ; I can make neither
heads nor tails of the scrawl, though I sat up all
night studying it."

" Come along," said I, " I -svish you joy of

your treasure. I'll read the cypher if you give

me time." So we sat down together at my

desk, with the slip of paper before us. Here is

the inscription : — D

+ a282§ 9^9)32 Ax879+)789(9(8817-^)8—2§ + 9 X §2§
A
— 2 9 § — ) * 8228x7Ae82\*9x79 + X § — 7 — j3 * 7x9— t

B

/3— x8)\x81|§8 — = 8x2§8x82§— +§8x8©§8x88§82
8x7)3A(2§8 + 811xA = \^9fi\\\7 = — + -^— x88lAx*92
— + 2.

"Now," said I; "the order of precedence



CURIOSITIES OF CYPHER. 21

among the letters, according to the frequency


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryS. (Sabine) Baring-GouldCuriosities of olden times → online text (page 1 of 15)