THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE

 

IN FIVE VOLUMES

 

VOLUME FOUR

 

The Raven Edition

 

Contents:

 

     The Devil in the Belfry

     Lionizing

     X-ing a Paragraph

     Metzengerstein

     The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether

     The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.

     How to Write a Blackwood article

     A Predicament

     Mystification

     Diddling

     The Angel of the Odd

     Mellonia Tauta

     The Duc de l'Omlette

     The Oblong Box

     Loss of Breath

     The Man That Was Used Up

     The Business Man

     The Landscape Garden

     Maelzel's Chess-Player

     The Power of Words

     The Colloquy of Monas and Una

     The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion

     Shadow.--A Parable

 

 

 

 

 

THE DEVIL IN THE BELFRY

 

     What o'clock is it?--_Old Saying_.

 

EVERYBODY knows, in a general way, that the finest place in the world

is--or, alas, was--the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittiss. Yet as

it lies some distance from any of the main roads, being in a somewhat

out-of-the-way situation, there are perhaps very few of my readers

who have ever paid it a visit. For the benefit of those who have not,

therefore, it will be only proper that I should enter into some account

of it. And this is indeed the more necessary, as with the hope of

enlisting public sympathy in behalf of the inhabitants, I design here

to give a history of the calamitous events which have so lately occurred

within its limits. No one who knows me will doubt that the duty thus

self-imposed will be executed to the best of my ability, with all

that rigid impartiality, all that cautious examination into facts, and

diligent collation of authorities, which should ever distinguish him who

aspires to the title of historian.

 

By the united aid of medals, manuscripts, and inscriptions, I am enabled

to say, positively, that the borough of Vondervotteimittiss has existed,

from its origin, in precisely the same condition which it at present

preserves. Of the date of this origin, however, I grieve that I can only

speak with that species of indefinite definiteness which mathematicians

are, at times, forced to put up with in certain algebraic formulae.

The date, I may thus say, in regard to the remoteness of its antiquity,

cannot be less than any assignable quantity whatsoever.

 

Touching the derivation of the name Vondervotteimittiss, I confess

myself, with sorrow, equally at fault. Among a multitude of opinions

upon this delicate point--some acute, some learned, some sufficiently

the reverse--I am able to select nothing which ought to be considered

satisfactory. Perhaps the idea of Grogswigg--nearly coincident with

that of Kroutaplenttey--is to be cautiously preferred.--It

runs:--"Vondervotteimittis--Vonder, lege Donder--Votteimittis, quasi

und Bleitziz--Bleitziz obsol:--pro Blitzen." This derivative, to say

the truth, is still countenanced by some traces of the electric fluid

evident on the summit of the steeple of the House of the Town-Council. I

do not choose, however, to commit myself on a theme of such importance,

and must refer the reader desirous of information to the "Oratiunculae

de Rebus Praeter-Veteris," of Dundergutz. See, also, Blunderbuzzard

"De Derivationibus," pp. 27 to 5010, Folio, Gothic edit., Red and Black

character, Catch-word and No Cypher; wherein consult, also, marginal

notes in the autograph of Stuffundpuff, with the Sub-Commentaries of

Gruntundguzzell.

 

Notwithstanding the obscurity which thus envelops the date of the

foundation of Vondervotteimittis, and the derivation of its name, there

can be no doubt, as I said before, that it has always existed as we find

it at this epoch. The oldest man in the borough can remember not the

slightest difference in the appearance of any portion of it; and,

indeed, the very suggestion of such a possibility is considered an

insult. The site of the village is in a perfectly circular valley, about

a quarter of a mile in circumference, and entirely surrounded by gentle

hills, over whose summit the people have never yet ventured to pass. For

this they assign the very good reason that they do not believe there is

anything at all on the other side.

 

Round the skirts of the valley (which is quite level, and paved

throughout with flat tiles), extends a continuous row of sixty little

houses. These, having their backs on the hills, must look, of course, to

the centre of the plain, which is just sixty yards from the front door

of each dwelling. Every house has a small garden before it, with a

circular path, a sun-dial, and twenty-four cabbages. The buildings

themselves are so precisely alike, that one can in no manner be

distinguished from the other. Owing to the vast antiquity, the style

of architecture is somewhat odd, but it is not for that reason the less

strikingly picturesque. They are fashioned of hard-burned little bricks,

red, with black ends, so that the walls look like a chess-board upon a

great scale. The gables are turned to the front, and there are cornices,

as big as all the rest of the house, over the eaves and over the main

doors. The windows are narrow and deep, with very tiny panes and a great

deal of sash. On the roof is a vast quantity of tiles with long curly

ears. The woodwork, throughout, is of a dark hue and there is much

carving about it, with but a trifling variety of pattern for, time out

of mind, the carvers of Vondervotteimittiss have never been able to

carve more than two objects--a time-piece and a cabbage. But these they

do exceedingly well, and intersperse them, with singular ingenuity,

wherever they find room for the chisel.

 

The dwellings are as much alike inside as out, and the furniture is all

upon one plan. The floors are of square tiles, the chairs and tables

of black-looking wood with thin crooked legs and puppy feet. The

mantelpieces are wide and high, and have not only time-pieces and

cabbages sculptured over the front, but a real time-piece, which makes

a prodigious ticking, on the top in the middle, with a flower-pot

containing a cabbage standing on each extremity by way of outrider.

Between each cabbage and the time-piece, again, is a little China man

having a large stomach with a great round hole in it, through which is

seen the dial-plate of a watch.

 

The fireplaces are large and deep, with fierce crooked-looking

fire-dogs. There is constantly a rousing fire, and a huge pot over it,

full of sauer-kraut and pork, to which the good woman of the house is

always busy in attending. She is a little fat old lady, with blue eyes

and a red face, and wears a huge cap like a sugar-loaf, ornamented

with purple and yellow ribbons. Her dress is of orange-colored

linsey-woolsey, made very full behind and very short in the waist--and

indeed very short in other respects, not reaching below the middle of

her leg. This is somewhat thick, and so are her ankles, but she has

a fine pair of green stockings to cover them. Her shoes--of pink

leather--are fastened each with a bunch of yellow ribbons puckered up

in the shape of a cabbage. In her left hand she has a little heavy Dutch

watch; in her right she wields a ladle for the sauerkraut and pork. By

her side there stands a fat tabby cat, with a gilt toy-repeater tied to

its tail, which "the boys" have there fastened by way of a quiz.

 

The boys themselves are, all three of them, in the garden attending the

pig. They are each two feet in height. They have three-cornered

cocked hats, purple waistcoats reaching down to their thighs, buckskin

knee-breeches, red stockings, heavy shoes with big silver buckles, long

surtout coats with large buttons of mother-of-pearl. Each, too, has a

pipe in his mouth, and a little dumpy watch in his right hand. He

takes a puff and a look, and then a look and a puff. The pig--which is

corpulent and lazy--is occupied now in picking up the stray leaves that

fall from the cabbages, and now in giving a kick behind at the gilt

repeater, which the urchins have also tied to his tail in order to make

him look as handsome as the cat.

 

Right at the front door, in a high-backed leather-bottomed armed chair,

with crooked legs and puppy feet like the tables, is seated the old man

of the house himself. He is an exceedingly puffy little old gentleman,

with big circular eyes and a huge double chin. His dress resembles that

of the boys--and I need say nothing farther about it. All the difference

is, that his pipe is somewhat bigger than theirs and he can make a

greater smoke. Like them, he has a watch, but he carries his watch in

his pocket. To say the truth, he has something of more importance than a

watch to attend to--and what that is, I shall presently explain. He sits

with his right leg upon his left knee, wears a grave countenance, and

always keeps one of his eyes, at least, resolutely bent upon a certain

remarkable object in the centre of the plain.

 

This object is situated in the steeple of the House of the Town Council.

The Town Council are all very little, round, oily, intelligent men, with

big saucer eyes and fat double chins, and have their coats much longer

and their shoe-buckles much bigger than the ordinary inhabitants of

Vondervotteimittiss. Since my sojourn in the borough, they have had

several special meetings, and have adopted these three important

resolutions:

 

"That it is wrong to alter the good old course of things:"

 

"That there is nothing tolerable out of Vondervotteimittiss:" and--

 

"That we will stick by our clocks and our cabbages."

 

Above the session-room of the Council is the steeple, and in the steeple

is the belfry, where exists, and has existed time out of mind, the

pride and wonder of the village--the great clock of the borough of

Vondervotteimittiss. And this is the object to which the eyes of the old

gentlemen are turned who sit in the leather-bottomed arm-chairs.

 

The great clock has seven faces--one in each of the seven sides of the

steeple--so that it can be readily seen from all quarters. Its faces are

large and white, and its hands heavy and black. There is a belfry-man

whose sole duty is to attend to it; but this duty is the most perfect

of sinecures--for the clock of Vondervotteimittis was never yet known to

have anything the matter with it. Until lately, the bare supposition

of such a thing was considered heretical. From the remotest period of

antiquity to which the archives have reference, the hours have been

regularly struck by the big bell. And, indeed the case was just the same

with all the other clocks and watches in the borough. Never was such a

place for keeping the true time. When the large clapper thought proper

to say "Twelve o'clock!" all its obedient followers opened their throats

simultaneously, and responded like a very echo. In short, the good

burghers were fond of their sauer-kraut, but then they were proud of

their clocks.

 

All people who hold sinecure offices are held in more or less respect,

and as the belfry--man of Vondervotteimittiss has the most perfect of

sinecures, he is the most perfectly respected of any man in the world.

He is the chief dignitary of the borough, and the very pigs look up to

him with a sentiment of reverence. His coat-tail is very far

longer--his pipe, his shoe--buckles, his eyes, and his stomach, very far

bigger--than those of any other old gentleman in the village; and as to

his chin, it is not only double, but triple.

 

I have thus painted the happy estate of Vondervotteimittiss: alas, that

so fair a picture should ever experience a reverse!

 

There has been long a saying among the wisest inhabitants, that "no good

can come from over the hills"; and it really seemed that the words had

in them something of the spirit of prophecy. It wanted five minutes

of noon, on the day before yesterday, when there appeared a very

odd-looking object on the summit of the ridge of the eastward. Such an

occurrence, of course, attracted universal attention, and every little

old gentleman who sat in a leather-bottomed arm-chair turned one of his

eyes with a stare of dismay upon the phenomenon, still keeping the other

upon the clock in the steeple.

 

By the time that it wanted only three minutes to noon, the droll object

in question was perceived to be a very diminutive foreign-looking young

man. He descended the hills at a great rate, so that every body had soon

a good look at him. He was really the most finicky little personage that

had ever been seen in Vondervotteimittiss. His countenance was of a dark

snuff-color, and he had a long hooked nose, pea eyes, a wide mouth, and

an excellent set of teeth, which latter he seemed anxious of displaying,

as he was grinning from ear to ear. What with mustachios and whiskers,

there was none of the rest of his face to be seen. His head was

uncovered, and his hair neatly done up in papillotes. His dress was

a tight-fitting swallow-tailed black coat (from one of whose pockets

dangled a vast length of white handkerchief), black kerseymere

knee-breeches, black stockings, and stumpy-looking pumps, with huge

bunches of black satin ribbon for bows. Under one arm he carried a huge

chapeau-de-bras, and under the other a fiddle nearly five times as big

as himself. In his left hand was a gold snuff-box, from which, as he

capered down the hill, cutting all manner of fantastic steps, he

took snuff incessantly with an air of the greatest possible

self-satisfaction. God bless me!--here was a sight for the honest

burghers of Vondervotteimittiss!

 

To speak plainly, the fellow had, in spite of his grinning, an audacious

and sinister kind of face; and as he curvetted right into the village,

the old stumpy appearance of his pumps excited no little suspicion; and

many a burgher who beheld him that day would have given a trifle for a

peep beneath the white cambric handkerchief which hung so obtrusively

from the pocket of his swallow-tailed coat. But what mainly occasioned a

righteous indignation was, that the scoundrelly popinjay, while he cut a

fandango here, and a whirligig there, did not seem to have the remotest

idea in the world of such a thing as keeping time in his steps.

 

The good people of the borough had scarcely a chance, however, to get

their eyes thoroughly open, when, just as it wanted half a minute of

noon, the rascal bounced, as I say, right into the midst of them; gave

a chassez here, and a balancez there; and then, after a pirouette and

a pas-de-zephyr, pigeon-winged himself right up into the belfry of the

House of the Town Council, where the wonder-stricken belfry-man sat

smoking in a state of dignity and dismay. But the little chap seized him

at once by the nose; gave it a swing and a pull; clapped the big chapeau

de-bras upon his head; knocked it down over his eyes and mouth; and

then, lifting up the big fiddle, beat him with it so long and so

soundly, that what with the belfry-man being so fat, and the fiddle

being so hollow, you would have sworn that there was a regiment of

double-bass drummers all beating the devil's tattoo up in the belfry of

the steeple of Vondervotteimittiss.

 

There is no knowing to what desperate act of vengeance this unprincipled

attack might have aroused the inhabitants, but for the important fact

that it now wanted only half a second of noon. The bell was about to

strike, and it was a matter of absolute and pre-eminent necessity that

every body should look well at his watch. It was evident, however, that

just at this moment the fellow in the steeple was doing something that

he had no business to do with the clock. But as it now began to strike,

nobody had any time to attend to his manoeuvres, for they had all to

count the strokes of the bell as it sounded.

 

"One!" said the clock.

 

"Von!" echoed every little old gentleman in every leather-bottomed

arm-chair in Vondervotteimittiss. "Von!" said his watch also; "von!"

said the watch of his vrow; and "von!" said the watches of the boys, and

the little gilt repeaters on the tails of the cat and pig.

 

"Two!" continued the big bell; and

 

"Doo!" repeated all the repeaters.

 

"Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!" said the bell.

 

"Dree! Vour! Fibe! Sax! Seben! Aight! Noin! Den!" answered the others.

 

"Eleven!" said the big one.

 

"Eleben!" assented the little ones.

 

"Twelve!" said the bell.

 

"Dvelf!" they replied perfectly satisfied, and dropping their voices.

 

"Und dvelf it is!" said all the little old gentlemen, putting up their

watches. But the big bell had not done with them yet.

 

"Thirteen!" said he.

 

"Der Teufel!" gasped the little old gentlemen, turning pale, dropping

their pipes, and putting down all their right legs from over their left

knees.

 

"Der Teufel!" groaned they, "Dirteen! Dirteen!!--Mein Gott, it is

Dirteen o'clock!!"

 

Why attempt to describe the terrible scene which ensued? All

Vondervotteimittiss flew at once into a lamentable state of uproar.

 

"Vot is cum'd to mein pelly?" roared all the boys--"I've been ongry for

dis hour!"

 

"Vot is com'd to mein kraut?" screamed all the vrows, "It has been done

to rags for this hour!"

 

"Vot is cum'd to mein pipe?" swore all the little old gentlemen, "Donder

and Blitzen; it has been smoked out for dis hour!"--and they filled them

up again in a great rage, and sinking back in their arm-chairs, puffed

away so fast and so fiercely that the whole valley was immediately

filled with impenetrable smoke.

 

Meantime the cabbages all turned very red in the face, and it seemed as

if old Nick himself had taken possession of every thing in the shape of

a timepiece. The clocks carved upon the furniture took to dancing as

if bewitched, while those upon the mantel-pieces could scarcely contain

themselves for fury, and kept such a continual striking of thirteen, and

such a frisking and wriggling of their pendulums as was really horrible

to see. But, worse than all, neither the cats nor the pigs could put

up any longer with the behavior of the little repeaters tied to their

tails, and resented it by scampering all over the place, scratching and

poking, and squeaking and screeching, and caterwauling and squalling,

and flying into the faces, and running under the petticoats of the

people, and creating altogether the most abominable din and confusion

which it is possible for a reasonable person to conceive. And to make

matters still more distressing, the rascally little scape-grace in the

steeple was evidently exerting himself to the utmost. Every now and then

one might catch a glimpse of the scoundrel through the smoke. There he

sat in the belfry upon the belfry-man, who was lying flat upon his back.

In his teeth the villain held the bell-rope, which he kept jerking about

with his head, raising such a clatter that my ears ring again even to

think of it. On his lap lay the big fiddle, at which he was scraping,

out of all time and tune, with both hands, making a great show, the

nincompoop! of playing "Judy O'Flannagan and Paddy O'Rafferty."

 

Affairs being thus miserably situated, I left the place in disgust, and

now appeal for aid to all lovers of correct time and fine kraut. Let

us proceed in a body to the borough, and restore the ancient order of

things in Vondervotteimittiss by ejecting that little fellow from the

steeple.

 

 

 

 

LIONIZING

 

     -------- all people went

     Upon their ten toes in wild wonderment.

 

           --_Bishop Hall's Satires_.

 

I am--that is to say I was--a great man; but I am neither the author of

Junius nor the man in the mask; for my name, I believe, is Robert Jones,

and I was born somewhere in the city of Fum-Fudge.

 

The first action of my life was the taking hold of my nose with both

hands. My mother saw this and called me a genius: my father wept for joy

and presented me with a treatise on Nosology. This I mastered before I

was breeched.

 

I now began to feel my way in the science, and soon came to understand

that, provided a man had a nose sufficiently conspicuous he might, by

merely following it, arrive at a Lionship. But my attention was not

confined to theories alone. Every morning I gave my proboscis a couple

of pulls and swallowed a half dozen of drams.

 

When I came of age my father asked me, one day, If I would step with him

into his study.

 

"My son," said he, when we were seated, "what is the chief end of your

existence?"

 

"My father," I answered, "it is the study of Nosology."

 

"And what, Robert," he inquired, "is Nosology?"

 

"Sir," I said, "it is the Science of Noses."

 

"And can you tell me," he demanded, "what is the meaning of a nose?"

 

"A nose, my father;" I replied, greatly softened, "has been variously

defined by about a thousand different authors." [Here I pulled out my

watch.] "It is now noon or thereabouts--we shall have time enough to

get through with them all before midnight. To commence then:--The

nose, according to Bartholinus, is that protuberance--that bump--that

excrescence--that--"

 

"Will do, Robert," interrupted the good old gentleman. "I am

thunderstruck at the extent of your information--I am positively--upon

my soul." [Here he closed his eyes and placed his hand upon his heart.]

"Come here!" [Here he took me by the arm.] "Your education may now

be considered as finished--it is high time you should scuffle for

yourself--and you cannot do a better thing than merely follow your

nose--so--so--so--" [Here he kicked me down stairs and out of the

door]--"so get out of my house, and God bless you!"

 

As I felt within me the divine afflatus, I considered this accident

rather fortunate than otherwise. I resolved to be guided by the paternal

advice. I determined to follow my nose. I gave it a pull or two upon the

spot, and wrote a pamphlet on Nosology forthwith.

 

All Fum-Fudge was in an uproar.

 

"Wonderful genius!" said the Quarterly.

 

"Superb physiologist!" said the Westminster.

 

"Clever fellow!" said the Foreign.

 

"Fine writer!" said the Edinburgh.

 

"Profound thinker!" said the Dublin.

 

"Great man!" said Bentley.

 

"Divine soul!" said Fraser.

 

"One of us!" said Blackwood.

 

"Who can he be?" said Mrs. Bas-Bleu.

 

"What can he be?" said big Miss Bas-Bleu.

 

"Where can he be?" said little Miss Bas-Bleu.--But I paid these people

no attention whatever--I just stepped into the shop of an artist.

 

The Duchess of Bless-my-Soul was sitting for her portrait; the Marquis

of So-and-So was holding the Duchess' poodle; the Earl of This-and-That

was flirting with her salts; and his Royal Highness of Touch-me-Not was

leaning upon the back of her chair.

 

I approached the artist and turned up my nose.

 

"Oh, beautiful!" sighed her Grace.

 

"Oh my!" lisped the Marquis.

 

"Oh, shocking!" groaned the Earl.

 

"Oh, abominable!" growled his Royal Highness.

 

"What will you take for it?" asked the artist.

 

"For his nose!" shouted her Grace.

 

"A thousand pounds," said I, sitting down.

 

"A thousand pounds?" inquired the artist, musingly.

 

"A thousand pounds," said I.

 

"Beautiful!" said he, entranced.

 

"A thousand pounds," said I.

 

"Do you warrant it?" he asked, turning the nose to the light.

 

"I do," said I, blowing it well.

 

"Is it quite original?" he inquired; touching it with reverence.

 

"Humph!" said I, twisting it to one side.

 

"Has no copy been taken?" he demanded, surveying it through a

microscope.

 

"None," said I, turning it up.

 

"Admirable!" he ejaculated, thrown quite off his guard by the beauty of

the manoeuvre.

 

"A thousand pounds," said I.

 

"A thousand pounds?" said he.

 

"Precisely," said I.

 

"A thousand pounds?" said he.

 

"Just so," said I.

 

"You shall have them," said he. "What a piece of virtu!" So he drew me

a check upon the spot, and took a sketch of my nose. I engaged rooms

in Jermyn street, and sent her Majesty the ninety-ninth edition of the

"Nosology," with a portrait of the proboscis.--That sad little rake, the

Prince of Wales, invited me to dinner.

 

We were all lions and recherches.

 

There was a modern Platonist. He quoted Porphyry, Iamblicus, Plotinus,

Proclus, Hierocles, Maximus Tyrius, and Syrianus.

 

There was a human-perfectibility man. He quoted Turgot, Price, Priestly,

Condorcet, De Stael, and the "Ambitious Student in Ill Health."

 

There was Sir Positive Paradox. He observed that all fools were

philosophers, and that all philosophers were fools.

 

There was AEstheticus Ethix. He spoke of fire, unity, and atoms; bi-part

and pre-existent soul; affinity and discord; primitive intelligence and

homoeomeria.

 

There was Theologos Theology. He talked of Eusebius and Arianus; heresy

and the Council of Nice; Puseyism and consubstantialism; Homousios and

Homouioisios.

 

There was Fricassee from the Rocher de Cancale. He mentioned Muriton of

red tongue; cauliflowers with veloute sauce; veal a la St. Menehoult;

marinade a la St. Florentin; and orange jellies en mosaeiques.

 

There was Bibulus O'Bumper. He touched upon Latour and Markbruennen; upon

Mousseux and Chambertin; upon Richbourg and St. George; upon Haubrion,

Leonville, and Medoc; upon Barac and Preignac; upon Grave, upon

Sauterne, upon Lafitte, and upon St. Peray. He shook his head at Clos de

Vougeot, and told, with his eyes shut, the difference between Sherry and

Amontillado.

 

There was Signor Tintontintino from Florence. He discoursed of Cimabue,

Arpino, Carpaccio, and Argostino--of the gloom of Caravaggio, of the

amenity of Albano, of the colors of Titian, of the frows of Rubens, and

of the waggeries of Jan Steen.

 

There was the President of the Fum-Fudge University. He was of opinion

that the moon was called Bendis in Thrace, Bubastis in Egypt, Dian in

Rome, and Artemis in Greece. There was a Grand Turk from Stamboul. He

could not help thinking that the angels were horses, cocks, and bulls;

that somebody in the sixth heaven had seventy thousand heads; and that

the earth was supported by a sky-blue cow with an incalculable number of

green horns.

 

There was Delphinus Polyglott. He told us what had become of the

eighty-three lost tragedies of AEschylus; of the fifty-four orations of

Isaeus; of the three hundred and ninety-one speeches of Lysias; of the

hundred and eighty treatises of Theophrastus; of the eighth book of the

conic sections of Apollonius; of Pindar's hymns and dithyrambics; and of

the five and forty tragedies of Homer Junior.

 

There was Ferdinand Fitz-Fossillus Feltspar. He informed us all about

internal fires and tertiary formations; about aeeriforms, fluidiforms,

and solidiforms; about quartz and marl; about schist and schorl; about

gypsum and trap; about talc and calc; about blende and horn-blende;

about mica-slate and pudding-stone; about cyanite and lepidolite; about

hematite and tremolite; about antimony and calcedony; about manganese

and whatever you please.

 

There was myself. I spoke of myself;--of myself, of myself, of

myself;--of Nosology, of my pamphlet, and of myself. I turned up my

nose, and I spoke of myself.

 

"Marvellous clever man!" said the Prince.

 

"Superb!" said his guests:--and next morning her Grace of Bless-my-Soul

paid me a visit.

 

"Will you go to Almack's, pretty creature?" she said, tapping me under

the chin.

 

"Upon honor," said I.

 

"Nose and all?" she asked.

 

"As I live," I replied.

 

"Here then is a card, my life. Shall I say you will be there?"

 

"Dear Duchess, with all my heart."

 

"Pshaw, no!--but with all your nose?"

 

"Every bit of it, my love," said I: so I gave it a twist or two, and

found myself at Almack's. The rooms were crowded to suffocation.

 

"He is coming!" said somebody on the staircase.

 

"He is coming!" said somebody farther up.

 

"He is coming!" said somebody farther still.

 

"He is come!" exclaimed the Duchess. "He is come, the little

love!"--and, seizing me firmly by both hands, she kissed me thrice upon

the nose. A marked sensation immediately ensued.

 

"Diavolo!" cried Count Capricornutti.

 

"Dios guarda!" muttered Don Stiletto.

 

"Mille tonnerres!" ejaculated the Prince de Grenouille.

 

"Tousand teufel!" growled the Elector of Bluddennuff.

 

It was not to be borne. I grew angry. I turned short upon Bluddennuff.

 

"Sir!" said I to him, "you are a baboon."

 

"Sir," he replied, after a pause, "Donner und Blitzen!"

 

This was all that could be desired. We exchanged cards. At Chalk-Farm,

the next morning, I shot off his nose--and then called upon my friends.

 

"Bete!" said the first.

 

"Fool!" said the second.

 

"Dolt!" said the third.

 

"Ass!" said the fourth.

 

"Ninny!" said the fifth.

 

"Noodle!" said the sixth.

 

"Be off!" said the seventh.

 

At all this I felt mortified, and so called upon my father.

 

"Father," I asked, "what is the chief end of my existence?"

 

"My son," he replied, "it is still the study of Nosology; but in hitting

the Elector upon the nose you have overshot your mark. You have a fine

nose, it is true; but then Bluddennuff has none. You are damned, and

he has become the hero of the day. I grant you that in Fum-Fudge the

greatness of a lion is in proportion to the size of his proboscis--but,

good heavens! there is no competing with a lion who has no proboscis at

all."

 

 

 

 

X-ING A PARAGRAPH

 

AS it is well known that the 'wise men' came 'from the East,' and as

Mr. Touch-and-go Bullet-head came from the East, it follows that Mr.

Bullet-head was a wise man; and if collateral proof of the matter be

needed, here we have it--Mr. B. was an editor. Irascibility was his sole

foible, for in fact the obstinacy of which men accused him was anything

but his foible, since he justly considered it his forte. It was his

strong point--his virtue; and it would have required all the logic of a

Brownson to convince him that it was 'anything else.'

 

I have shown that Touch-and-go Bullet-head was a wise man; and the only

occasion on which he did not prove infallible, was when, abandoning that

legitimate home for all wise men, the East, he migrated to the city of

Alexander-the-Great-o-nopolis, or some place of a similar title, out

West.

 

I must do him the justice to say, however, that when he made up his

mind finally to settle in that town, it was under the impression that

no newspaper, and consequently no editor, existed in that particular

section of the country. In establishing 'The Tea-Pot' he expected to

have the field all to himself. I feel confident he never would have

dreamed of taking up his residence in Alexander-the-Great-o-nopolis

had he been aware that, in Alexander-the-Great-o-nopolis, there lived a

gentleman named John Smith (if I rightly remember), who for many

years had there quietly grown fat in editing and publishing the

'Alexander-the-Great-o-nopolis Gazette.' It was solely, therefore, on

account of having been misinformed, that Mr. Bullet-head found himself

in Alex-suppose we call it Nopolis, 'for short'--but, as he did find

himself there, he determined to keep up his character for obst--for

firmness, and remain. So remain he did; and he did more; he unpacked his

press, type, etc., etc., rented an office exactly opposite to that of

the 'Gazette,' and, on the third morning after his arrival, issued

the first number of 'The Alexan'--that is to say, of 'The Nopolis

Tea-Pot'--as nearly as I can recollect, this was the name of the new

paper.

 

The leading article, I must admit, was brilliant--not to say severe. It

was especially bitter about things in general--and as for the editor

of 'The Gazette,' he was torn all to pieces in particular. Some of

Bullethead's remarks were really so fiery that I have always, since that

time, been forced to look upon John Smith, who is still alive, in the

light of a salamander. I cannot pretend to give all the 'Tea-Pot's'

paragraphs verbatim, but one of them runs thus:

 

'Oh, yes!--Oh, we perceive! Oh, no doubt! The editor over the way is a

genius--O, my! Oh, goodness, gracious!--what is this world coming to?

Oh, tempora! Oh, Moses!'

 

A philippic at once so caustic and so classical, alighted like a

bombshell among the hitherto peaceful citizens of Nopolis. Groups of

excited individuals gathered at the corners of the streets. Every one

awaited, with heartfelt anxiety, the reply of the dignified Smith. Next

morning it appeared as follows:

 

'We quote from "The Tea-Pot" of yesterday the subjoined paragraph: "Oh,

yes! Oh, we perceive! Oh, no doubt! Oh, my! Oh, goodness! Oh, tempora!

Oh, Moses!" Why, the fellow is all O! That accounts for his reasoning

in a circle, and explains why there is neither beginning nor end to him,

nor to anything he says. We really do not believe the vagabond can write

a word that hasn't an O in it. Wonder if this O-ing is a habit of his?

By-the-by, he came away from Down-East in a great hurry. Wonder if he

O's as much there as he does here? "O! it is pitiful."'

 

The indignation of Mr. Bullet-head at these scandalous insinuations, I

shall not attempt to describe. On the eel-skinning principle, however,

he did not seem to be so much incensed at the attack upon his integrity

as one might have imagined. It was the sneer at his style that drove him

to desperation. What!--he Touch-and-go Bullet-head!--not able to write

a word without an O in it! He would soon let the jackanapes see that he

was mistaken. Yes! he would let him see how much he was mistaken, the

puppy! He, Touch-and-go Bullet-head, of Frogpondium, would let Mr. John

Smith perceive that he, Bullet-head, could indite, if it so pleased

him, a whole paragraph--aye! a whole article--in which that contemptible

vowel should not once--not even once--make its appearance. But no;--that

would be yielding a point to the said John Smith. He, Bullet-head, would

make no alteration in his style, to suit the caprices of any Mr. Smith

in Christendom. Perish so vile a thought! The O forever; He would

persist in the O. He would be as O-wy as O-wy could be.

 

Burning with the chivalry of this determination, the great Touch-and-go,

in the next 'Tea-Pot,' came out merely with this simple but resolute

paragraph, in reference to this unhappy affair:

 

'The editor of the "Tea-Pot" has the honor of advising the editor of the

"Gazette" that he (the "Tea-Pot") will take an opportunity in tomorrow

morning's paper, of convincing him (the "Gazette") that he (the

"Tea-Pot") both can and will be his own master, as regards style; he

(the "Tea-Pot") intending to show him (the "Gazette") the supreme,

and indeed the withering contempt with which the criticism of him (the

"Gazette") inspires the independent bosom of him (the "TeaPot") by

composing for the especial gratification (?) of him (the "Gazette")

a leading article, of some extent, in which the beautiful vowel--the

emblem of Eternity--yet so offensive to the hyper-exquisite delicacy

of him (the "Gazette") shall most certainly not be avoided by his (the

"Gazette's") most obedient, humble servant, the "Tea-Pot." "So much for

Buckingham!"'

 

In fulfilment of the awful threat thus darkly intimated rather than

decidedly enunciated, the great Bullet-head, turning a deaf ear to all

entreaties for 'copy,' and simply requesting his foreman to 'go to the

d----l,' when he (the foreman) assured him (the 'Tea-Pot'!) that it was

high time to 'go to press': turning a deaf ear to everything, I say, the

great Bullet-head sat up until day-break, consuming the midnight oil,

and absorbed in the composition of the really unparalleled paragraph,

which follows:--

 

'So ho, John! how now? Told you so, you know. Don't crow, another time,

before you're out of the woods! Does your mother know you're out? Oh,

no, no!--so go home at once, now, John, to your odious old woods of

Concord! Go home to your woods, old owl--go! You won't! Oh, poh, poh,

don't do so! You've got to go, you know! So go at once, and don't go

slow, for nobody owns you here, you know! Oh! John, John, if you don't

go you're no homo--no! You're only a fowl, an owl, a cow, a sow,--a

doll, a poll; a poor, old, good-for-nothing-to-nobody, log, dog, hog, or

frog, come out of a Concord bog. Cool, now--cool! Do be cool, you fool!

None of your crowing, old cock! Don't frown so--don't! Don't hollo, nor

howl nor growl, nor bow-wow-wow! Good Lord, John, how you do look! Told

you so, you know--but stop rolling your goose of an old poll about so,

and go and drown your sorrows in a bowl!'

 

Exhausted, very naturally, by so stupendous an effort, the great

Touch-and-go could attend to nothing farther that night. Firmly,

composedly, yet with an air of conscious power, he handed his MS. to

the devil in waiting, and then, walking leisurely home, retired, with

ineffable dignity to bed.

 

Meantime the devil, to whom the copy was entrusted, ran up stairs to his

'case,' in an unutterable hurry, and forthwith made a commencement at

'setting' the MS. 'up.'

 

In the first place, of course,--as the opening word was 'So,'--he made a

plunge into the capital S hole and came out in triumph with a capital S.

Elated by this success, he immediately threw himself upon the little-o

box with a blindfold impetuosity--but who shall describe his horror when

his fingers came up without the anticipated letter in their clutch? who

shall paint his astonishment and rage at perceiving, as he rubbed his

knuckles, that he had been only thumping them to no purpose, against the

bottom of an empty box. Not a single little-o was in the little-o hole;

and, glancing fearfully at the capital-O partition, he found that to his

extreme terror, in a precisely similar predicament. Awe--stricken, his

first impulse was to rush to the foreman.

 

'Sir!' said he, gasping for breath, 'I can't never set up nothing

without no o's.'

 

'What do you mean by that?' growled the foreman, who was in a very ill

humor at being kept so late.

 

'Why, sir, there beant an o in the office, neither a big un nor a little

un!'

 

'What--what the d-l has become of all that were in the case?'

 

'I don't know, sir,' said the boy, 'but one of them ere "G'zette" devils

is bin prowling 'bout here all night, and I spect he's gone and cabbaged

'em every one.'

 

'Dod rot him! I haven't a doubt of it,' replied the foreman, getting

purple with rage 'but I tell you what you do, Bob, that's a good

boy--you go over the first chance you get and hook every one of their

i's and (d----n them!) their izzards.'

 

'Jist so,' replied Bob, with a wink and a frown--'I'll be into 'em, I'll

let 'em know a thing or two; but in de meantime, that ere paragrab? Mus

go in to-night, you know--else there'll be the d-l to pay, and-'

 

'And not a bit of pitch hot,' interrupted the foreman, with a deep sigh,

and an emphasis on the 'bit.' 'Is it a long paragraph, Bob?'

 

'Shouldn't call it a wery long paragrab,' said Bob.

 

'Ah, well, then! do the best you can with it! We must get to press,'

said the foreman, who was over head and ears in work; 'just stick in

some other letter for o; nobody's going to read the fellow's trash

anyhow.'

 

'Wery well,' replied Bob, 'here goes it!' and off he hurried to his

case, muttering as he went: 'Considdeble vell, them ere expressions,

perticcler for a man as doesn't swar. So I's to gouge out all their

eyes, eh? and d-n all their gizzards! Vell! this here's the chap as is

just able for to do it.' The fact is that although Bob was but twelve

years old and four feet high, he was equal to any amount of fight, in a

small way.

 

The exigency here described is by no means of rare occurrence in

printing-offices; and I cannot tell how to account for it, but the fact

is indisputable, that when the exigency does occur, it almost always

happens that x is adopted as a substitute for the letter deficient. The

true reason, perhaps, is that x is rather the most superabundant letter

in the cases, or at least was so in the old times--long enough to render

the substitution in question an habitual thing with printers. As

for Bob, he would have considered it heretical to employ any other

character, in a case of this kind, than the x to which he had been

accustomed.

 

'I shell have to x this ere paragrab,' said he to himself, as he read it

over in astonishment, 'but it's jest about the awfulest o-wy paragrab I

ever did see': so x it he did, unflinchingly, and to press it went x-ed.

 

Next morning the population of Nopolis were taken all aback by reading

in 'The Tea-Pot,' the following extraordinary leader:

 

'Sx hx, Jxhn! hxw nxw? Txld yxu sx, yxu knxw. Dxn't crxw, anxther time,

befxre yxu're xut xf the wxxds! Dxes yxur mxther knxw yxu're xut? Xh,

nx, nx!--sx gx hxme at xnce, nxw, Jxhn, tx yxur xdixus xld wxxds xf

Cxncxrd! Gx hxme tx yxur wxxds, xld xwl,--gx! Yxu wxn't? Xh, pxh, pxh,

Jxhn, dxn't dx sx! Yxu've gxt tx gx, yxu knxw, sx gx at xnce, and dxn't

gx slxw; fxr nxbxdy xwns yxu here, yxu knxw. Xh, Jxhn, Jxhn, Jxhn, if

yxu dxn't gx yxu're nx hxmx--nx! Yxu're xnly a fxwl, an xwl; a cxw, a

sxw; a dxll, a pxll; a pxxr xld gxxd-fxr-nxthing-tx-nxbxdy, lxg, dxg,

hxg, xr frxg, cxme xut xf a Cxncxrd bxg. Cxxl, nxw--cxxl! Dx be cxxl,

yxu fxxl! Nxne xf yxur crxwing, xld cxck! Dxn't frxwn sx--dxn't! Dxn't

hxllx, nxr hxwl, nxr grxwl, nxr bxw-wxw-wxw! Gxxd Lxrd, Jxhn, hxw yxu dx

lxxk! Txld yxu sx, yxu knxw,--but stxp rxlling yxur gxxse xf an xld pxll

abxut sx, and gx and drxwn yxur sxrrxws in a bxwl!'

 

The uproar occasioned by this mystical and cabalistical article, is not

to be conceived. The first definite idea entertained by the populace

was, that some diabolical treason lay concealed in the hieroglyphics;

and there was a general rush to Bullet-head's residence, for the purpose

of riding him on a rail; but that gentleman was nowhere to be found. He

had vanished, no one could tell how; and not even the ghost of him has

ever been seen since.

 

Unable to discover its legitimate object, the popular fury at length

subsided; leaving behind it, by way of sediment, quite a medley of

opinion about this unhappy affair.

 

One gentleman thought the whole an X-ellent joke.

 

Another said that, indeed, Bullet-head had shown much X-uberance of

fancy.

 

A third admitted him X-entric, but no more.

 

A fourth could only suppose it the Yankee's design to X-press, in a

general way, his X-asperation.

 

'Say, rather, to set an X-ample to posterity,' suggested a fifth.

 

That Bullet-head had been driven to an extremity, was clear to all; and

in fact, since that editor could not be found, there was some talk about

lynching the other one.

 

The more common conclusion, however, was that the affair was, simply,

X-traordinary and in-X-plicable. Even the town mathematician confessed

that he could make nothing of so dark a problem. X, every. body knew,

was an unknown quantity; but in this case (as he properly observed),

there was an unknown quantity of X.

 

The opinion of Bob, the devil (who kept dark about his having 'X-ed the

paragrab'), did not meet with so much attention as I think it deserved,

although it was very openly and very fearlessly expressed. He said that,

for his part, he had no doubt about the matter at all, that it was a

clear case, that Mr. Bullet-head 'never could be persuaded fur to drink

like other folks, but vas continually a-svigging o' that ere blessed XXX

ale, and as a naiteral consekvence, it just puffed him up savage, and

made him X (cross) in the X-treme.'

 

 

 

 

METZENGERSTEIN

 

     Pestis eram vivus--moriens tua mors ero.

 

                --_Martin Luther_

 

HORROR and fatality have been stalking abroad in all ages. Why then give

a date to this story I have to tell? Let it suffice to say, that at the

period of which I speak, there existed, in the interior of Hungary, a

settled although hidden belief in the doctrines of the Metempsychosis.

Of the doctrines themselves--that is, of their falsity, or of their

probability--I say nothing. I assert, however, that much of our

incredulity--as La Bruyere says of all our unhappiness--"_vient de ne

pouvoir etre seuls_." {*1}

 

But there are some points in the Hungarian superstition which were fast

verging to absurdity. They--the Hungarians--differed very essentially

from their Eastern authorities. For example, "_The soul_," said the

former--I give the words of an acute and intelligent Parisian--"_ne

demeure qu'un seul fois dans un corps sensible: au reste--un cheval,

un chien, un homme meme, n'est que la ressemblance peu tangible de ces

animaux._"

 

The families of Berlifitzing and Metzengerstein had been at variance

for centuries. Never before were two houses so illustrious, mutually

embittered by hostility so deadly. The origin of this enmity seems to

be found in the words of an ancient prophecy--"A lofty name shall have

a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of

Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing."

 

To be sure the words themselves had little or no meaning. But more

trivial causes have given rise--and that no long while ago--to

consequences equally eventful. Besides, the estates, which were

contiguous, had long exercised a rival influence in the affairs of a

busy government. Moreover, near neighbors are seldom friends; and the

inhabitants of the Castle Berlifitzing might look, from their lofty

buttresses, into the very windows of the palace Metzengerstein. Least of

all had the more than feudal magnificence, thus discovered, a tendency

to allay the irritable feelings of the less ancient and less wealthy

Berlifitzings. What wonder then, that the words, however silly, of that

prediction, should have succeeded in setting and keeping at variance

two families already predisposed to quarrel by every instigation

of hereditary jealousy? The prophecy seemed to imply--if it implied

anything--a final triumph on the part of the already more powerful

house; and was of course remembered with the more bitter animosity by

the weaker and less influential.

 

Wilhelm, Count Berlifitzing, although loftily descended, was, at the

epoch of this narrative, an infirm and doting old man, remarkable for

nothing but an inordinate and inveterate personal antipathy to the

family of his rival, and so passionate a love of horses, and of hunting,

that neither bodily infirmity, great age, nor mental incapacity,

prevented his daily participation in the dangers of the chase.

 

Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was, on the other hand, not yet of age.

His father, the Minister G--, died young. His mother, the Lady Mary,

followed him quickly after. Frederick was, at that time, in his

fifteenth year. In a city, fifteen years are no long period--a child

may be still a child in his third lustrum: but in a wilderness--in so

magnificent a wilderness as that old principality, fifteen years have a

far deeper meaning.

 

From some peculiar circumstances attending the administration of

his father, the young Baron, at the decease of the former, entered

immediately upon his vast possessions. Such estates were seldom held

before by a nobleman of Hungary. His castles were without number. The

chief in point of splendor and extent was the "Chateau Metzengerstein."

The boundary line of his dominions was never clearly defined; but his

principal park embraced a circuit of fifty miles.

 

Upon the succession of a proprietor so young, with a character so well

known, to a fortune so unparalleled, little speculation was afloat in

regard to his probable course of conduct. And, indeed, for the space

of three days, the behavior of the heir out-heroded Herod, and fairly

surpassed the expectations of his most enthusiastic admirers. Shameful

debaucheries--flagrant treacheries--unheard-of atrocities--gave his

trembling vassals quickly to understand that no servile submission on

their part--no punctilios of conscience on his own--were thenceforward

to prove any security against the remorseless fangs of a petty Caligula.

On the night of the fourth day, the stables of the castle Berlifitzing

were discovered to be on fire; and the unanimous opinion of the

neighborhood added the crime of the incendiary to the already hideous

list of the Baron's misdemeanors and enormities.

 

But during the tumult occasioned by this occurrence, the young nobleman

himself sat apparently buried in meditation, in a vast and desolate

upper apartment of the family palace of Metzengerstein. The rich

although faded tapestry hangings which swung gloomily upon the walls,

represented the shadowy and majestic forms of a thousand illustrious

ancestors. _Here_, rich-ermined priests, and pontifical dignitaries,

familiarly seated with the autocrat and the sovereign, put a veto on

the wishes of a temporal king, or restrained with the fiat of papal

supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the Arch-enemy. _There_, the dark,

tall statures of the Princes Metzengerstein--their muscular war-coursers

plunging over the carcasses of fallen foes--startled the steadiest

nerves with their vigorous expression; and _here_, again, the voluptuous

and swan-like figures of the dames of days gone by, floated away in the

mazes of an unreal dance to the strains of imaginary melody.

 

But as the Baron listened, or affected to listen, to the gradually

increasing uproar in the stables of Berlifitzing--or perhaps pondered

upon some more novel, some more decided act of audacity--his eyes became

unwittingly rivetted to the figure of an enormous, and unnaturally

colored horse, represented in the tapestry as belonging to a Saracen

ancestor of the family of his rival. The horse itself, in the foreground

of the design, stood motionless and statue-like--while farther back, its

discomfited rider perished by the dagger of a Metzengerstein.

 

On Frederick's lip arose a fiendish expression, as he became aware of

the direction which his glance had, without his consciousness, assumed.

Yet he did not remove it. On the contrary, he could by no means account

for the overwhelming anxiety which appeared falling like a pall upon

his senses. It was with difficulty that he reconciled his dreamy and

incoherent feelings with the certainty of being awake. The longer he

gazed the more absorbing became the spell--the more impossible did it

appear that he could ever withdraw his glance from the fascination of

that tapestry. But the tumult without becoming suddenly more violent,

with a compulsory exertion he diverted his attention to the glare of

ruddy light thrown full by the flaming stables upon the windows of the

apartment.

 

The action, however, was but momentary, his gaze returned mechanically

to the wall. To his extreme horror and astonishment, the head of the

gigantic steed had, in the meantime, altered its position. The neck of

the animal, before arched, as if in compassion, over the prostrate body

of its lord, was now extended, at full length, in the direction of

the Baron. The eyes, before invisible, now wore an energetic and human

expression, while they gleamed with a fiery and unusual red; and the

distended lips of the apparently enraged horse left in full view his

gigantic and disgusting teeth.

 

Stupified with terror, the young nobleman tottered to the door. As he

threw it open, a flash of red light, streaming far into the chamber,

flung his shadow with a clear outline against the quivering tapestry,

and he shuddered to perceive that shadow--as he staggered awhile upon

the threshold--assuming the exact position, and precisely filling up

the contour, of the relentless and triumphant murderer of the Saracen

Berlifitzing.

 

To lighten the depression of his spirits, the Baron hurried into the

open air. At the principal gate of the palace he encountered three

equerries. With much difficulty, and at the imminent peril of their

lives, they were restraining the convulsive plunges of a gigantic and

fiery-colored horse.

 

"Whose horse? Where did you get him?" demanded the youth, in a

querulous and husky tone of voice, as he became instantly aware that the

mysterious steed in the tapestried chamber was the very counterpart of

the furious animal before his eyes.

 

"He is your own property, sire," replied one of the equerries, "at least

he is claimed by no other owner. We caught him flying, all smoking and

foaming with rage, from the burning stables of the Castle Berlifitzing.

Supposing him to have belonged to the old Count's stud of foreign

horses, we led him back as an estray. But the grooms there disclaim any

title to the creature; which is strange, since he bears evident marks of

having made a narrow escape from the flames.

 

"The letters W. V. B. are also branded very distinctly on his forehead,"

interrupted a second equerry, "I supposed them, of course, to be the

initials of Wilhelm Von Berlifitzing--but all at the castle are positive

in denying any knowledge of the horse."

 

"Extremely singular!" said the young Baron, with a musing air, and

apparently unconscious of the meaning of his words. "He is, as you say,

a remarkable horse--a prodigious horse! although, as you very justly

observe, of a suspicious and untractable character, let him be mine,

however," he added, after a pause, "perhaps a rider like Frederick

of Metzengerstein, may tame even the devil from the stables of

Berlifitzing."

 

"You are mistaken, my lord; the horse, as I think we mentioned, is _not_

from the stables of the Count. If such had been the case, we know our

duty better than to bring him into the presence of a noble of your

family."

 

"True!" observed the Baron, dryly, and at that instant a page of

the bedchamber came from the palace with a heightened color, and a

precipitate step. He whispered into his master's ear an account of the

sudden disappearance of a small portion of the tapestry, in an apartment

which he designated; entering, at the same time, into particulars of a

minute and circumstantial character; but from the low tone of voice in

which these latter were communicated, nothing escaped to gratify the

excited curiosity of the equerries.

 

The young Frederick, during the conference, seemed agitated by a

variety of emotions. He soon, however, recovered his composure, and an

expression of determined malignancy settled upon his countenance, as

he gave peremptory orders that a certain chamber should be immediately

locked up, and the key placed in his own possession.

 

"Have you heard of the unhappy death of the old hunter Berlifitzing?"

said one of his vassals to the Baron, as, after the departure of the

page, the huge steed which that nobleman had adopted as his own, plunged

and curvetted, with redoubled fury, down the long avenue which extended

from the chateau to the stables of Metzengerstein.

 

"No!" said the Baron, turning abruptly toward the speaker, "dead! say

you?"

 

"It is indeed true, my lord; and, to a noble of your name, will be, I

imagine, no unwelcome intelligence."

 

A rapid smile shot over the countenance of the listener. "How died he?"

 

"In his rash exertions to rescue a favorite portion of his hunting stud,

he has himself perished miserably in the flames."

 

"I-n-d-e-e-d-!" ejaculated the Baron, as if slowly and deliberately

impressed with the truth of some exciting idea.

 

"Indeed;" repeated the vassal.

 

"Shocking!" said the youth, calmly, and turned quietly into the chateau.

 

From this date a marked alteration took place in the outward demeanor

of the dissolute young Baron Frederick Von Metzengerstein. Indeed, his

behavior disappointed every expectation, and proved little in accordance

with the views of many a manoeuvering mamma; while his habits and

manner, still less than formerly, offered any thing congenial with

those of the neighboring aristocracy. He was never to be seen beyond

the limits of his own domain, and, in this wide and social world, was

utterly companionless--unless, indeed, that unnatural, impetuous, and

fiery-colored horse, which he henceforward continually bestrode, had any

mysterious right to the title of his friend.

 

Numerous invitations on the part of the neighborhood for a long time,

however, periodically came in. "Will the Baron honor our festivals

with his presence?" "Will the Baron join us in a hunting of the

boar?"--"Metzengerstein does not hunt;" "Metzengerstein will not

attend," were the haughty and laconic answers.

 

These repeated insults were not to be endured by an imperious nobility.

Such invitations became less cordial--less frequent--in time they ceased

altogether. The widow of the unfortunate Count Berlifitzing was even

heard to express a hope "that the Baron might be at home when he did not

wish to be at home, since he disdained the company of his equals; and

ride when he did not wish to ride, since he preferred the society of a

horse." This to be sure was a very silly explosion of hereditary pique;

and merely proved how singularly unmeaning our sayings are apt to

become, when we desire to be unusually energetic.

 

The charitable, nevertheless, attributed the alteration in the conduct

of the young nobleman to the natural sorrow of a son for the untimely

loss of his parents--forgetting, however, his atrocious and reckless

behavior during the short period immediately succeeding that

bereavement. Some there were, indeed, who suggested a too haughty

idea of self-consequence and dignity. Others again (among them may be

mentioned the family physician) did not hesitate in speaking of morbid

melancholy, and hereditary ill-health; while dark hints, of a more

equivocal nature, were current among the multitude.

 

Indeed, the Baron's perverse attachment to his lately-acquired

charger--an attachment which seemed to attain new strength from every

fresh example of the animal's ferocious and demon-like propensities--at

length became, in the eyes of all reasonable men, a hideous and

unnatural fervor. In the glare of noon--at the dead hour of night--in

sickness or in health--in calm or in tempest--the young Metzengerstein

seemed rivetted to the saddle of that colossal horse, whose intractable

audacities so well accorded with his own spirit.

 

There were circumstances, moreover, which coupled with late events, gave

an unearthly and portentous character to the mania of the rider, and to

the capabilities of the steed. The space passed over in a single leap

had been accurately measured, and was found to exceed, by an astounding

difference, the wildest expectations of the most imaginative. The Baron,

besides, had no particular _name_ for the animal, although all the rest

in his collection were distinguished by characteristic appellations. His

stable, too, was appointed at a distance from the rest; and with regard

to grooming and other necessary offices, none but the owner in person

had ventured to officiate, or even to enter the enclosure of that

particular stall. It was also to be observed, that although the three

grooms, who had caught the steed as he fled from the conflagration

at Berlifitzing, had succeeded in arresting his course, by means of a

chain-bridle and noose--yet no one of the three could with any certainty

affirm that he had, during that dangerous struggle, or at any period

thereafter, actually placed his hand upon the body of the beast.

Instances of peculiar intelligence in the demeanor of a noble and

high-spirited horse are not to be supposed capable of exciting

unreasonable attention--especially among men who, daily trained to the

labors of the chase, might appear well acquainted with the sagacity of

a horse--but there were certain circumstances which intruded themselves

per force upon the most skeptical and phlegmatic; and it is said there

were times when the animal caused the gaping crowd who stood around to

recoil in horror from the deep and impressive meaning of his terrible

stamp--times when the young Metzengerstein turned pale and shrunk away

from the rapid and searching expression of his earnest and human-looking

eye.

 

Among all the retinue of the Baron, however, none were found to doubt

the ardor of that extraordinary affection which existed on the part of

the young nobleman for the fiery qualities of his horse; at least, none

but an insignificant and misshapen little page, whose deformities

were in everybody's way, and whose opinions were of the least possible

importance. He--if his ideas are worth mentioning at all--had the

effrontery to assert that his master never vaulted into the saddle

without an unaccountable and almost imperceptible shudder, and that,

upon his return from every long-continued and habitual ride, an

expression of triumphant malignity distorted every muscle in his

countenance.

 

One tempestuous night, Metzengerstein, awaking from a heavy slumber,

descended like a maniac from his chamber, and, mounting in hot haste,

bounded away into the mazes of the forest. An occurrence so common

attracted no particular attention, but his return was looked for with

intense anxiety on the part of his domestics, when, after some hours'

absence, the stupendous and magnificent battlements of the Chateau

Metzengerstein, were discovered crackling and rocking to their

very foundation, under the influence of a dense and livid mass of

ungovernable fire.

 

As the flames, when first seen, had already made so terrible a progress

that all efforts to save any portion of the building were evidently

futile, the astonished neighborhood stood idly around in silent

and pathetic wonder. But a new and fearful object soon rivetted the

attention of the multitude, and proved how much more intense is the

excitement wrought in the feelings of a crowd by the contemplation of

human agony, than that brought about by the most appalling spectacles of

inanimate matter.

 

Up the long avenue of aged oaks which led from the forest to the main

entrance of the Chateau Metzengerstein, a steed, bearing an unbonneted

and disordered rider, was seen leaping with an impetuosity which

outstripped the very Demon of the Tempest.

 

The career of the horseman was indisputably, on his own part,

uncontrollable. The agony of his countenance, the convulsive struggle

of his frame, gave evidence of superhuman exertion: but no sound, save

a solitary shriek, escaped from his lacerated lips, which were bitten

through and through in the intensity of terror. One instant, and the

clattering of hoofs resounded sharply and shrilly above the roaring of

the flames and the shrieking of the winds--another, and, clearing at a

single plunge the gate-way and the moat, the steed bounded far up the

tottering staircases of the palace, and, with its rider, disappeared

amid the whirlwind of chaotic fire.

 

The fury of the tempest immediately died away, and a dead calm sullenly

succeeded. A white flame still enveloped the building like a shroud,

and, streaming far away into the quiet atmosphere, shot forth a glare

of preternatural light; while a cloud of smoke settled heavily over the

battlements in the distinct colossal figure of--_a horse_.

 

 

 

 

THE SYSTEM OF DOCTOR TARR AND PROFESSOR FETHER

 

DURING the autumn of 18--, while on a tour through the extreme southern

provinces of France, my route led me within a few miles of a certain

Maison de Sante or private mad-house, about which I had heard much in

Paris from my medical friends. As I had never visited a place of the

kind, I thought the opportunity too good to be lost; and so proposed

to my travelling companion (a gentleman with whom I had made casual

acquaintance a few days before) that we should turn aside, for an hour

or so, and look through the establishment. To this he objected--pleading

haste in the first place, and, in the second, a very usual horror at the

sight of a lunatic. He begged me, however, not to let any mere courtesy

towards himself interfere with the gratification of my curiosity, and

said that he would ride on leisurely, so that I might overtake him

during the day, or, at all events, during the next. As he bade me

good-bye, I bethought me that there might be some difficulty in

obtaining access to the premises, and mentioned my fears on this

point. He replied that, in fact, unless I had personal knowledge of the

superintendent, Monsieur Maillard, or some credential in the way of

a letter, a difficulty might be found to exist, as the regulations of

these private mad-houses were more rigid than the public hospital laws.

For himself, he added, he had, some years since, made the acquaintance

of Maillard, and would so far assist me as to ride up to the door and

introduce me; although his feelings on the subject of lunacy would not

permit of his entering the house.

 

I thanked him, and, turning from the main road, we entered a grass-grown

by-path, which, in half an hour, nearly lost itself in a dense forest,

clothing the base of a mountain. Through this dank and gloomy wood we

rode some two miles, when the Maison de Sante came in view. It was a

fantastic chateau, much dilapidated, and indeed scarcely tenantable

through age and neglect. Its aspect inspired me with absolute dread,

and, checking my horse, I half resolved to turn back. I soon, however,

grew ashamed of my weakness, and proceeded.

 

As we rode up to the gate-way, I perceived it slightly open, and the

visage of a man peering through. In an instant afterward, this man came

forth, accosted my companion by name, shook him cordially by the hand,

and begged him to alight. It was Monsieur Maillard himself. He was

a portly, fine-looking gentleman of the old school, with a polished

manner, and a certain air of gravity, dignity, and authority which was

very impressive.

 

My friend, having presented me, mentioned my desire to inspect the

establishment, and received Monsieur Maillard's assurance that he would

show me all attention, now took leave, and I saw him no more.

 

When he had gone, the superintendent ushered me into a small and

exceedingly neat parlor, containing, among other indications of refined

taste, many books, drawings, pots of flowers, and musical instruments.

A cheerful fire blazed upon the hearth. At a piano, singing an aria

from Bellini, sat a young and very beautiful woman, who, at my entrance,

paused in her song, and received me with graceful courtesy. Her voice

was low, and her whole manner subdued. I thought, too, that I perceived

the traces of sorrow in her countenance, which was excessively, although

to my taste, not unpleasingly, pale. She was attired in deep mourning,

and excited in my bosom a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and

admiration.

 

I had heard, at Paris, that the institution of Monsieur Maillard was

managed upon what is vulgarly termed the "system of soothing"--that

all punishments were avoided--that even confinement was seldom resorted

to--that the patients, while secretly watched, were left much apparent

liberty, and that most of them were permitted to roam about the house

and grounds in the ordinary apparel of persons in right mind.

 

Keeping these impressions in view, I was cautious in what I said before

the young lady; for I could not be sure that she was sane; and, in fact,

there was a certain restless brilliancy about her eyes which half led

me to imagine she was not. I confined my remarks, therefore, to general

topics, and to such as I thought would not be displeasing or exciting

even to a lunatic. She replied in a perfectly rational manner to all

that I said; and even her original observations were marked with the

soundest good sense, but a long acquaintance with the metaphysics of

mania, had taught me to put no faith in such evidence of sanity, and I

continued to practise, throughout the interview, the caution with which

I commenced it.

 

Presently a smart footman in livery brought in a tray with fruit, wine,

and other refreshments, of which I partook, the lady soon afterward

leaving the room. As she departed I turned my eyes in an inquiring

manner toward my host.

 

"No," he said, "oh, no--a member of my family--my niece, and a most

accomplished woman."

 

"I beg a thousand pardons for the suspicion," I replied, "but of course

you will know how to excuse me. The excellent administration of

your affairs here is well understood in Paris, and I thought it just

possible, you know--

 

"Yes, yes--say no more--or rather it is myself who should thank you for

the commendable prudence you have displayed. We seldom find so much of

forethought in young men; and, more than once, some unhappy contre-temps

has occurred in consequence of thoughtlessness on the part of our

visitors. While my former system was in operation, and my patients were

permitted the privilege of roaming to and fro at will, they were often

aroused to a dangerous frenzy by injudicious persons who called to

inspect the house. Hence I was obliged to enforce a rigid system

of exclusion; and none obtained access to the premises upon whose

discretion I could not rely."

 

"While your former system was in operation!" I said, repeating his

words--"do I understand you, then, to say that the 'soothing system' of

which I have heard so much is no longer in force?"

 

"It is now," he replied, "several weeks since we have concluded to

renounce it forever."

 

"Indeed! you astonish me!"

 

"We found it, sir," he said, with a sigh, "absolutely necessary to

return to the old usages. The danger of the soothing system was, at

all times, appalling; and its advantages have been much overrated. I

believe, sir, that in this house it has been given a fair trial, if ever

in any. We did every thing that rational humanity could suggest. I am

sorry that you could not have paid us a visit at an earlier period, that

you might have judged for yourself. But I presume you are conversant

with the soothing practice--with its details."

 

"Not altogether. What I have heard has been at third or fourth hand."

 

"I may state the system, then, in general terms, as one in which the

patients were menages-humored. We contradicted no fancies which entered

the brains of the mad. On the contrary, we not only indulged but

encouraged them; and many of our most permanent cures have been thus

effected. There is no argument which so touches the feeble reason of the

madman as the argumentum ad absurdum. We have had men, for example, who

fancied themselves chickens. The cure was, to insist upon the thing as a

fact--to accuse the patient of stupidity in not sufficiently perceiving

it to be a fact--and thus to refuse him any other diet for a week than

that which properly appertains to a chicken. In this manner a little

corn and gravel were made to perform wonders."

 

"But was this species of acquiescence all?"

 

"By no means. We put much faith in amusements of a simple kind, such as

music, dancing, gymnastic exercises generally, cards, certain classes of

books, and so forth. We affected to treat each individual as if for some

ordinary physical disorder, and the word 'lunacy' was never employed.

A great point was to set each lunatic to guard the actions of all the

others. To repose confidence in the understanding or discretion of a

madman, is to gain him body and soul. In this way we were enabled to

dispense with an expensive body of keepers."

 

"And you had no punishments of any kind?"

 

"None."

 

"And you never confined your patients?"

 

"Very rarely. Now and then, the malady of some individual growing to

a crisis, or taking a sudden turn of fury, we conveyed him to a secret

cell, lest his disorder should infect the rest, and there kept him until

we could dismiss him to his friends--for with the raging maniac we have

nothing to do. He is usually removed to the public hospitals."

 

"And you have now changed all this--and you think for the better?"

 

"Decidedly. The system had its disadvantages, and even its dangers.

It is now, happily, exploded throughout all the Maisons de Sante of

France."

 

"I am very much surprised," I said, "at what you tell me; for I made

sure that, at this moment, no other method of treatment for mania

existed in any portion of the country."

 

"You are young yet, my friend," replied my host, "but the time will

arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in

the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you

hear, and only one-half that you see. Now about our Maisons de Sante, it

is clear that some ignoramus has misled you. After dinner, however, when

you have sufficiently recovered from the fatigue of your ride, I will be

happy to take you over the house, and introduce to you a system which,

in my opinion, and in that of every one who has witnessed its operation,

is incomparably the most effectual as yet devised."

 

"Your own?" I inquired--"one of your own invention?"

 

"I am proud," he replied, "to acknowledge that it is--at least in some

measure."

 

In this manner I conversed with Monsieur Maillard for an hour or two,

during which he showed me the gardens and conservatories of the place.

 

"I cannot let you see my patients," he said, "just at present. To a

sensitive mind there is always more or less of the shocking in such

exhibitions; and I do not wish to spoil your appetite for dinner. We

will dine. I can give you some veal a la Menehoult, with cauliflowers in

veloute sauce--after that a glass of Clos de Vougeot--then your nerves

will be sufficiently steadied."

 

At six, dinner was announced; and my host conducted me into a

large salle a manger, where a very numerous company were

assembled--twenty-five or thirty in all. They were, apparently, people

of rank-certainly of high breeding--although their habiliments, I

thought, were extravagantly rich, partaking somewhat too much of

the ostentatious finery of the vielle cour. I noticed that at least

two-thirds of these guests were ladies; and some of the latter were by

no means accoutred in what a Parisian would consider good taste at the

present day. Many females, for example, whose age could not have been

less than seventy were bedecked with a profusion of jewelry, such

as rings, bracelets, and earrings, and wore their bosoms and arms

shamefully bare. I observed, too, that very few of the dresses were well

made--or, at least, that very few of them fitted the wearers. In looking

about, I discovered the interesting girl to whom Monsieur Maillard had

presented me in the little parlor; but my surprise was great to see her

wearing a hoop and farthingale, with high-heeled shoes, and a dirty

cap of Brussels lace, so much too large for her that it gave her face a

ridiculously diminutive expression. When I had first seen her, she was

attired, most becomingly, in deep mourning. There was an air of oddity,

in short, about the dress of the whole party, which, at first, caused me

to recur to my original idea of the "soothing system," and to fancy that

Monsieur Maillard had been willing to deceive me until after dinner,

that I might experience no uncomfortable feelings during the repast,

at finding myself dining with lunatics; but I remembered having been

informed, in Paris, that the southern provincialists were a peculiarly

eccentric people, with a vast number of antiquated notions; and

then, too, upon conversing with several members of the company, my

apprehensions were immediately and fully dispelled.

 

The dining-room itself, although perhaps sufficiently comfortable and of

good dimensions, had nothing too much of elegance about it. For example,

the floor was uncarpeted; in France, however, a carpet is frequently

dispensed with. The windows, too, were without curtains; the shutters,

being shut, were securely fastened with iron bars, applied diagonally,

after the fashion of our ordinary shop-shutters. The apartment, I

observed, formed, in itself, a wing of the chateau, and thus the windows

were on three sides of the parallelogram, the door being at the other.

There were no less than ten windows in all.

 

The table was superbly set out. It was loaded with plate, and more than

loaded with delicacies. The profusion was absolutely barbaric. There

were meats enough to have feasted the Anakim. Never, in all my life, had

I witnessed so lavish, so wasteful an expenditure of the good things of

life. There seemed very little taste, however, in the arrangements;

and my eyes, accustomed to quiet lights, were sadly offended by the

prodigious glare of a multitude of wax candles, which, in silver

candelabra, were deposited upon the table, and all about the room,

wherever it was possible to find a place. There were several active

servants in attendance; and, upon a large table, at the farther end of

the apartment, were seated seven or eight people with fiddles, fifes,

trombones, and a drum. These fellows annoyed me very much, at intervals,

during the repast, by an infinite variety of noises, which were intended

for music, and which appeared to afford much entertainment to all

present, with the exception of myself.

 

Upon the whole, I could not help thinking that there was much of the

bizarre about every thing I saw--but then the world is made up of

all kinds of persons, with all modes of thought, and all sorts of

conventional customs. I had travelled, too, so much, as to be quite an

adept at the nil admirari; so I took my seat very coolly at the right

hand of my host, and, having an excellent appetite, did justice to the

good cheer set before me.

 

The conversation, in the meantime, was spirited and general. The ladies,

as usual, talked a great deal. I soon found that nearly all the company

were well educated; and my host was a world of good-humored anecdote

in himself. He seemed quite willing to speak of his position as

superintendent of a Maison de Sante; and, indeed, the topic of lunacy

was, much to my surprise, a favorite one with all present. A great

many amusing stories were told, having reference to the whims of the

patients.

 

"We had a fellow here once," said a fat little gentleman, who sat at my

right,--"a fellow that fancied himself a tea-pot; and by the way, is it

not especially singular how often this particular crotchet has entered

the brain of the lunatic? There is scarcely an insane asylum in France

which cannot supply a human tea-pot. Our gentleman was a Britannia--ware

tea-pot, and was careful to polish himself every morning with buckskin

and whiting."

 

"And then," said a tall man just opposite, "we had here, not long ago,

a person who had taken it into his head that he was a donkey--which

allegorically speaking, you will say, was quite true. He was a

troublesome patient; and we had much ado to keep him within bounds. For

a long time he would eat nothing but thistles; but of this idea we

soon cured him by insisting upon his eating nothing else. Then he was

perpetually kicking out his heels-so-so-"

 

"Mr. De Kock! I will thank you to behave yourself!" here interrupted

an old lady, who sat next to the speaker. "Please keep your feet

to yourself! You have spoiled my brocade! Is it necessary, pray, to

illustrate a remark in so practical a style? Our friend here can surely

comprehend you without all this. Upon my word, you are nearly as great

a donkey as the poor unfortunate imagined himself. Your acting is very

natural, as I live."

 

"Mille pardons! Ma'm'selle!" replied Monsieur De Kock, thus

addressed--"a thousand pardons! I had no intention of offending.

Ma'm'selle Laplace--Monsieur De Kock will do himself the honor of taking

wine with you."

 

Here Monsieur De Kock bowed low, kissed his hand with much ceremony, and

took wine with Ma'm'selle Laplace.

 

"Allow me, mon ami," now said Monsieur Maillard, addressing myself,

"allow me to send you a morsel of this veal a la St. Menhoult--you will

find it particularly fine."

 

At this instant three sturdy waiters had just succeeded in depositing

safely upon the table an enormous dish, or trencher, containing what

I supposed to be the "monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen

ademptum." A closer scrutiny assured me, however, that it was only a

small calf roasted whole, and set upon its knees, with an apple in its

mouth, as is the English fashion of dressing a hare.

 

"Thank you, no," I replied; "to say the truth, I am not particularly

partial to veal a la St.--what is it?--for I do not find that it

altogether agrees with me. I will change my plate, however, and try some

of the rabbit."

 

There were several side-dishes on the table, containing what appeared

to be the ordinary French rabbit--a very delicious morceau, which I can

recommend.

 

"Pierre," cried the host, "change this gentleman's plate, and give him a

side-piece of this rabbit au-chat."

 

"This what?" said I.

 

"This rabbit au-chat."

 

"Why, thank you--upon second thoughts, no. I will just help myself to

some of the ham."

 

There is no knowing what one eats, thought I to myself, at the tables

of these people of the province. I will have none of their rabbit

au-chat--and, for the matter of that, none of their cat-au-rabbit

either.

 

"And then," said a cadaverous looking personage, near the foot of the

table, taking up the thread of the conversation where it had been broken

off,--"and then, among other oddities, we had a patient, once upon a

time, who very pertinaciously maintained himself to be a Cordova cheese,

and went about, with a knife in his hand, soliciting his friends to try

a small slice from the middle of his leg."

 

"He was a great fool, beyond doubt," interposed some one, "but not to be

compared with a certain individual whom we all know, with the exception

of this strange gentleman. I mean the man who took himself for a

bottle of champagne, and always went off with a pop and a fizz, in this

fashion."

 

Here the speaker, very rudely, as I thought, put his right thumb in his

left cheek, withdrew it with a sound resembling the popping of a cork,

and then, by a dexterous movement of the tongue upon the teeth, created

a sharp hissing and fizzing, which lasted for several minutes, in

imitation of the frothing of champagne. This behavior, I saw plainly,

was not very pleasing to Monsieur Maillard; but that gentleman said

nothing, and the conversation was resumed by a very lean little man in a

big wig.

 

"And then there was an ignoramus," said he, "who mistook himself for a

frog, which, by the way, he resembled in no little degree. I wish you

could have seen him, sir,"--here the speaker addressed myself--"it would

have done your heart good to see the natural airs that he put on. Sir,

if that man was not a frog, I can only observe that it is a pity he was

not. His croak thus--o-o-o-o-gh--o-o-o-o-gh! was the finest note in the

world--B flat; and when he put his elbows upon the table thus--after

taking a glass or two of wine--and distended his mouth, thus, and rolled

up his eyes, thus, and winked them with excessive rapidity, thus, why

then, sir, I take it upon myself to say, positively, that you would have

been lost in admiration of the genius of the man."

 

"I have no doubt of it," I said.

 

"And then," said somebody else, "then there was Petit Gaillard, who

thought himself a pinch of snuff, and was truly distressed because he

could not take himself between his own finger and thumb."

 

"And then there was Jules Desoulieres, who was a very singular genius,

indeed, and went mad with the idea that he was a pumpkin. He persecuted

the cook to make him up into pies--a thing which the cook indignantly

refused to do. For my part, I am by no means sure that a pumpkin pie a

la Desoulieres would not have been very capital eating indeed!"

 

"You astonish me!" said I; and I looked inquisitively at Monsieur

Maillard.

 

"Ha! ha! ha!" said that gentleman--"he! he! he!--hi! hi! hi!--ho! ho!

ho!--hu! hu! hu! hu!--very good indeed! You must not be astonished, mon

ami; our friend here is a wit--a drole--you must not understand him to

the letter."

 

"And then," said some other one of the party,--"then there was Bouffon

Le Grand--another extraordinary personage in his way. He grew deranged

through love, and fancied himself possessed of two heads. One of

these he maintained to be the head of Cicero; the other he imagined a

composite one, being Demosthenes' from the top of the forehead to

the mouth, and Lord Brougham's from the mouth to the chin. It is not

impossible that he was wrong; but he would have convinced you of his

being in the right; for he was a man of great eloquence. He had an

absolute passion for oratory, and could not refrain from display. For

example, he used to leap upon the dinner-table thus, and--and-"

 

Here a friend, at the side of the speaker, put a hand upon his shoulder

and whispered a few words in his ear, upon which he ceased talking with

great suddenness, and sank back within his chair.

 

"And then," said the friend who had whispered, "there was Boullard, the

tee-totum. I call him the tee-totum because, in fact, he was seized

with the droll but not altogether irrational crotchet, that he had been

converted into a tee-totum. You would have roared with laughter to

see him spin. He would turn round upon one heel by the hour, in this

manner--so--"

 

Here the friend whom he had just interrupted by a whisper, performed an

exactly similar office for himself.

 

"But then," cried the old lady, at the top of her voice, "your Monsieur

Boullard was a madman, and a very silly madman at best; for who, allow

me to ask you, ever heard of a human tee-totum? The thing is absurd.

Madame Joyeuse was a more sensible person, as you know. She had a

crotchet, but it was instinct with common sense, and gave pleasure

to all who had the honor of her acquaintance. She found, upon mature

deliberation, that, by some accident, she had been turned into a

chicken-cock; but, as such, she behaved with propriety. She flapped

her wings with prodigious effect--so--so--and, as for her crow, it

was delicious!

 

Cock-a-doodle-doo!--cock-a-doodle-doo!--cock-a-doodle-de-doo

dooo-do-o-o-o-o-o-o!"

 

"Madame Joyeuse, I will thank you to behave yourself!" here interrupted

our host, very angrily. "You can either conduct yourself as a lady

should do, or you can quit the table forthwith-take your choice."

 

The lady (whom I was much astonished to hear addressed as Madame

Joyeuse, after the description of Madame Joyeuse she had just given)

blushed up to the eyebrows, and seemed exceedingly abashed at the

reproof. She hung down her head, and said not a syllable in reply. But

another and younger lady resumed the theme. It was my beautiful girl of

the little parlor.

 

"Oh, Madame Joyeuse was a fool!" she exclaimed, "but there was really

much sound sense, after all, in the opinion of Eugenie Salsafette. She

was a very beautiful and painfully modest young lady, who thought the

ordinary mode of habiliment indecent, and wished to dress herself,

always, by getting outside instead of inside of her clothes. It is a

thing very easily done, after all. You have only to do so--and then

so--so--so--and then so--so--so--and then so--so--and then--

 

"Mon dieu! Ma'm'selle Salsafette!" here cried a dozen voices at once.

"What are you about?--forbear!--that is sufficient!--we see, very

plainly, how it is done!--hold! hold!" and several persons were already

leaping from their seats to withhold Ma'm'selle Salsafette from putting

herself upon a par with the Medicean Venus, when the point was very

effectually and suddenly accomplished by a series of loud screams, or

yells, from some portion of the main body of the chateau.

 

My nerves were very much affected, indeed, by these yells; but the rest

of the company I really pitied. I never saw any set of reasonable people

so thoroughly frightened in my life. They all grew as pale as so many

corpses, and, shrinking within their seats, sat quivering and gibbering

with terror, and listening for a repetition of the sound. It came

again--louder and seemingly nearer--and then a third time very loud, and

then a fourth time with a vigor evidently diminished. At this apparent

dying away of the noise, the spirits of the company were immediately

regained, and all was life and anecdote as before. I now ventured to

inquire the cause of the disturbance.

 

"A mere bagtelle," said Monsieur Maillard. "We are used to these things,

and care really very little about them. The lunatics, every now and

then, get up a howl in concert; one starting another, as is sometimes

the case with a bevy of dogs at night. It occasionally happens, however,

that the concerto yells are succeeded by a simultaneous effort

at breaking loose, when, of course, some little danger is to be

apprehended."

 

"And how many have you in charge?"

 

"At present we have not more than ten, altogether."

 

"Principally females, I presume?"

 

"Oh, no--every one of them men, and stout fellows, too, I can tell you."

 

"Indeed! I have always understood that the majority of lunatics were of

the gentler sex."

 

"It is generally so, but not always. Some time ago, there were about

twenty-seven patients here; and, of that number, no less than eighteen

were women; but, lately, matters have changed very much, as you see."

 

"Yes--have changed very much, as you see," here interrupted the

gentleman who had broken the shins of Ma'm'selle Laplace.

 

"Yes--have changed very much, as you see!" chimed in the whole company

at once.

 

"Hold your tongues, every one of you!" said my host, in a great rage.

Whereupon the whole company maintained a dead silence for nearly a

minute. As for one lady, she obeyed Monsieur Maillard to the letter,

and thrusting out her tongue, which was an excessively long one, held it

very resignedly, with both hands, until the end of the entertainment.

 

"And this gentlewoman," said I, to Monsieur Maillard, bending over and

addressing him in a whisper--"this good lady who has just spoken,

and who gives us the cock-a-doodle-de-doo--she, I presume, is

harmless--quite harmless, eh?"

 

"Harmless!" ejaculated he, in unfeigned surprise, "why--why, what can

you mean?"

 

"Only slightly touched?" said I, touching my head. "I take it for

granted that she is not particularly not dangerously affected, eh?"

 

"Mon dieu! what is it you imagine? This lady, my particular old friend

Madame Joyeuse, is as absolutely sane as myself. She has her little

eccentricities, to be sure--but then, you know, all old women--all very

old women--are more or less eccentric!"

 

"To be sure," said I,--"to be sure--and then the rest of these ladies

and gentlemen-"

 

"Are my friends and keepers," interupted Monsieur Maillard, drawing

himself up with hauteur,--"my very good friends and assistants."

 

"What! all of them?" I asked,--"the women and all?"

 

"Assuredly," he said,--"we could not do at all without the women; they

are the best lunatic nurses in the world; they have a way of their own,

you know; their bright eyes have a marvellous effect;--something like

the fascination of the snake, you know."

 

"To be sure," said I,--"to be sure! They behave a little odd, eh?--they

are a little queer, eh?--don't you think so?"

 

"Odd!--queer!--why, do you really think so? We are not very prudish, to

be sure, here in the South--do pretty much as we please--enjoy life, and

all that sort of thing, you know-"

 

"To be sure," said I,--"to be sure."

 

"And then, perhaps, this Clos de Vougeot is a little heady, you know--a

little strong--you understand, eh?"

 

"To be sure," said I,--"to be sure. By the bye, Monsieur, did I

understand you to say that the system you have adopted, in place of the

celebrated soothing system, was one of very rigorous severity?"

 

"By no means. Our confinement is necessarily close; but the

treatment--the medical treatment, I mean--is rather agreeable to the

patients than otherwise."

 

"And the new system is one of your own invention?"

 

"Not altogether. Some portions of it are referable to Professor Tarr, of

whom you have, necessarily, heard; and, again, there are modifications

in my plan which I am happy to acknowledge as belonging of right to the

celebrated Fether, with whom, if I mistake not, you have the honor of an

intimate acquaintance."

 

"I am quite ashamed to confess," I replied, "that I have never even

heard the names of either gentleman before."

 

"Good heavens!" ejaculated my host, drawing back his chair abruptly,

and uplifting his hands. "I surely do not hear you aright! You did not

intend to say, eh? that you had never heard either of the learned Doctor

Tarr, or of the celebrated Professor Fether?"

 

"I am forced to acknowledge my ignorance," I replied; "but the truth

should be held inviolate above all things. Nevertheless, I feel humbled

to the dust, not to be acquainted with the works of these, no doubt,

extraordinary men. I will seek out their writings forthwith, and peruse

them with deliberate care. Monsieur Maillard, you have really--I must

confess it--you have really--made me ashamed of myself!"

 

And this was the fact.

 

"Say no more, my good young friend," he said kindly, pressing my

hand,--"join me now in a glass of Sauterne."

 

We drank. The company followed our example without stint. They

chatted--they jested--they laughed--they perpetrated a thousand

absurdities--the fiddles shrieked--the drum row-de-dowed--the trombones

bellowed like so many brazen bulls of Phalaris--and the whole scene,

growing gradually worse and worse, as the wines gained the ascendancy,

became at length a sort of pandemonium in petto. In the meantime,

Monsieur Maillard and myself, with some bottles of Sauterne and Vougeot

between us, continued our conversation at the top of the voice. A word

spoken in an ordinary key stood no more chance of being heard than the

voice of a fish from the bottom of Niagara Falls.

 

"And, sir," said I, screaming in his ear, "you mentioned something

before dinner about the danger incurred in the old system of soothing.

How is that?"

 

"Yes," he replied, "there was, occasionally, very great danger indeed.

There is no accounting for the caprices of madmen; and, in my opinion

as well as in that of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, it is never safe to

permit them to run at large unattended. A lunatic may be 'soothed,'

as it is called, for a time, but, in the end, he is very apt to become

obstreperous. His cunning, too, is proverbial and great. If he has a

project in view, he conceals his design with a marvellous wisdom;

and the dexterity with which he counterfeits sanity, presents, to the

metaphysician, one of the most singular problems in the study of mind.

When a madman appears thoroughly sane, indeed, it is high time to put

him in a straitjacket."

 

"But the danger, my dear sir, of which you were speaking, in your own

experience--during your control of this house--have you had practical

reason to think liberty hazardous in the case of a lunatic?"

 

"Here?--in my own experience?--why, I may say, yes. For example:--no

very long while ago, a singular circumstance occurred in this very

house. The 'soothing system,' you know, was then in operation, and the

patients were at large. They behaved remarkably well-especially so, any

one of sense might have known that some devilish scheme was brewing from

that particular fact, that the fellows behaved so remarkably well. And,

sure enough, one fine morning the keepers found themselves pinioned hand

and foot, and thrown into the cells, where they were attended, as if

they were the lunatics, by the lunatics themselves, who had usurped the

offices of the keepers."

 

"You don't tell me so! I never heard of any thing so absurd in my life!"

 

"Fact--it all came to pass by means of a stupid fellow--a lunatic--who,

by some means, had taken it into his head that he had invented a

better system of government than any ever heard of before--of lunatic

government, I mean. He wished to give his invention a trial, I suppose,

and so he persuaded the rest of the patients to join him in a conspiracy

for the overthrow of the reigning powers."

 

"And he really succeeded?"

 

"No doubt of it. The keepers and kept were soon made to exchange places.

Not that exactly either--for the madmen had been free, but the keepers

were shut up in cells forthwith, and treated, I am sorry to say, in a

very cavalier manner."

 

"But I presume a counter-revolution was soon effected. This condition

of things could not have long existed. The country people in the

neighborhood-visitors coming to see the establishment--would have given

the alarm."

 

"There you are out. The head rebel was too cunning for that. He

admitted no visitors at all--with the exception, one day, of a very

stupid-looking young gentleman of whom he had no reason to be afraid. He

let him in to see the place--just by way of variety,--to have a little

fun with him. As soon as he had gammoned him sufficiently, he let him

out, and sent him about his business."

 

"And how long, then, did the madmen reign?"

 

"Oh, a very long time, indeed--a month certainly--how much longer I

can't precisely say. In the meantime, the lunatics had a jolly season of

it--that you may swear. They doffed their own shabby clothes, and made

free with the family wardrobe and jewels. The cellars of the chateau

were well stocked with wine; and these madmen are just the devils that

know how to drink it. They lived well, I can tell you."

 

"And the treatment--what was the particular species of treatment which

the leader of the rebels put into operation?"

 

"Why, as for that, a madman is not necessarily a fool, as I have already

observed; and it is my honest opinion that his treatment was a much

better treatment than that which it superseded. It was a very capital

system indeed--simple--neat--no trouble at all--in fact it was delicious

it was."

 

Here my host's observations were cut short by another series of yells,

of the same character as those which had previously disconcerted

us. This time, however, they seemed to proceed from persons rapidly

approaching.

 

"Gracious heavens!" I ejaculated--"the lunatics have most undoubtedly

broken loose."

 

"I very much fear it is so," replied Monsieur Maillard, now becoming

excessively pale. He had scarcely finished the sentence, before loud

shouts and imprecations were heard beneath the windows; and, immediately

afterward, it became evident that some persons outside were endeavoring

to gain entrance into the room. The door was beaten with what appeared

to be a sledge-hammer, and the shutters were wrenched and shaken with

prodigious violence.

 

A scene of the most terrible confusion ensued. Monsieur Maillard, to

my excessive astonishment threw himself under the side-board. I had

expected more resolution at his hands. The members of the orchestra,

who, for the last fifteen minutes, had been seemingly too much

intoxicated to do duty, now sprang all at once to their feet and to

their instruments, and, scrambling upon their table, broke out, with one

accord, into, "Yankee Doodle," which they performed, if not exactly

in tune, at least with an energy superhuman, during the whole of the

uproar.

 

Meantime, upon the main dining-table, among the bottles and glasses,

leaped the gentleman who, with such difficulty, had been restrained from

leaping there before. As soon as he fairly settled himself, he commenced

an oration, which, no doubt, was a very capital one, if it could

only have been heard. At the same moment, the man with the teetotum

predilection, set himself to spinning around the apartment, with immense

energy, and with arms outstretched at right angles with his body; so

that he had all the air of a tee-totum in fact, and knocked everybody

down that happened to get in his way. And now, too, hearing an

incredible popping and fizzing of champagne, I discovered at length,

that it proceeded from the person who performed the bottle of that

delicate drink during dinner. And then, again, the frog-man croaked

away as if the salvation of his soul depended upon every note that he

uttered. And, in the midst of all this, the continuous braying of a

donkey arose over all. As for my old friend, Madame Joyeuse, I really

could have wept for the poor lady, she appeared so terribly perplexed.

All she did, however, was to stand up in a corner, by the

fireplace, and sing out incessantly at the top of her voice,

"Cock-a-doodle-de-dooooooh!"

 

And now came the climax--the catastrophe of the drama. As no resistance,

beyond whooping and yelling and cock-a-doodling, was offered to the

encroachments of the party without, the ten windows were very speedily,

and almost simultaneously, broken in. But I shall never forget the

emotions of wonder and horror with which I gazed, when, leaping

through these windows, and down among us pele-mele, fighting, stamping,

scratching, and howling, there rushed a perfect army of what I took to

be Chimpanzees, Ourang-Outangs, or big black baboons of the Cape of Good

Hope.

 

I received a terrible beating--after which I rolled under a sofa and

lay still. After lying there some fifteen minutes, during which time I

listened with all my ears to what was going on in the room, I came to

same satisfactory denouement of this tragedy. Monsieur Maillard, it

appeared, in giving me the account of the lunatic who had excited his

fellows to rebellion, had been merely relating his own exploits.

This gentleman had, indeed, some two or three years before, been the

superintendent of the establishment, but grew crazy himself, and so

became a patient. This fact was unknown to the travelling companion

who introduced me. The keepers, ten in number, having been suddenly

overpowered, were first well tarred, then--carefully feathered, and then

shut up in underground cells. They had been so imprisoned for more than

a month, during which period Monsieur Maillard had generously allowed

them not only the tar and feathers (which constituted his "system"), but

some bread and abundance of water. The latter was pumped on them daily.

At length, one escaping through a sewer, gave freedom to all the rest.

 

The "soothing system," with important modifications, has been resumed at

the chateau; yet I cannot help agreeing with Monsieur Maillard, that

his own "treatment" was a very capital one of its kind. As he justly

observed, it was "simple--neat--and gave no trouble at all--not the

least."

 

I have only to add that, although I have searched every library in

Europe for the works of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, I have, up to

the present day, utterly failed in my endeavors at procuring an edition.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A BLACKWOOD ARTICLE.

 

      "In the name of the Prophet--figs!!"

 

      Cry of the Turkish fig-peddler.

 

I PRESUME everybody has heard of me. My name is the Signora Psyche

Zenobia. This I know to be a fact. Nobody but my enemies ever calls me

Suky Snobbs. I have been assured that Suky is but a vulgar corruption

of Psyche, which is good Greek, and means "the soul" (that's me, I'm

all soul) and sometimes "a butterfly," which latter meaning undoubtedly

alludes to my appearance in my new crimson satin dress, with the

sky-blue Arabian mantelet, and the trimmings of green agraffas, and the

seven flounces of orange-colored auriculas. As for Snobbs--any person

who should look at me would be instantly aware that my name wasn't

Snobbs. Miss Tabitha Turnip propagated that report through sheer envy.

Tabitha Turnip indeed! Oh the little wretch! But what can we expect from

a turnip? Wonder if she remembers the old adage about "blood out of a

turnip," &c.? [Mem. put her in mind of it the first opportunity.] [Mem.

again--pull her nose.] Where was I? Ah! I have been assured that Snobbs

is a mere corruption of Zenobia, and that Zenobia was a queen--(So am

I. Dr. Moneypenny always calls me the Queen of the Hearts)--and that

Zenobia, as well as Psyche, is good Greek, and that my father was "a

Greek," and that consequently I have a right to our patronymic, which is

Zenobia and not by any means Snobbs. Nobody but Tabitha Turnip calls me

Suky Snobbs. I am the Signora Psyche Zenobia.

 

As I said before, everybody has heard of me. I am that very Signora

Psyche Zenobia, so justly celebrated as corresponding secretary to the

"Philadelphia, Regular, Exchange, Tea, Total, Young, Belles, Lettres,

Universal, Experimental, Bibliographical, Association, To, Civilize,

Humanity." Dr. Moneypenny made the title for us, and says he chose it

because it sounded big like an empty rum-puncheon. (A vulgar man that

sometimes--but he's deep.) We all sign the initials of the society after

our names, in the fashion of the R. S. A., Royal Society of Arts--the

S. D. U. K., Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, &c, &c. Dr.

Moneypenny says that S. stands for stale, and that D. U. K. spells duck,

(but it don't,) that S. D. U. K. stands for Stale Duck and not for Lord

Brougham's society--but then Dr. Moneypenny is such a queer man that I

am never sure when he is telling me the truth. At any rate we always

add to our names the initials P. R. E. T. T. Y. B. L. U. E. B. A. T. C.

H.--that is to say, Philadelphia, Regular, Exchange, Tea, Total, Young,

Belles, Lettres, Universal, Experimental, Bibliographical, Association,

To, Civilize, Humanity--one letter for each word, which is a decided

improvement upon Lord Brougham. Dr. Moneypenny will have it that our

initials give our true character--but for my life I can't see what he

means.

 

Notwithstanding the good offices of the Doctor, and the strenuous

exertions of the association to get itself into notice, it met with no

very great success until I joined it. The truth is, the members indulged

in too flippant a tone of discussion. The papers read every Saturday

evening were characterized less by depth than buffoonery. They were

all whipped syllabub. There was no investigation of first causes, first

principles. There was no investigation of any thing at all. There was

no attention paid to that great point, the "fitness of things." In

short there was no fine writing like this. It was all low--very! No

profundity, no reading, no metaphysics--nothing which the learned call

spirituality, and which the unlearned choose to stigmatize as cant. [Dr.

M. says I ought to spell "cant" with a capital K--but I know better.]

 

When I joined the society it was my endeavor to introduce a better

style of thinking and writing, and all the world knows how well I have

succeeded. We get up as good papers now in the P. R. E. T. T. Y. B.

L. U. E. B. A. T. C. H. as any to be found even in Blackwood. I say,

Blackwood, because I have been assured that the finest writing,

upon every subject, is to be discovered in the pages of that justly

celebrated Magazine. We now take it for our model upon all themes, and

are getting into rapid notice accordingly. And, after all, it's not so

very difficult a matter to compose an article of the genuine Blackwood

stamp, if one only goes properly about it. Of course I don't speak of

the political articles. Everybody knows how they are managed, since Dr.

Moneypenny explained it. Mr. Blackwood has a pair of tailor's-shears,

and three apprentices who stand by him for orders. One hands him the

"Times," another the "Examiner" and a third a "Culley's New Compendium

of Slang-Whang." Mr. B. merely cuts out and intersperses. It is soon

done--nothing but "Examiner," "Slang-Whang," and "Times"--then "Times,"

"Slang-Whang," and "Examiner"--and then "Times," "Examiner," and

"Slang-Whang."

 

But the chief merit of the Magazine lies in its miscellaneous articles;

and the best of these come under the head of what Dr. Moneypenny calls

the bizarreries (whatever that may mean) and what everybody else calls

the intensities. This is a species of writing which I have long known

how to appreciate, although it is only since my late visit to Mr.

Blackwood (deputed by the society) that I have been made aware of the

exact method of composition. This method is very simple, but not so much

so as the politics. Upon my calling at Mr. B.'s, and making known to him

the wishes of the society, he received me with great civility, took me

into his study, and gave me a clear explanation of the whole process.

 

"My dear madam," said he, evidently struck with my majestic appearance,

for I had on the crimson satin, with the green agraffas, and

orange-colored auriclas. "My dear madam," said he, "sit down. The matter

stands thus: In the first place your writer of intensities must have

very black ink, and a very big pen, with a very blunt nib. And, mark

me, Miss Psyche Zenobia!" he continued, after a pause, with the

most expressive energy and solemnity of manner, "mark me!--that

pen--must--never be mended! Herein, madam, lies the secret, the soul, of

intensity. I assume upon myself to say, that no individual, of however

great genius ever wrote with a good pen--understand me,--a good article.

You may take, it for granted, that when manuscript can be read it is

never worth reading. This is a leading principle in our faith, to which

if you cannot readily assent, our conference is at an end."

 

He paused. But, of course, as I had no wish to put an end to the

conference, I assented to a proposition so very obvious, and one,

too, of whose truth I had all along been sufficiently aware. He seemed

pleased, and went on with his instructions.

 

"It may appear invidious in me, Miss Psyche Zenobia, to refer you to any

article, or set of articles, in the way of model or study, yet perhaps

I may as well call your attention to a few cases. Let me see. There

was 'The Dead Alive,' a capital thing!--the record of a gentleman's

sensations when entombed before the breath was out of his body--full of

tastes, terror, sentiment, metaphysics, and erudition. You would have

sworn that the writer had been born and brought up in a coffin. Then

we had the 'Confessions of an Opium-eater'--fine, very fine!--glorious

imagination--deep philosophy acute speculation--plenty of fire and fury,

and a good spicing of the decidedly unintelligible. That was a nice bit

of flummery, and went down the throats of the people delightfully.

They would have it that Coleridge wrote the paper--but not so. It was

composed by my pet baboon, Juniper, over a rummer of Hollands and water,

'hot, without sugar.'" [This I could scarcely have believed had it been

anybody but Mr. Blackwood, who assured me of it.] "Then there was 'The

Involuntary Experimentalist,' all about a gentleman who got baked in an

oven, and came out alive and well, although certainly done to a turn.

And then there was 'The Diary of a Late Physician,' where the merit lay

in good rant, and indifferent Greek--both of them taking things with

the public. And then there was 'The Man in the Bell,' a paper by-the-by,

Miss Zenobia, which I cannot sufficiently recommend to your attention.

It is the history of a young person who goes to sleep under the clapper

of a church bell, and is awakened by its tolling for a funeral. The

sound drives him mad, and, accordingly, pulling out his tablets, he

gives a record of his sensations. Sensations are the great things after

all. Should you ever be drowned or hung, be sure and make a note of your

sensations--they will be worth to you ten guineas a sheet. If you

wish to write forcibly, Miss Zenobia, pay minute attention to the

sensations."

 

"That I certainly will, Mr. Blackwood," said I.

 

"Good!" he replied. "I see you are a pupil after my own heart. But I

must put you au fait to the details necessary in composing what may be

denominated a genuine Blackwood article of the sensation stamp--the

kind which you will understand me to say I consider the best for all

purposes.

 

"The first thing requisite is to get yourself into such a scrape as no

one ever got into before. The oven, for instance,--that was a good

hit. But if you have no oven or big bell, at hand, and if you cannot

conveniently tumble out of a balloon, or be swallowed up in an

earthquake, or get stuck fast in a chimney, you will have to be

contented with simply imagining some similar misadventure. I should

prefer, however, that you have the actual fact to bear you out. Nothing

so well assists the fancy, as an experimental knowledge of the matter

in hand. 'Truth is strange,' you know, 'stranger than fiction'--besides

being more to the purpose."

 

Here I assured him I had an excellent pair of garters, and would go and

hang myself forthwith.

 

"Good!" he replied, "do so;--although hanging is somewhat hacknied.

Perhaps you might do better. Take a dose of Brandreth's pills, and then

give us your sensations. However, my instructions will apply equally

well to any variety of misadventure, and in your way home you may easily

get knocked in the head, or run over by an omnibus, or bitten by a mad

dog, or drowned in a gutter. But to proceed.

 

"Having determined upon your subject, you must next consider the tone,

or manner, of your narration. There is the tone didactic, the tone

enthusiastic, the tone natural--all common--place enough. But then there

is the tone laconic, or curt, which has lately come much into use. It

consists in short sentences. Somehow thus: Can't be too brief. Can't be

too snappish. Always a full stop. And never a paragraph.

 

"Then there is the tone elevated, diffusive, and interjectional. Some

of our best novelists patronize this tone. The words must be all in a

whirl, like a humming-top, and make a noise very similar, which answers

remarkably well instead of meaning. This is the best of all possible

styles where the writer is in too great a hurry to think.

 

"The tone metaphysical is also a good one. If you know any big words

this is your chance for them. Talk of the Ionic and Eleatic schools--of

Archytas, Gorgias, and Alcmaeon. Say something about objectivity and

subjectivity. Be sure and abuse a man named Locke. Turn up your nose at

things in general, and when you let slip any thing a little too absurd,

you need not be at the trouble of scratching it out, but just add

a footnote and say that you are indebted for the above profound

observation to the 'Kritik der reinem Vernunft,' or to the 'Metaphysithe

Anfongsgrunde der Noturwissenchaft.' This would look erudite

and--and--and frank.

 

"There are various other tones of equal celebrity, but I shall mention

only two more--the tone transcendental and the tone heterogeneous. In

the former the merit consists in seeing into the nature of affairs a

very great deal farther than anybody else. This second sight is very

efficient when properly managed. A little reading of the 'Dial' will

carry you a great way. Eschew, in this case, big words; get them as

small as possible, and write them upside down. Look over Channing's

poems and quote what he says about a 'fat little man with a delusive

show of Can.' Put in something about the Supernal Oneness. Don't say

a syllable about the Infernal Twoness. Above all, study innuendo. Hint

everything--assert nothing. If you feel inclined to say 'bread and

butter,' do not by any means say it outright. You may say any thing

and every thing approaching to 'bread and butter.' You may hint at

buck-wheat cake, or you may even go so far as to insinuate oat-meal

porridge, but if bread and butter be your real meaning, be cautious, my

dear Miss Psyche, not on any account to say 'bread and butter!'"

 

I assured him that I should never say it again as long as I lived. He

kissed me and continued:

 

"As for the tone heterogeneous, it is merely a judicious mixture,

in equal proportions, of all the other tones in the world, and

is consequently made up of every thing deep, great, odd, piquant,

pertinent, and pretty.

 

"Let us suppose now you have determined upon your incidents and tone.

The most important portion--in fact, the soul of the whole business,

is yet to be attended to--I allude to the filling up. It is not to be

supposed that a lady, or gentleman either, has been leading the life of

a book worm. And yet above all things it is necessary that your article

have an air of erudition, or at least afford evidence of extensive

general reading. Now I'll put you in the way of accomplishing this

point. See here!" (pulling down some three or four ordinary-looking

volumes, and opening them at random). "By casting your eye down almost

any page of any book in the world, you will be able to perceive at once

a host of little scraps of either learning or bel-espritism, which are

the very thing for the spicing of a Blackwood article. You might as well

note down a few while I read them to you. I shall make two divisions:

first, Piquant Facts for the Manufacture of Similes, and, second,

Piquant Expressions to be introduced as occasion may require. Write

now!"--and I wrote as he dictated.

 

"PIQUANT FACTS FOR SIMILES. 'There were originally but three

Muses--Melete, Mneme, Aoede--meditation, memory, and singing.' You may

make a good deal of that little fact if properly worked. You see it is

not generally known, and looks recherche. You must be careful and give

the thing with a downright improviso air.

 

"Again. 'The river Alpheus passed beneath the sea, and emerged without

injury to the purity of its waters.' Rather stale that, to be sure, but,

if properly dressed and dished up, will look quite as fresh as ever.

 

"Here is something better. 'The Persian Iris appears to some persons

to possess a sweet and very powerful perfume, while to others it is

perfectly scentless.' Fine that, and very delicate! Turn it about

a little, and it will do wonders. We'll have some thing else in the

botanical line. There's nothing goes down so well, especially with the

help of a little Latin. Write!

 

"'The Epidendrum Flos Aeris, of Java, bears a very beautiful flower, and

will live when pulled up by the roots. The natives suspend it by a cord

from the ceiling, and enjoy its fragrance for years.' That's capital!

That will do for the similes. Now for the Piquant Expressions.

 

"PIQUANT EXPRESSIONS. 'The Venerable Chinese novel Ju-Kiao-Li.' Good! By

introducing these few words with dexterity you will evince your intimate

acquaintance with the language and literature of the Chinese. With the

aid of this you may either get along without either Arabic, or Sanscrit,

or Chickasaw. There is no passing muster, however, without Spanish,

Italian, German, Latin, and Greek. I must look you out a little specimen

of each. Any scrap will answer, because you must depend upon your own

ingenuity to make it fit into your article. Now write!

 

"'Aussi tendre que Zaire'--as tender as Zaire-French. Alludes to the

frequent repetition of the phrase, la tendre Zaire, in the French

tragedy of that name. Properly introduced, will show not only your

knowledge of the language, but your general reading and wit. You can

say, for instance, that the chicken you were eating (write an article

about being choked to death by a chicken-bone) was not altogether aussi

tendre que Zaire. Write!

 

     'Van muerte tan escondida,

        Que no te sienta venir,

     Porque el plazer del morir,

        No mestorne a dar la vida.'

 

"That's Spanish--from Miguel de Cervantes. 'Come quickly, O death! but

be sure and don't let me see you coming, lest the pleasure I shall feel

at your appearance should unfortunately bring me back again to life.'

This you may slip in quite a propos when you are struggling in the last

agonies with the chicken-bone. Write!

 

_'Il pover 'huomo che non se'n era accorto, Andava combattendo, e era

morto.'_

 

"That's Italian, you perceive--from Ariosto. It means that a great hero,

in the heat of combat, not perceiving that he had been fairly killed,

continued to fight valiantly, dead as he was. The application of this

to your own case is obvious--for I trust, Miss Psyche, that you will

not neglect to kick for at least an hour and a half after you have been

choked to death by that chicken-bone. Please to write!

 

_'Und sterb'ich doch, no sterb'ich denn_

 

_Durch sie--durch sie!'_

 

"That's German--from Schiller. 'And if I die, at least I die--for

thee--for thee!' Here it is clear that you are apostrophizing the cause

of your disaster, the chicken. Indeed what gentleman (or lady either) of

sense, wouldn't die, I should like to know, for a well fattened capon of

the right Molucca breed, stuffed with capers and mushrooms, and served

up in a salad-bowl, with orange-jellies en mosaiques. Write! (You can

get them that way at Tortoni's)--Write, if you please!

 

"Here is a nice little Latin phrase, and rare too, (one can't be too

recherche or brief in one's Latin, it's getting so common--ignoratio

elenchi. He has committed an ignoratio elenchi--that is to say, he has

understood the words of your proposition, but not the idea. The man was

a fool, you see. Some poor fellow whom you address while choking with

that chicken-bone, and who therefore didn't precisely understand what

you were talking about. Throw the ignoratio elenchi in his teeth, and,

at once, you have him annihilated. If he dares to reply, you can tell

him from Lucan (here it is) that speeches are mere anemonae verborum,

anemone words. The anemone, with great brilliancy, has no smell. Or,

if he begins to bluster, you may be down upon him with insomnia Jovis,

reveries of Jupiter--a phrase which Silius Italicus (see here!) applies

to thoughts pompous and inflated. This will be sure and cut him to the

heart. He can do nothing but roll over and die. Will you be kind enough

to write?

 

"In Greek we must have some thing pretty--from Demosthenes, for example.

[Greek phrase]

 

[Anerh o pheugoen kai palin makesetai] There is a tolerably good

translation of it in Hudibras

 

        'For he that flies may fight again,

     Which he can never do that's slain.'

 

"In a Blackwood article nothing makes so fine a show as your Greek. The

very letters have an air of profundity about them. Only observe, madam,

the astute look of that Epsilon! That Phi ought certainly to be a

bishop! Was ever there a smarter fellow than that Omicron? Just

twig that Tau! In short, there is nothing like Greek for a genuine

sensation-paper. In the present case your application is the most

obvious thing in the world. Rap out the sentence, with a huge oath, and

by way of ultimatum at the good-for-nothing dunder-headed villain who

couldn't understand your plain English in relation to the chicken-bone.

He'll take the hint and be off, you may depend upon it."

 

These were all the instructions Mr. B. could afford me upon the topic

in question, but I felt they would be entirely sufficient. I was, at

length, able to write a genuine Blackwood article, and determined to do

it forthwith. In taking leave of me, Mr. B. made a proposition for the

purchase of the paper when written; but as he could offer me only fifty

guineas a sheet, I thought it better to let our society have it, than

sacrifice it for so paltry a sum. Notwithstanding this niggardly spirit,

however, the gentleman showed his consideration for me in all other

respects, and indeed treated me with the greatest civility. His parting

words made a deep impression upon my heart, and I hope I shall always

remember them with gratitude.

 

"My dear Miss Zenobia," he said, while the tears stood in his eyes, "is

there anything else I can do to promote the success of your laudable

undertaking? Let me reflect! It is just possible that you may not be

able, so soon as convenient, to--to--get yourself drowned, or--choked

with a chicken-bone, or--or hung,--or--bitten by a--but stay! Now I

think me of it, there are a couple of very excellent bull-dogs in the

yard--fine fellows, I assure you--savage, and all that--indeed just the

thing for your money--they'll have you eaten up, auricula and all, in

less than five minutes (here's my watch!)--and then only think of the

sensations! Here! I say--Tom!--Peter!--Dick, you villain!--let out

those"--but as I was really in a great hurry, and had not another

moment to spare, I was reluctantly forced to expedite my departure, and

accordingly took leave at once--somewhat more abruptly, I admit, than

strict courtesy would have otherwise allowed.

 

It was my primary object upon quitting Mr. Blackwood, to get into some

immediate difficulty, pursuant to his advice, and with this view I spent

the greater part of the day in wandering about Edinburgh, seeking

for desperate adventures--adventures adequate to the intensity of my

feelings, and adapted to the vast character of the article I intended to

write. In this excursion I was attended by one negro--servant,

Pompey, and my little lap-dog Diana, whom I had brought with me from

Philadelphia. It was not, however, until late in the afternoon that

I fully succeeded in my arduous undertaking. An important event

then happened of which the following Blackwood article, in the tone

heterogeneous, is the substance and result.

 

 

 

 

A PREDICAMENT

 

     What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus?

 

                 --COMUS.

 

IT was a quiet and still afternoon when I strolled forth in the goodly

city of Edina. The confusion and bustle in the streets were terrible.

Men were talking. Women were screaming. Children were choking. Pigs were

whistling. Carts they rattled. Bulls they bellowed. Cows they lowed.

Horses they neighed. Cats they caterwauled. Dogs they danced. Danced!

Could it then be possible? Danced! Alas, thought I, my dancing days are

over! Thus it is ever. What a host of gloomy recollections will ever and

anon be awakened in the mind of genius and imaginative contemplation,

especially of a genius doomed to the everlasting and eternal, and

continual, and, as one might say, the--continued--yes, the continued and

continuous, bitter, harassing, disturbing, and, if I may be allowed the

expression, the very disturbing influence of the serene, and godlike,

and heavenly, and exalted, and elevated, and purifying effect of what

may be rightly termed the most enviable, the most truly enviable--nay!

the most benignly beautiful, the most deliciously ethereal, and, as it

were, the most pretty (if I may use so bold an expression) thing

(pardon me, gentle reader!) in the world--but I am always led away by

my feelings. In such a mind, I repeat, what a host of recollections are

stirred up by a trifle! The dogs danced! I--I could not! They frisked--I

wept. They capered--I sobbed aloud. Touching circumstances! which cannot

fail to bring to the recollection of the classical reader that exquisite

passage in relation to the fitness of things, which is to be found in

the commencement of the third volume of that admirable and venerable

Chinese novel the Jo-Go-Slow.

 

In my solitary walk through, the city I had two humble but faithful

companions. Diana, my poodle! sweetest of creatures! She had a quantity

of hair over her one eye, and a blue ribband tied fashionably around her

neck. Diana was not more than five inches in height, but her head was

somewhat bigger than her body, and her tail being cut off exceedingly

close, gave an air of injured innocence to the interesting animal which

rendered her a favorite with all.

 

And Pompey, my negro!--sweet Pompey! how shall I ever forget thee? I

had taken Pompey's arm. He was three feet in height (I like to be

particular) and about seventy, or perhaps eighty, years of age. He had

bow-legs and was corpulent. His mouth should not be called small, nor

his ears short. His teeth, however, were like pearl, and his large full

eyes were deliciously white. Nature had endowed him with no neck, and

had placed his ankles (as usual with that race) in the middle of the

upper portion of the feet. He was clad with a striking simplicity. His

sole garments were a stock of nine inches in height, and a nearly--new

drab overcoat which had formerly been in the service of the tall,

stately, and illustrious Dr. Moneypenny. It was a good overcoat. It was

well cut. It was well made. The coat was nearly new. Pompey held it up

out of the dirt with both hands.

 

There were three persons in our party, and two of them have already been

the subject of remark. There was a third--that person was myself. I

am the Signora Psyche Zenobia. I am not Suky Snobbs. My appearance is

commanding. On the memorable occasion of which I speak I was habited in

a crimson satin dress, with a sky-blue Arabian mantelet. And the dress

had trimmings of green agraffas, and seven graceful flounces of the

orange-colored auricula. I thus formed the third of the party. There was

the poodle. There was Pompey. There was myself. We were three. Thus

it is said there were originally but three Furies--Melty, Nimmy, and

Hetty--Meditation, Memory, and Fiddling.

 

Leaning upon the arm of the gallant Pompey, and attended at a

respectable distance by Diana, I proceeded down one of the populous

and very pleasant streets of the now deserted Edina. On a sudden, there

presented itself to view a church--a Gothic cathedral--vast, venerable,

and with a tall steeple, which towered into the sky. What madness

now possessed me? Why did I rush upon my fate? I was seized with an

uncontrollable desire to ascend the giddy pinnacle, and then survey the

immense extent of the city. The door of the cathedral stood invitingly

open. My destiny prevailed. I entered the ominous archway. Where then

was my guardian angel?--if indeed such angels there be. If! Distressing

monosyllable! what world of mystery, and meaning, and doubt, and

uncertainty is there involved in thy two letters! I entered the ominous

archway! I entered; and, without injury to my orange-colored auriculas,

I passed beneath the portal, and emerged within the vestibule. Thus

it is said the immense river Alfred passed, unscathed, and unwetted,

beneath the sea.

 

I thought the staircase would never have an end. Round! Yes, they went

round and up, and round and up and round and up, until I could not help

surmising, with the sagacious Pompey, upon whose supporting arm I leaned

in all the confidence of early affection--I could not help surmising

that the upper end of the continuous spiral ladder had been

accidentally, or perhaps designedly, removed. I paused for breath; and,

in the meantime, an accident occurred of too momentous a nature in

a moral, and also in a metaphysical point of view, to be passed over

without notice. It appeared to me--indeed I was quite confident of the

fact--I could not be mistaken--no! I had, for some moments, carefully

and anxiously observed the motions of my Diana--I say that I could not

be mistaken--Diana smelt a rat! At once I called Pompey's attention to

the subject, and he--he agreed with me. There was then no longer any

reasonable room for doubt. The rat had been smelled--and by Diana.

Heavens! shall I ever forget the intense excitement of the moment? Alas!

what is the boasted intellect of man? The rat!--it was there--that is to

say, it was somewhere. Diana smelled the rat. I--I could not! Thus it is

said the Prussian Isis has, for some persons, a sweet and very powerful

perfume, while to others it is perfectly scentless.

 

The staircase had been surmounted, and there were now only three or

four more upward steps intervening between us and the summit. We still

ascended, and now only one step remained. One step! One little, little

step! Upon one such little step in the great staircase of human life how

vast a sum of human happiness or misery depends! I thought of myself,

then of Pompey, and then of the mysterious and inexplicable destiny

which surrounded us. I thought of Pompey!--alas, I thought of love! I

thought of my many false steps which have been taken, and may be taken

again. I resolved to be more cautious, more reserved. I abandoned the

arm of Pompey, and, without his assistance, surmounted the one remaining

step, and gained the chamber of the belfry. I was followed immediately

afterward by my poodle. Pompey alone remained behind. I stood at the

head of the staircase, and encouraged him to ascend. He stretched forth

to me his hand, and unfortunately in so doing was forced to abandon

his firm hold upon the overcoat. Will the gods never cease their

persecution? The overcoat is dropped, and, with one of his feet, Pompey

stepped upon the long and trailing skirt of the overcoat. He stumbled

and fell--this consequence was inevitable. He fell forward, and, with

his accursed head, striking me full in the--in the breast, precipitated

me headlong, together with himself, upon the hard, filthy, and

detestable floor of the belfry. But my revenge was sure, sudden, and

complete. Seizing him furiously by the wool with both hands, I tore out

a vast quantity of black, and crisp, and curling material, and tossed it

from me with every manifestation of disdain. It fell among the ropes of

the belfry and remained. Pompey arose, and said no word. But he regarded

me piteously with his large eyes and--sighed. Ye Gods--that sigh! It

sunk into my heart. And the hair--the wool! Could I have reached that

wool I would have bathed it with my tears, in testimony of regret. But

alas! it was now far beyond my grasp. As it dangled among the cordage

of the bell, I fancied it alive. I fancied that it stood on end with

indignation. Thus the happy-dandy Flos Aeris of Java bears, it is said,

a beautiful flower, which will live when pulled up by the roots. The

natives suspend it by a cord from the ceiling and enjoy its fragrance

for years.

 

Our quarrel was now made up, and we looked about the room for an

aperture through which to survey the city of Edina. Windows there were

none. The sole light admitted into the gloomy chamber proceeded from

a square opening, about a foot in diameter, at a height of about seven

feet from the floor. Yet what will the energy of true genius not effect?

I resolved to clamber up to this hole. A vast quantity of wheels,

pinions, and other cabalistic--looking machinery stood opposite the

hole, close to it; and through the hole there passed an iron rod from

the machinery. Between the wheels and the wall where the hole lay there

was barely room for my body--yet I was desperate, and determined to

persevere. I called Pompey to my side.

 

"You perceive that aperture, Pompey. I wish to look through it. You will

stand here just beneath the hole--so. Now, hold out one of your hands,

Pompey, and let me step upon it--thus. Now, the other hand, Pompey, and

with its aid I will get upon your shoulders."

 

He did every thing I wished, and I found, upon getting up, that I could

easily pass my head and neck through the aperture. The prospect was

sublime. Nothing could be more magnificent. I merely paused a moment to

bid Diana behave herself, and assure Pompey that I would be considerate

and bear as lightly as possible upon his shoulders. I told him I would

be tender of his feelings--ossi tender que beefsteak. Having done this

justice to my faithful friend, I gave myself up with great zest and

enthusiasm to the enjoyment of the scene which so obligingly spread

itself out before my eyes.

 

Upon this subject, however, I shall forbear to dilate. I will not

describe the city of Edinburgh. Every one has been to the city of

Edinburgh. Every one has been to Edinburgh--the classic Edina. I will

confine myself to the momentous details of my own lamentable adventure.

Having, in some measure, satisfied my curiosity in regard to the extent,

situation, and general appearance of the city, I had leisure to survey

the church in which I was, and the delicate architecture of the steeple.

I observed that the aperture through which I had thrust my head was an

opening in the dial-plate of a gigantic clock, and must have appeared,

from the street, as a large key-hole, such as we see in the face of

the French watches. No doubt the true object was to admit the arm of

an attendant, to adjust, when necessary, the hands of the clock from

within. I observed also, with surprise, the immense size of these hands,

the longest of which could not have been less than ten feet in length,

and, where broadest, eight or nine inches in breadth. They were of solid

steel apparently, and their edges appeared to be sharp. Having noticed

these particulars, and some others, I again turned my eyes upon the

glorious prospect below, and soon became absorbed in contemplation.

 

From this, after some minutes, I was aroused by the voice of Pompey, who

declared that he could stand it no longer, and requested that I would be

so kind as to come down. This was unreasonable, and I told him so in a

speech of some length. He replied, but with an evident misunderstanding

of my ideas upon the subject. I accordingly grew angry, and told him

in plain words, that he was a fool, that he had committed an ignoramus

e-clench-eye, that his notions were mere insommary Bovis, and his

words little better than an ennemywerrybor'em. With this he appeared

satisfied, and I resumed my contemplations.

 

It might have been half an hour after this altercation when, as I was

deeply absorbed in the heavenly scenery beneath me, I was startled by

something very cold which pressed with a gentle pressure on the back of

my neck. It is needless to say that I felt inexpressibly alarmed. I knew

that Pompey was beneath my feet, and that Diana was sitting, according

to my explicit directions, upon her hind legs, in the farthest corner of

the room. What could it be? Alas! I but too soon discovered. Turning

my head gently to one side, I perceived, to my extreme horror, that the

huge, glittering, scimetar-like minute-hand of the clock had, in the

course of its hourly revolution, descended upon my neck. There was, I

knew, not a second to be lost. I pulled back at once--but it was too

late. There was no chance of forcing my head through the mouth of that

terrible trap in which it was so fairly caught, and which grew narrower

and narrower with a rapidity too horrible to be conceived. The agony of

that moment is not to be imagined. I threw up my hands and endeavored,

with all my strength, to force upward the ponderous iron bar. I might as

well have tried to lift the cathedral itself. Down, down, down it came,

closer and yet closer. I screamed to Pompey for aid; but he said that

I had hurt his feelings by calling him 'an ignorant old squint-eye:' I

yelled to Diana; but she only said 'bow-wow-wow,' and that I had told

her 'on no account to stir from the corner.' Thus I had no relief to

expect from my associates.

 

Meantime the ponderous and terrific Scythe of Time (for I now discovered

the literal import of that classical phrase) had not stopped, nor was

it likely to stop, in its career. Down and still down, it came. It had

already buried its sharp edge a full inch in my flesh, and my

sensations grew indistinct and confused. At one time I fancied myself

in Philadelphia with the stately Dr. Moneypenny, at another in the back

parlor of Mr. Blackwood receiving his invaluable instructions. And then

again the sweet recollection of better and earlier times came over me,

and I thought of that happy period when the world was not all a desert,

and Pompey not altogether cruel.

 

The ticking of the machinery amused me. Amused me, I say, for my

sensations now bordered upon perfect happiness, and the most trifling

circumstances afforded me pleasure. The eternal click-clak, click-clak,

click-clak of the clock was the most melodious of music in my ears, and

occasionally even put me in mind of the graceful sermonic harangues of

Dr. Ollapod. Then there were the great figures upon the dial-plate--how

intelligent how intellectual, they all looked! And presently they took

to dancing the Mazurka, and I think it was the figure V. who performed

the most to my satisfaction. She was evidently a lady of breeding. None

of your swaggerers, and nothing at all indelicate in her motions. She

did the pirouette to admiration--whirling round upon her apex. I made an

endeavor to hand her a chair, for I saw that she appeared fatigued

with her exertions--and it was not until then that I fully perceived my

lamentable situation. Lamentable indeed! The bar had buried itself two

inches in my neck. I was aroused to a sense of exquisite pain. I prayed

for death, and, in the agony of the moment, could not help repeating

those exquisite verses of the poet Miguel De Cervantes:

 

     Vanny Buren, tan escondida

 

     Query no te senty venny

 

     Pork and pleasure, delly morry

 

     Nommy, torny, darry, widdy!

 

But now a new horror presented itself, and one indeed sufficient to

startle the strongest nerves. My eyes, from the cruel pressure of

the machine, were absolutely starting from their sockets. While I was

thinking how I should possibly manage without them, one actually tumbled

out of my head, and, rolling down the steep side of the steeple, lodged

in the rain gutter which ran along the eaves of the main building. The

loss of the eye was not so much as the insolent air of independence and

contempt with which it regarded me after it was out. There it lay in the

gutter just under my nose, and the airs it gave itself would have been

ridiculous had they not been disgusting. Such a winking and blinking

were never before seen. This behavior on the part of my eye in the

gutter was not only irritating on account of its manifest insolence and

shameful ingratitude, but was also exceedingly inconvenient on account

of the sympathy which always exists between two eyes of the same head,

however far apart. I was forced, in a manner, to wink and to blink,

whether I would or not, in exact concert with the scoundrelly thing

that lay just under my nose. I was presently relieved, however, by the

dropping out of the other eye. In falling it took the same direction

(possibly a concerted plot) as its fellow. Both rolled out of the gutter

together, and in truth I was very glad to get rid of them.

 

The bar was now four inches and a half deep in my neck, and there was

only a little bit of skin to cut through. My sensations were those

of entire happiness, for I felt that in a few minutes, at farthest,

I should be relieved from my disagreeable situation. And in this

expectation I was not at all deceived. At twenty-five minutes past

five in the afternoon, precisely, the huge minute-hand had proceeded

sufficiently far on its terrible revolution to sever the small remainder

of my neck. I was not sorry to see the head which had occasioned me so

much embarrassment at length make a final separation from my body.

It first rolled down the side of the steeple, then lodge, for a few

seconds, in the gutter, and then made its way, with a plunge, into the

middle of the street.

 

I will candidly confess that my feelings were now of the most

singular--nay, of the most mysterious, the most perplexing and

incomprehensible character. My senses were here and there at one and the

same moment. With my head I imagined, at one time, that I, the head,

was the real Signora Psyche Zenobia--at another I felt convinced that

myself, the body, was the proper identity. To clear my ideas on this

topic I felt in my pocket for my snuff-box, but, upon getting it, and

endeavoring to apply a pinch of its grateful contents in the ordinary

manner, I became immediately aware of my peculiar deficiency, and

threw the box at once down to my head. It took a pinch with great

satisfaction, and smiled me an acknowledgement in return. Shortly

afterward it made me a speech, which I could hear but indistinctly

without ears. I gathered enough, however, to know that it was astonished

at my wishing to remain alive under such circumstances. In the

concluding sentences it quoted the noble words of Ariosto--

 

     Il pover hommy che non sera corty

 

And have a combat tenty erry morty; thus comparing me to the hero who,

in the heat of the combat, not perceiving that he was dead, continued to

contest the battle with inextinguishable valor. There was nothing now

to prevent my getting down from my elevation, and I did so. What it was

that Pompey saw so very peculiar in my appearance I have never yet been

able to find out. The fellow opened his mouth from ear to ear, and shut

his two eyes as if he were endeavoring to crack nuts between the lids.

Finally, throwing off his overcoat, he made one spring for the staircase

and disappeared. I hurled after the scoundrel these vehement words of

Demosthenes--

 

Andrew O'Phlegethon, you really make haste to fly, and then turned to

the darling of my heart, to the one-eyed! the shaggy-haired Diana. Alas!

what a horrible vision affronted my eyes? Was that a rat I saw skulking

into his hole? Are these the picked bones of the little angel who has

been cruelly devoured by the monster? Ye gods! and what do I behold--is

that the departed spirit, the shade, the ghost, of my beloved puppy,

which I perceive sitting with a grace so melancholy, in the corner?

Hearken! for she speaks, and, heavens! it is in the German of Schiller--

 

      "Unt stubby duk, so stubby dun

       Duk she! duk she!"

 

      Alas! and are not her words too true?

 

      "And if I died, at least I died

       For thee--for thee."

 

Sweet creature! she too has sacrificed herself in my behalf. Dogless,

niggerless, headless, what now remains for the unhappy Signora Psyche

Zenobia? Alas--nothing! I have done.

 

 

 

 

MYSTIFICATION

 

     Slid, if these be your "passados" and "montantes," I'll have

     none o' them.

 

     --NED KNOWLES.

 

THE BARON RITZNER VON JUNG was a noble Hungarian family, every member

of which (at least as far back into antiquity as any certain records

extend) was more or less remarkable for talent of some description--the

majority for that species of grotesquerie in conception of which Tieck,

a scion of the house, has given a vivid, although by no means the most

vivid exemplifications. My acquaintance with Ritzner commenced at the

magnificent Chateau Jung, into which a train of droll adventures, not

to be made public, threw a place in his regard, and here, with somewhat

more difficulty, a partial insight into his mental conformation. In

later days this insight grew more clear, as the intimacy which had at

first permitted it became more close; and when, after three years of the

character of the Baron Ritzner von Jung.

 

I remember the buzz of curiosity which his advent excited within the

college precincts on the night of the twenty-fifth of June. I remember

still more distinctly, that while he was pronounced by all parties at

first sight "the most remarkable man in the world," no person made any

attempt at accounting for his opinion. That he was unique appeared

so undeniable, that it was deemed impertinent to inquire wherein the

uniquity consisted. But, letting this matter pass for the present, I

will merely observe that, from the first moment of his setting foot

within the limits of the university, he began to exercise over the

habits, manners, persons, purses, and propensities of the whole

community which surrounded him, an influence the most extensive and

despotic, yet at the same time the most indefinite and altogether

unaccountable. Thus the brief period of his residence at the university

forms an era in its annals, and is characterized by all classes

of people appertaining to it or its dependencies as "that very

extraordinary epoch forming the domination of the Baron Ritzner von

Jung." then of no particular age, by which I mean that it was impossible

to form a guess respecting his age by any data personally afforded. He

might have been fifteen or fifty, and was twenty-one years and seven

months. He was by no means a handsome man--perhaps the reverse. The

contour of his face was somewhat angular and harsh. His forehead was

lofty and very fair; his nose a snub; his eyes large, heavy, glassy,

and meaningless. About the mouth there was more to be observed. The lips

were gently protruded, and rested the one upon the other, after such a

fashion that it is impossible to conceive any, even the most complex,

combination of human features, conveying so entirely, and so singly, the

idea of unmitigated gravity, solemnity and repose.

 

It will be perceived, no doubt, from what I have already said, that the

Baron was one of those human anomalies now and then to be found, who

make the science of mystification the study and the business of their

lives. For this science a peculiar turn of mind gave him instinctively

the cue, while his physical appearance afforded him unusual facilities

for carrying his prospects into effect. I quaintly termed the domination

of the Baron Ritzner von Jung, ever rightly entered into the mystery

which overshadowed his character. I truly think that no person at the

university, with the exception of myself, ever suspected him to be

capable of a joke, verbal or practical:--the old bull-dog at

the garden-gate would sooner have been accused,--the ghost of

Heraclitus,--or the wig of the Emeritus Professor of Theology. This,

too, when it was evident that the most egregious and unpardonable of all

conceivable tricks, whimsicalities and buffooneries were brought about,

if not directly by him, at least plainly through his intermediate agency

or connivance. The beauty, if I may so call it, of his art mystifique,

lay in that consummate ability (resulting from an almost intuitive

knowledge of human nature, and a most wonderful self-possession,) by

means of which he never failed to make it appear that the drolleries he

was occupied in bringing to a point, arose partly in spite, and

partly in consequence of the laudable efforts he was making for their

prevention, and for the preservation of the good order and dignity of

Alma Mater. The deep, the poignant, the overwhelming mortification,

which upon each such failure of his praise worthy endeavors, would

suffuse every lineament of his countenance, left not the slightest room

for doubt of his sincerity in the bosoms of even his most skeptical

companions. The adroitness, too, was no less worthy of observation by

which he contrived to shift the sense of the grotesque from the creator

to the created--from his own person to the absurdities to which he had

given rise. In no instance before that of which I speak, have I

known the habitual mystific escape the natural consequence of his

manoevres--an attachment of the ludicrous to his own character and

person. Continually enveloped in an atmosphere of whim, my friend

appeared to live only for the severities of society; and not even his

own household have for a moment associated other ideas than those of

the rigid and august with the memory of the Baron Ritzner von Jung, the

demon of the dolce far niente lay like an incubus upon the university.

Nothing, at least, was done beyond eating and drinking and making merry.

The apartments of the students were converted into so many pot-houses,

and there was no pot-house of them all more famous or more frequented

than that of the Baron. Our carousals here were many, and boisterous,

and long, and never unfruitful of events.

 

Upon one occasion we had protracted our sitting until nearly daybreak,

and an unusual quantity of wine had been drunk. The company consisted of

seven or eight individuals besides the Baron and myself. Most of these

were young men of wealth, of high connection, of great family pride, and

all alive with an exaggerated sense of honor. They abounded in the most

ultra German opinions respecting the duello. To these Quixotic notions

some recent Parisian publications, backed by three or four desperate and

fatal conversation, during the greater part of the night, had run wild

upon the all--engrossing topic of the times. The Baron, who had been

unusually silent and abstracted in the earlier portion of the evening,

at length seemed to be aroused from his apathy, took a leading part in

the discourse, and dwelt upon the benefits, and more especially upon the

beauties, of the received code of etiquette in passages of arms with

an ardor, an eloquence, an impressiveness, and an affectionateness

of manner, which elicited the warmest enthusiasm from his hearers in

general, and absolutely staggered even myself, who well knew him to be

at heart a ridiculer of those very points for which he contended, and

especially to hold the entire fanfaronade of duelling etiquette in the

sovereign contempt which it deserves.

 

Looking around me during a pause in the Baron's discourse (of which my

readers may gather some faint idea when I say that it bore resemblance

to the fervid, chanting, monotonous, yet musical sermonic manner of

Coleridge), I perceived symptoms of even more than the general interest

in the countenance of one of the party. This gentleman, whom I shall

call Hermann, was an original in every respect--except, perhaps, in the

single particular that he was a very great fool. He contrived to bear,

however, among a particular set at the university, a reputation for deep

metaphysical thinking, and, I believe, for some logical talent. As a

duellist he had acquired who had fallen at his hands; but they were

many. He was a man of courage undoubtedly. But it was upon his minute

acquaintance with the etiquette of the duello, and the nicety of his

sense of honor, that he most especially prided himself. These things

were a hobby which he rode to the death. To Ritzner, ever upon the

lookout for the grotesque, his peculiarities had for a long time past

afforded food for mystification. Of this, however, I was not aware;

although, in the present instance, I saw clearly that something of a

whimsical nature was upon the tapis with my friend, and that Hermann was

its especial object.

 

As the former proceeded in his discourse, or rather monologue I

perceived the excitement of the latter momently increasing. At length

he spoke; offering some objection to a point insisted upon by R., and

giving his reasons in detail. To these the Baron replied at length

(still maintaining his exaggerated tone of sentiment) and concluding, in

what I thought very bad taste, with a sarcasm and a sneer. The hobby

of Hermann now took the bit in his teeth. This I could discern by

the studied hair-splitting farrago of his rejoinder. His last words I

distinctly remember. "Your opinions, allow me to say, Baron von Jung,

although in the main correct, are, in many nice points, discreditable

to yourself and to the university of which you are a member. In a few

respects they are even unworthy of serious refutation. I would say more

than this, sir, were it not for the fear of giving you offence (here the

speaker smiled blandly), I would say, sir, that your opinions are not

the opinions to be expected from a gentleman."

 

As Hermann completed this equivocal sentence, all eyes were turned upon

the Baron. He became pale, then excessively red; then, dropping his

pocket-handkerchief, stooped to recover it, when I caught a glimpse of

his countenance, while it could be seen by no one else at the table.

It was radiant with the quizzical expression which was its natural

character, but which I had never seen it assume except when we were

alone together, and when he unbent himself freely. In an instant

afterward he stood erect, confronting Hermann; and so total an

alteration of countenance in so short a period I certainly never saw

before. For a moment I even fancied that I had misconceived him, and

that he was in sober earnest. He appeared to be stifling with passion,

and his face was cadaverously white. For a short time he remained

silent, apparently striving to master his emotion. Having at length

seemingly succeeded, he reached a decanter which stood near him, saying

as he held it firmly clenched "The language you have thought proper to

employ, Mynheer Hermann, in addressing yourself to me, is objectionable

in so many particulars, that I have neither temper nor time for

specification. That my opinions, however, are not the opinions to be

expected from a gentleman, is an observation so directly offensive as to

allow me but one line of conduct. Some courtesy, nevertheless, is due

to the presence of this company, and to yourself, at this moment, as

my guest. You will pardon me, therefore, if, upon this consideration, I

deviate slightly from the general usage among gentlemen in similar cases

of personal affront. You will forgive me for the moderate tax I shall

make upon your imagination, and endeavor to consider, for an instant,

the reflection of your person in yonder mirror as the living Mynheer

Hermann himself. This being done, there will be no difficulty whatever.

I shall discharge this decanter of wine at your image in yonder mirror,

and thus fulfil all the spirit, if not the exact letter, of resentment

for your insult, while the necessity of physical violence to your real

person will be obviated."

 

With these words he hurled the decanter, full of wine, against the

mirror which hung directly opposite Hermann; striking the reflection of

his person with great precision, and of course shattering the glass into

fragments. The whole company at once started to their feet, and, with

the exception of myself and Ritzner, took their departure. As Hermann

went out, the Baron whispered me that I should follow him and make an

offer of my services. To this I agreed; not knowing precisely what to

make of so ridiculous a piece of business.

 

The duellist accepted my aid with his stiff and ultra recherche air,

and, taking my arm, led me to his apartment. I could hardly forbear

laughing in his face while he proceeded to discuss, with the profoundest

gravity, what he termed "the refinedly peculiar character" of the insult

he had received. After a tiresome harangue in his ordinary style, he

took down from his book shelves a number of musty volumes on the subject

of the duello, and entertained me for a long time with their contents;

reading aloud, and commenting earnestly as he read. I can just remember

the titles of some of the works. There were the "Ordonnance of Philip le

Bel on Single Combat"; the "Theatre of Honor," by Favyn, and a treatise

"On the Permission of Duels," by Andiguier. He displayed, also, with

much pomposity, Brantome's "Memoirs of Duels,"--published at Cologne,

1666, in the types of Elzevir--a precious and unique vellum-paper

volume, with a fine margin, and bound by Derome. But he requested my

attention particularly, and with an air of mysterious sagacity, to a

thick octavo, written in barbarous Latin by one Hedelin, a Frenchman,

and having the quaint title, "Duelli Lex Scripta, et non; aliterque."

From this he read me one of the drollest chapters in the world

concerning "Injuriae per applicationem, per constructionem, et per se,"

about half of which, he averred, was strictly applicable to his own

"refinedly peculiar" case, although not one syllable of the whole matter

could I understand for the life of me. Having finished the chapter, he

closed the book, and demanded what I thought necessary to be done.

I replied that I had entire confidence in his superior delicacy of

feeling, and would abide by what he proposed. With this answer he seemed

flattered, and sat down to write a note to the Baron. It ran thus:

 

Sir,--My friend, M. P.-, will hand you this note. I find it incumbent

upon me to request, at your earliest convenience, an explanation of this

evening's occurrences at your chambers. In the event of your declining

this request, Mr. P. will be happy to arrange, with any friend whom you

may appoint, the steps preliminary to a meeting.

 

With sentiments of perfect respect,

 

Your most humble servant,

 

JOHANN HERMAN.

 

To the Baron Ritzner von Jung,

 

Not knowing what better to do, I called upon Ritzner with this epistle.

He bowed as I presented it; then, with a grave countenance, motioned

me to a seat. Having perused the cartel, he wrote the following reply,

which I carried to Hermann.

 

SIR,--Through our common friend, Mr. P., I have received your note of

this evening. Upon due reflection I frankly admit the propriety of

the explanation you suggest. This being admitted, I still find great

difficulty, (owing to the refinedly peculiar nature of our disagreement,

and of the personal affront offered on my part,) in so wording what I

have to say by way of apology, as to meet all the minute exigencies, and

all the variable shadows, of the case. I have great reliance, however,

on that extreme delicacy of discrimination, in matters appertaining

to the rules of etiquette, for which you have been so long and so

pre-eminently distinguished. With perfect certainty, therefore, of being

comprehended, I beg leave, in lieu of offering any sentiments of my own,

to refer you to the opinions of Sieur Hedelin, as set forth in the

ninth paragraph of the chapter of "Injuriae per applicationem, per

constructionem, et per se," in his "Duelli Lex scripta, et non;

aliterque." The nicety of your discernment in all the matters here

treated, will be sufficient, I am assured, to convince you that the mere

circumstance of me referring you to this admirable passage, ought to

satisfy your request, as a man of honor, for explanation.

 

With sentiments of profound respect,

 

Your most obedient servant,

 

VON JUNG.

 

The Herr Johann Hermann

 

Hermann commenced the perusal of this epistle with a scowl,

which, however, was converted into a smile of the most ludicrous

self-complacency as he came to the rigmarole about Injuriae per

applicationem, per constructionem, et per se. Having finished reading,

he begged me, with the blandest of all possible smiles, to be seated,

while he made reference to the treatise in question. Turning to the

passage specified, he read it with great care to himself, then closed

the book, and desired me, in my character of confidential acquaintance,

to express to the Baron von Jung his exalted sense of his chivalrous

behavior, and, in that of second, to assure him that the explanation

offered was of the fullest, the most honorable, and the most

unequivocally satisfactory nature.

 

Somewhat amazed at all this, I made my retreat to the Baron. He seemed

to receive Hermann's amicable letter as a matter of course, and after a

few words of general conversation, went to an inner room and brought

out the everlasting treatise "Duelli Lex scripta, et non; aliterque." He

handed me the volume and asked me to look over some portion of it. I did

so, but to little purpose, not being able to gather the least particle

of meaning. He then took the book himself, and read me a chapter aloud.

To my surprise, what he read proved to be a most horribly absurd account

of a duel between two baboons. He now explained the mystery; showing

that the volume, as it appeared prima facie, was written upon the plan

of the nonsense verses of Du Bartas; that is to say, the language was

ingeniously framed so as to present to the ear all the outward signs of

intelligibility, and even of profundity, while in fact not a shadow of

meaning existed. The key to the whole was found in leaving out every

second and third word alternately, when there appeared a series of

ludicrous quizzes upon a single combat as practised in modern times.

 

The Baron afterwards informed me that he had purposely thrown the

treatise in Hermann's way two or three weeks before the adventure, and

that he was satisfied, from the general tenor of his conversation, that

he had studied it with the deepest attention, and firmly believed it to

be a work of unusual merit. Upon this hint he proceeded. Hermann would

have died a thousand deaths rather than acknowledge his inability to

understand anything and everything in the universe that had ever been

written about the duello.

 

                                   Littleton Barry.

 

 

 

 

DIDDLING

 

CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE EXACT SCIENCES.

 

      Hey, diddle diddle

      The cat and the fiddle

 

SINCE the world began there have been two Jeremys. The one wrote a

Jeremiad about usury, and was called Jeremy Bentham. He has been much

admired by Mr. John Neal, and was a great man in a small way. The other

gave name to the most important of the Exact Sciences, and was a great

man in a great way--I may say, indeed, in the very greatest of ways.

 

Diddling--or the abstract idea conveyed by the verb to diddle--is

sufficiently well understood. Yet the fact, the deed, the thing

diddling, is somewhat difficult to define. We may get, however, at a

tolerably distinct conception of the matter in hand, by defining--not

the thing, diddling, in itself--but man, as an animal that diddles. Had

Plato but hit upon this, he would have been spared the affront of the

picked chicken.

 

Very pertinently it was demanded of Plato, why a picked chicken, which

was clearly "a biped without feathers," was not, according to his own

definition, a man? But I am not to be bothered by any similar query. Man

is an animal that diddles, and there is no animal that diddles but man.

It will take an entire hen-coop of picked chickens to get over that.

 

What constitutes the essence, the nare, the principle of diddling is, in

fact, peculiar to the class of creatures that wear coats and pantaloons.

A crow thieves; a fox cheats; a weasel outwits; a man diddles. To diddle

is his destiny. "Man was made to mourn," says the poet. But not so:--he

was made to diddle. This is his aim--his object--his end. And for this

reason when a man's diddled we say he's "done."

 

Diddling, rightly considered, is a compound, of which the ingredients

are minuteness, interest, perseverance, ingenuity, audacity,

nonchalance, originality, impertinence, and grin.

 

Minuteness:--Your diddler is minute. His operations are upon a small

scale. His business is retail, for cash, or approved paper at sight.

Should he ever be tempted into magnificent speculation, he then,

at once, loses his distinctive features, and becomes what we term

"financier." This latter word conveys the diddling idea in every respect

except that of magnitude. A diddler may thus be regarded as a banker in

petto--a "financial operation," as a diddle at Brobdignag. The one is to

the other, as Homer to "Flaccus"--as a Mastodon to a mouse--as the tail

of a comet to that of a pig.

 

Interest:--Your diddler is guided by self-interest. He scorns to

diddle for the mere sake of the diddle. He has an object in view--his

pocket--and yours. He regards always the main chance. He looks to Number

One. You are Number Two, and must look to yourself.

 

Perseverance:--Your diddler perseveres. He is not readily discouraged.

Should even the banks break, he cares nothing about it. He steadily

pursues his end, and 'Ut canis a corio nunquam absterrebitur uncto,'

so he never lets go of his game.

 

Ingenuity:--Your diddler is ingenious. He has constructiveness large. He

understands plot. He invents and circumvents. Were he not Alexander he

would be Diogenes. Were he not a diddler, he would be a maker of patent

rat-traps or an angler for trout.

 

Audacity:--Your diddler is audacious.--He is a bold man. He carries

the war into Africa. He conquers all by assault. He would not fear the

daggers of Frey Herren. With a little more prudence Dick Turpin would

have made a good diddler; with a trifle less blarney, Daniel O'Connell;

with a pound or two more brains Charles the Twelfth.

 

Nonchalance:--Your diddler is nonchalant. He is not at all nervous. He

never had any nerves. He is never seduced into a flurry. He is never

put out--unless put out of doors. He is cool--cool as a cucumber. He

is calm--"calm as a smile from Lady Bury." He is easy--easy as an old

glove, or the damsels of ancient Baiae.

 

Originality:--Your diddler is original--conscientiously so. His thoughts

are his own. He would scorn to employ those of another. A stale trick is

his aversion. He would return a purse, I am sure, upon discovering that

he had obtained it by an unoriginal diddle.

 

Impertinence.--Your diddler is impertinent. He swaggers. He sets his

arms a-kimbo. He thrusts his hands in his trowsers' pockets. He sneers

in your face. He treads on your corns. He eats your dinner, he drinks

your wine, he borrows your money, he pulls your nose, he kicks your

poodle, and he kisses your wife.

 

Grin:--Your true diddler winds up all with a grin. But this nobody sees

but himself. He grins when his daily work is done--when his allotted

labors are accomplished--at night in his own closet, and altogether

for his own private entertainment. He goes home. He locks his door. He

divests himself of his clothes. He puts out his candle. He gets into

bed. He places his head upon the pillow. All this done, and your diddler

grins. This is no hypothesis. It is a matter of course. I reason a

priori, and a diddle would be no diddle without a grin.

 

The origin of the diddle is referrable to the infancy of the Human Race.

Perhaps the first diddler was Adam. At all events, we can trace the

science back to a very remote period of antiquity. The moderns, however,

have brought it to a perfection never dreamed of by our thick-headed

progenitors. Without pausing to speak of the "old saws," therefore,

I shall content myself with a compendious account of some of the more

"modern instances."

 

A very good diddle is this. A housekeeper in want of a sofa, for

instance, is seen to go in and out of several cabinet warehouses.

At length she arrives at one offering an excellent variety. She is

accosted, and invited to enter, by a polite and voluble individual at

the door. She finds a sofa well adapted to her views, and upon inquiring

the price, is surprised and delighted to hear a sum named at least

twenty per cent. lower than her expectations. She hastens to make the

purchase, gets a bill and receipt, leaves her address, with a request

that the article be sent home as speedily as possible, and retires amid

a profusion of bows from the shopkeeper. The night arrives and no sofa.

A servant is sent to make inquiry about the delay. The whole transaction

is denied. No sofa has been sold--no money received--except by the

diddler, who played shop-keeper for the nonce.

 

Our cabinet warehouses are left entirely unattended, and thus afford

every facility for a trick of this kind. Visiters enter, look at

furniture, and depart unheeded and unseen. Should any one wish to

purchase, or to inquire the price of an article, a bell is at hand, and

this is considered amply sufficient.

 

Again, quite a respectable diddle is this. A well-dressed individual

enters a shop, makes a purchase to the value of a dollar; finds, much to

his vexation, that he has left his pocket-book in another coat pocket;

and so says to the shopkeeper--

 

"My dear sir, never mind; just oblige me, will you, by sending the

bundle home? But stay! I really believe that I have nothing less than

a five dollar bill, even there. However, you can send four dollars in

change with the bundle, you know."

 

"Very good, sir," replies the shop-keeper, who entertains, at once, a

lofty opinion of the high-mindedness of his customer. "I know fellows,"

he says to himself, "who would just have put the goods under their arm,

and walked off with a promise to call and pay the dollar as they came by

in the afternoon."

 

A boy is sent with the parcel and change. On the route, quite

accidentally, he is met by the purchaser, who exclaims:

 

"Ah! This is my bundle, I see--I thought you had been home with it,

long ago. Well, go on! My wife, Mrs. Trotter, will give you the five

dollars--I left instructions with her to that effect. The change you

might as well give to me--I shall want some silver for the Post Office.

Very good! One, two, is this a good quarter?--three, four--quite right!

Say to Mrs. Trotter that you met me, and be sure now and do not loiter

on the way."

 

The boy doesn't loiter at all--but he is a very long time in getting

back from his errand--for no lady of the precise name of Mrs. Trotter

is to be discovered. He consoles himself, however, that he has not been

such a fool as to leave the goods without the money, and re-entering his

shop with a self-satisfied air, feels sensibly hurt and indignant when

his master asks him what has become of the change.

 

A very simple diddle, indeed, is this. The captain of a ship, which

is about to sail, is presented by an official looking person with an

unusually moderate bill of city charges. Glad to get off so easily,

and confused by a hundred duties pressing upon him all at once, he

discharges the claim forthwith. In about fifteen minutes, another and

less reasonable bill is handed him by one who soon makes it evident that

the first collector was a diddler, and the original collection a diddle.

 

And here, too, is a somewhat similar thing. A steamboat is casting loose

from the wharf. A traveller, portmanteau in hand, is discovered running

toward the wharf, at full speed. Suddenly, he makes a dead halt, stoops,

and picks up something from the ground in a very agitated manner. It is

a pocket-book, and--"Has any gentleman lost a pocketbook?" he cries.

No one can say that he has exactly lost a pocket-book; but a great

excitement ensues, when the treasure trove is found to be of value. The

boat, however, must not be detained.

 

"Time and tide wait for no man," says the captain.

 

"For God's sake, stay only a few minutes," says the finder of the

book--"the true claimant will presently appear."

 

"Can't wait!" replies the man in authority; "cast off there, d'ye hear?"

 

"What am I to do?" asks the finder, in great tribulation. "I am about

to leave the country for some years, and I cannot conscientiously retain

this large amount in my possession. I beg your pardon, sir," [here he

addresses a gentleman on shore,] "but you have the air of an honest

man. Will you confer upon me the favor of taking charge of this

pocket-book--I know I can trust you--and of advertising it? The notes,

you see, amount to a very considerable sum. The owner will, no doubt,

insist upon rewarding you for your trouble--

 

"Me!--no, you!--it was you who found the book."

 

"Well, if you must have it so--I will take a small reward--just to

satisfy your scruples. Let me see--why these notes are all

hundreds--bless my soul! a hundred is too much to take--fifty would

be quite enough, I am sure--

 

"Cast off there!" says the captain.

 

"But then I have no change for a hundred, and upon the whole, you had

better--

 

"Cast off there!" says the captain.

 

"Never mind!" cries the gentleman on shore, who has been examining

his own pocket-book for the last minute or so--"never mind! I can fix

it--here is a fifty on the Bank of North America--throw the book."

 

And the over-conscientious finder takes the fifty with marked

reluctance, and throws the gentleman the book, as desired, while the

steamboat fumes and fizzes on her way. In about half an hour after her

departure, the "large amount" is seen to be a "counterfeit presentment,"

and the whole thing a capital diddle.

 

A bold diddle is this. A camp-meeting, or something similar, is to

be held at a certain spot which is accessible only by means of a free

bridge. A diddler stations himself upon this bridge, respectfully

informs all passers by of the new county law, which establishes a toll

of one cent for foot passengers, two for horses and donkeys, and so

forth, and so forth. Some grumble but all submit, and the diddler goes

home a wealthier man by some fifty or sixty dollars well earned. This

taking a toll from a great crowd of people is an excessively troublesome

thing.

 

A neat diddle is this. A friend holds one of the diddler's promises to

pay, filled up and signed in due form, upon the ordinary blanks printed

in red ink. The diddler purchases one or two dozen of these blanks, and

every day dips one of them in his soup, makes his dog jump for it,

and finally gives it to him as a bonne bouche. The note arriving at

maturity, the diddler, with the diddler's dog, calls upon the friend,

and the promise to pay is made the topic of discussion. The friend

produces it from his escritoire, and is in the act of reaching it to the

diddler, when up jumps the diddler's dog and devours it forthwith.

The diddler is not only surprised but vexed and incensed at the absurd

behavior of his dog, and expresses his entire readiness to cancel the

obligation at any moment when the evidence of the obligation shall be

forthcoming.

 

A very mean diddle is this. A lady is insulted in the street by a

diddler's accomplice. The diddler himself flies to her assistance, and,

giving his friend a comfortable thrashing, insists upon attending the

lady to her own door. He bows, with his hand upon his heart, and most

respectfully bids her adieu. She entreats him, as her deliverer, to walk

in and be introduced to her big brother and her papa. With a sigh, he

declines to do so. "Is there no way, then, sir," she murmurs, "in which

I may be permitted to testify my gratitude?"

 

"Why, yes, madam, there is. Will you be kind enough to lend me a couple

of shillings?"

 

In the first excitement of the moment the lady decides upon fainting

outright. Upon second thought, however, she opens her purse-strings and

delivers the specie. Now this, I say, is a diddle minute--for one entire

moiety of the sum borrowed has to be paid to the gentleman who had the

trouble of performing the insult, and who had then to stand still and be

thrashed for performing it.

 

Rather a small but still a scientific diddle is this. The diddler

approaches the bar of a tavern, and demands a couple of twists of

tobacco. These are handed to him, when, having slightly examined them,

he says:

 

"I don't much like this tobacco. Here, take it back, and give me a glass

of brandy and water in its place." The brandy and water is furnished and

imbibed, and the diddler makes his way to the door. But the voice of the

tavern-keeper arrests him.

 

"I believe, sir, you have forgotten to pay for your brandy and water."

 

"Pay for my brandy and water!--didn't I give you the tobacco for the

brandy and water? What more would you have?"

 

"But, sir, if you please, I don't remember that you paid me for the

tobacco."

 

"What do you mean by that, you scoundrel?--Didn't I give you back your

tobacco? Isn't that your tobacco lying there? Do you expect me to pay

for what I did not take?"

 

"But, sir," says the publican, now rather at a loss what to say, "but

sir-"

 

"But me no buts, sir," interrupts the diddler, apparently in very high

dudgeon, and slamming the door after him, as he makes his escape.--"But

me no buts, sir, and none of your tricks upon travellers."

 

Here again is a very clever diddle, of which the simplicity is not its

least recommendation. A purse, or pocket-book, being really lost,

the loser inserts in one of the daily papers of a large city a fully

descriptive advertisement.

 

Whereupon our diddler copies the facts of this advertisement, with a

change of heading, of general phraseology and address. The original,

for instance, is long, and verbose, is headed "A Pocket-Book Lost!" and

requires the treasure, when found, to be left at No. 1 Tom Street. The

copy is brief, and being headed with "Lost" only, indicates No. 2 Dick,

or No. 3 Harry Street, as the locality at which the owner may be seen.

Moreover, it is inserted in at least five or six of the daily papers

of the day, while in point of time, it makes its appearance only a few

hours after the original. Should it be read by the loser of the purse,

he would hardly suspect it to have any reference to his own misfortune.

But, of course, the chances are five or six to one, that the finder will

repair to the address given by the diddler, rather than to that pointed

out by the rightful proprietor. The former pays the reward, pockets the

treasure and decamps.

 

Quite an analogous diddle is this. A lady of ton has dropped, some where

in the street, a diamond ring of very unusual value. For its recovery,

she offers some forty or fifty dollars reward--giving, in her

advertisement, a very minute description of the gem, and of its

settings, and declaring that, on its restoration at No. so and so, in

such and such Avenue, the reward would be paid instanter, without a

single question being asked. During the lady's absence from home, a day

or two afterwards, a ring is heard at the door of No. so and so, in such

and such Avenue; a servant appears; the lady of the house is asked for

and is declared to be out, at which astounding information, the visitor

expresses the most poignant regret. His business is of importance and

concerns the lady herself. In fact, he had the good fortune to find her

diamond ring. But perhaps it would be as well that he should call again.

"By no means!" says the servant; and "By no means!" says the lady's

sister and the lady's sister-in-law, who are summoned forthwith. The

ring is clamorously identified, the reward is paid, and the finder

nearly thrust out of doors. The lady returns and expresses some little

dissatisfaction with her sister and sister-in-law, because they happen

to have paid forty or fifty dollars for a fac-simile of her diamond

ring--a fac-simile made out of real pinch-beck and unquestionable paste.

 

But as there is really no end to diddling, so there would be none to

this essay, were I even to hint at half the variations, or inflections,

of which this science is susceptible. I must bring this paper, perforce,

to a conclusion, and this I cannot do better than by a summary notice

of a very decent, but rather elaborate diddle, of which our own city was

made the theatre, not very long ago, and which was subsequently repeated

with success, in other still more verdant localities of the Union.

A middle-aged gentleman arrives in town from parts unknown. He is

remarkably precise, cautious, staid, and deliberate in his demeanor. His

dress is scrupulously neat, but plain, unostentatious. He wears a

white cravat, an ample waistcoat, made with an eye to comfort alone;

thick-soled cosy-looking shoes, and pantaloons without straps. He has

the whole air, in fact, of your well-to-do, sober-sided, exact, and

respectable "man of business," Par excellence--one of the stern and

outwardly hard, internally soft, sort of people that we see in the crack

high comedies--fellows whose words are so many bonds, and who are noted

for giving away guineas, in charity, with the one hand, while, in the

way of mere bargain, they exact the uttermost fraction of a farthing

with the other.

 

He makes much ado before he can get suited with a boarding house. He

dislikes children. He has been accustomed to quiet. His habits are

methodical--and then he would prefer getting into a private and

respectable small family, piously inclined. Terms, however, are no

object--only he must insist upon settling his bill on the first of every

month, (it is now the second) and begs his landlady, when he finally

obtains one to his mind, not on any account to forget his instructions

upon this point--but to send in a bill, and receipt, precisely at ten

o'clock, on the first day of every month, and under no circumstances to

put it off to the second.

 

These arrangements made, our man of business rents an office in a

reputable rather than a fashionable quarter of the town. There is

nothing he more despises than pretense. "Where there is much show,"

he says, "there is seldom any thing very solid behind"--an observation

which so profoundly impresses his landlady's fancy, that she makes a

pencil memorandum of it forthwith, in her great family Bible, on the

broad margin of the Proverbs of Solomon.

 

The next step is to advertise, after some such fashion as this, in the

principal business six-pennies of the city--the pennies are eschewed as

not "respectable"--and as demanding payment for all advertisements in

advance. Our man of business holds it as a point of his faith that work

should never be paid for until done.

 

"WANTED--The advertisers, being about to commence extensive business

operations in this city, will require the services of three or four

intelligent and competent clerks, to whom a liberal salary will be

paid. The very best recommendations, not so much for capacity, as for

integrity, will be expected. Indeed, as the duties to be performed

involve high responsibilities, and large amounts of money must

necessarily pass through the hands of those engaged, it is deemed

advisable to demand a deposit of fifty dollars from each clerk employed.

No person need apply, therefore, who is not prepared to leave this sum

in the possession of the advertisers, and who cannot furnish the most

satisfactory testimonials of morality. Young gentlemen piously inclined

will be preferred. Application should be made between the hours of ten

and eleven A. M., and four and five P. M., of Messrs.

 

"Bogs, Hogs Logs, Frogs & Co.,

 

"No. 110 Dog Street"

 

By the thirty-first day of the month, this advertisement has brought to

the office of Messrs. Bogs, Hogs, Logs, Frogs, and Company, some fifteen

or twenty young gentlemen piously inclined. But our man of business is

in no hurry to conclude a contract with any--no man of business is ever

precipitate--and it is not until the most rigid catechism in respect to

the piety of each young gentleman's inclination, that his services

are engaged and his fifty dollars receipted for, just by way of proper

precaution, on the part of the respectable firm of Bogs, Hogs, Logs,

Frogs, and Company. On the morning of the first day of the next month,

the landlady does not present her bill, according to promise--a piece of

neglect for which the comfortable head of the house ending in ogs would

no doubt have chided her severely, could he have been prevailed upon to

remain in town a day or two for that purpose.

 

As it is, the constables have had a sad time of it, running hither and

thither, and all they can do is to declare the man of business most

emphatically, a "hen knee high"--by which some persons imagine them to

imply that, in fact, he is n. e. i.--by which again the very classical

phrase non est inventus, is supposed to be understood. In the meantime

the young gentlemen, one and all, are somewhat less piously inclined

than before, while the landlady purchases a shilling's worth of the

Indian rubber, and very carefully obliterates the pencil memorandum that

some fool has made in her great family Bible, on the broad margin of the

Proverbs of Solomon.

 

 

 

 

THE ANGEL OF THE ODD

 

AN EXTRAVAGANZA.

 

IT was a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually

hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic _truffe_ formed not the least

important item, and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet

upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table which I had rolled up

to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some

miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit and _liqueur_. In the morning I

had been reading Glover's "Leonidas," Wilkie's "Epigoniad," Lamartine's

"Pilgrimage," Barlow's "Columbiad," Tuckermann's "Sicily," and

Griswold's "Curiosities"; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now

felt a little stupid. I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent

Lafitte, and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray newspaper in

despair. Having carefully perused the column of "houses to let," and

the column of "dogs lost," and then the two columns of "wives and

apprentices runaway," I attacked with great resolution the editorial

matter, and, reading it from beginning to end without understanding a

syllable, conceived the possibility of its being Chinese, and so re-read

it from the end to the beginning, but with no more satisfactory result.

I was about throwing away, in disgust,

 

     "This folio of four pages, happy work

     Which not even critics criticise,"

 

when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph which

follows:

 

"The avenues to death are numerous and strange. A London paper mentions

the decease of a person from a singular cause. He was playing at 'puff

the dart,' which is played with a long needle inserted in some worsted,

and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placed the needle at the

wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breath strongly to puff the dart

forward with force, drew the needle into his throat. It entered the

lungs, and in a few days killed him."

 

Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly knowing

why. "This thing," I exclaimed, "is a contemptible falsehood--a poor

hoax--the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner--of some

wretched concoctor of accidents in Cocaigne. These fellows, knowing

the extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to work in the

imagination of improbable possibilities---of odd accidents, as they

term them; but to a reflecting intellect (like mine," I added, in

parenthesis, putting my forefinger unconsciously to the side of my

nose,) "to a contemplative understanding such as I myself possess, it

seems evident at once that the marvelous increase of late in these 'odd

accidents' is by far the oddest accident of all. For my own part,

I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has anything of the

'singular' about it."

 

"Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!" replied one of the most

remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took it for a rumbling in my

ears--such as a man sometimes experiences when getting very drunk--but,

upon second thought, I considered the sound as more nearly resembling

that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a big stick; and,

in fact, this I should have concluded it to be, but for the articulation

of the syllables and words. I am by no means naturally nervous, and the

very few glasses of Lafitte which I had sipped served to embolden me no

little, so that I felt nothing of trepidation, but merely uplifted my

eyes with a leisurely movement, and looked carefully around the room for

the intruder. I could not, however, perceive any one at all.

 

"Humph!" resumed the voice, as I continued my survey, "you mus pe so

dronk as de pig, den, for not zee me as I zit here at your zide."

 

Hereupon I bethought me of looking immediately before my nose, and

there, sure enough, confronting me at the table sat a personage

nondescript, although not altogether indescribable. His body was a

wine-pipe, or a rum-puncheon, or something of that character, and had a

truly Falstaffian air. In its nether extremity were inserted two kegs,

which seemed to answer all the purposes of legs. For arms there dangled

from the upper portion of the carcass two tolerably long bottles,

with the necks outward for hands. All the head that I saw the monster

possessed of was one of those Hessian canteens which resemble a large

snuff-box with a hole in the middle of the lid. This canteen (with a

funnel on its top, like a cavalier cap slouched over the eyes) was set

on edge upon the puncheon, with the hole toward myself; and through

this hole, which seemed puckered up like the mouth of a very precise old

maid, the creature was emitting certain rumbling and grumbling noises

which he evidently intended for intelligible talk.

 

"I zay," said he, "you mos pe dronk as de pig, vor zit dare and not zee

me zit ere; and I zay, doo, you mos pe pigger vool as de goose, vor to

dispelief vat iz print in de print. 'Tiz de troof---dat it iz--eberry

vord ob it."

 

"Who are you, pray?" said I, with much dignity, although somewhat

puzzled; "how did you get here? and what is it you are talking about?"

 

"Az vor ow I com'd ere," replied the figure, "dat iz none of your

pizzness; and as vor vat I be talking apout, I be talk apout vat I tink

proper; and as vor who I be, vy dat is de very ting I com'd here for to

let you zee for yourzelf."

 

"You are a drunken vagabond," said I, "and I shall ring the bell and

order my footman to kick you into the street."

 

"He! he! he!" said the fellow, "hu! hu! hu! dat you can't do."

 

"Can't do!" said I, "what do you mean?--I can't do what?"

 

"Ring de pell;" he replied, attempting a grin with his little villanous

mouth.

 

Upon this I made an effort to get up, in order to put my threat

into execution; but the ruffian just reached across the table very

deliberately, and hitting me a tap on the forehead with the neck of one

of the long bottles, knocked me back into the arm-chair from which I had

half arisen. I was utterly astounded; and, for a moment, was quite at a

loss what to do. In the meantime, he continued his talk.

 

"You zee," said he, "it iz te bess vor zit still; and now you shall know

who I pe. Look at me! zee! I am te _Angel ov te Odd_."

 

"And odd enough, too," I ventured to reply; "but I was always under the

impression that an angel had wings."

 

"Te wing!" he cried, highly incensed, "vat I pe do mit te wing? Mein

Gott! do you take me vor a shicken?"

 

"No--oh no!" I replied, much alarmed, "you are no chicken--certainly

not."

 

"Well, den, zit still and pehabe yourself, or I'll rap you again mid me

vist. It iz te shicken ab te wing, und te owl ab te wing, und te imp ab

te wing, und te head-teuffel ab te wing. Te angel ab _not_ te wing, and

I am te _Angel ov te Odd_."

 

"And your business with me at present is--is"--

 

"My pizzness!" ejaculated the thing, "vy vat a low bred buppy you mos pe

vor to ask a gentleman und an angel apout his pizziness!"

 

This language was rather more than I could bear, even from an angel; so,

plucking up courage, I seized a salt-cellar which lay within reach, and

hurled it at the head of the intruder. Either he dodged, however, or

my aim was inaccurate; for all I accomplished was the demolition of the

crystal which protected the dial of the clock upon the mantel-piece. As

for the Angel, he evinced his sense of my assault by giving me two or

three hard consecutive raps upon the forehead as before. These reduced

me at once to submission, and I am almost ashamed to confess that either

through pain or vexation, there came a few tears into my eyes.

 

"Mein Gott!" said the Angel of the Odd, apparently much softened at my

distress; "mein Gott, te man is eder ferry dronk or ferry zorry. You

mos not trink it so strong--you mos put te water in te wine. Here, trink

dis, like a goot veller, und don't gry now--don't!"

 

Hereupon the Angel of the Odd replenished my goblet (which was about a

third full of Port) with a colorless fluid that he poured from one of

his hand bottles. I observed that these bottles had labels about their

necks, and that these labels were inscribed "Kirschenwasser."

 

The considerate kindness of the Angel mollified me in no little measure;

and, aided by the water with which he diluted my Port more than once, I

at length regained sufficient temper to listen to his very extraordinary

discourse. I cannot pretend to recount all that he told me, but I

gleaned from what he said that he was the genius who presided over the

_contretemps_ of mankind, and whose business it was to bring about the

_odd accidents_ which are continually astonishing the skeptic. Once or

twice, upon my venturing to express my total incredulity in respect

to his pretensions, he grew very angry indeed, so that at length I

considered it the wiser policy to say nothing at all, and let him have

his own way. He talked on, therefore, at great length, while I merely

leaned back in my chair with my eyes shut, and amused myself with

munching raisins and filliping the stems about the room. But, by-and-by,

the Angel suddenly construed this behavior of mine into contempt. He

arose in a terrible passion, slouched his funnel down over his eyes,

swore a vast oath, uttered a threat of some character which I did

not precisely comprehend, and finally made me a low bow and departed,

wishing me, in the language of the archbishop in Gil-Blas, "_beaucoup de

bonheur et un peu plus de bon sens_."

 

His departure afforded me relief. The _very_ few glasses of Lafitte that

I had sipped had the effect of rendering me drowsy, and I felt inclined

to take a nap of some fifteen or twenty minutes, as is my custom after

dinner. At six I had an appointment of consequence, which it was

quite indispensable that I should keep. The policy of insurance for

my dwelling house had expired the day before; and, some dispute having

arisen, it was agreed that, at six, I should meet the board of directors

of the company and settle the terms of a renewal. Glancing upward at the

clock on the mantel-piece, (for I felt too drowsy to take out my watch),

I had the pleasure to find that I had still twenty-five minutes to

spare. It was half past five; I could easily walk to the insurance

office in five minutes; and my usual siestas had never been known

to exceed five and twenty. I felt sufficiently safe, therefore, and

composed myself to my slumbers forthwith.

 

Having completed them to my satisfaction, I again looked toward the

time-piece and was half inclined to believe in the possibility of odd

accidents when I found that, instead of my ordinary fifteen or twenty

minutes, I had been dozing only three; for it still wanted seven and

twenty of the appointed hour. I betook myself again to my nap, and at

length a second time awoke, when, to my utter amazement, it _still_

wanted twenty-seven minutes of six. I jumped up to examine the clock,

and found that it had ceased running. My watch informed me that it was

half past seven; and, of course, having slept two hours, I was too late

for my appointment. "It will make no difference," I said: "I can call at

the office in the morning and apologize; in the meantime what can be the

matter with the clock?" Upon examining it I discovered that one of

the raisin stems which I had been filliping about the room during the

discourse of the Angel of the Odd, had flown through the fractured

crystal, and lodging, singularly enough, in the key-hole, with an end

projecting outward, had thus arrested the revolution of the minute hand.

 

"Ah!" said I, "I see how it is. This thing speaks for itself. A natural

accident, such as _will_ happen now and then!"

 

I gave the matter no further consideration, and at my usual hour retired

to bed. Here, having placed a candle upon a reading stand at the

bed head, and having made an attempt to peruse some pages of the

"Omnipresence of the Deity," I unfortunately fell asleep in less than

twenty seconds, leaving the light burning as it was.

 

My dreams were terrifically disturbed by visions of the Angel of

the Odd. Methought he stood at the foot of the couch, drew aside the

curtains, and, in the hollow, detestable tones of a rum puncheon,

menaced me with the bitterest vengeance for the contempt with which

I had treated him. He concluded a long harangue by taking off his

funnel-cap, inserting the tube into my gullet, and thus deluging me with

an ocean of Kirschenwaesser, which he poured, in a continuous flood,

from one of the long necked bottles that stood him instead of an arm. My

agony was at length insufferable, and I awoke just in time to perceive

that a rat had ran off with the lighted candle from the stand, but _not_

in season to prevent his making his escape with it through the hole.

Very soon, a strong suffocating odor assailed my nostrils; the house, I

clearly perceived, was on fire. In a few minutes the blaze broke forth

with violence, and in an incredibly brief period the entire building was

wrapped in flames. All egress from my chamber, except through a window,

was cut off. The crowd, however, quickly procured and raised a long

ladder. By means of this I was descending rapidly, and in apparent

safety, when a huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and indeed about

whose whole air and physiognomy, there was something which reminded me

of the Angel of the Odd,--when this hog, I say, which hitherto had been

quietly slumbering in the mud, took it suddenly into his head that

his left shoulder needed scratching, and could find no more convenient

rubbing-post than that afforded by the foot of the ladder. In an instant

I was precipitated and had the misfortune to fracture my arm.

 

This accident, with the loss of my insurance, and with the more serious

loss of my hair, the whole of which had been singed off by the fire,

predisposed me to serious impressions, so that, finally, I made up my

mind to take a wife. There was a rich widow disconsolate for the loss of

her seventh husband, and to her wounded spirit I offered the balm of my

vows. She yielded a reluctant consent to my prayers. I knelt at her feet

in gratitude and adoration. She blushed and bowed her luxuriant tresses

into close contact with those supplied me, temporarily, by Grandjean. I

know not how the entanglement took place, but so it was. I arose with

a shining pate, wigless; she in disdain and wrath, half buried in alien

hair. Thus ended my hopes of the widow by an accident which could not

have been anticipated, to be sure, but which the natural sequence of

events had brought about.

 

Without despairing, however, I undertook the siege of a less implacable

heart. The fates were again propitious for a brief period; but again a

trivial incident interfered. Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged

with the _elite_ of the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of

my best considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign matter,

lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the moment, completely

blind. Before I could recover my sight, the lady of my love had

disappeared--irreparably affronted at what she chose to consider

my premeditated rudeness in passing her by ungreeted. While I stood

bewildered at the suddenness of this accident, (which might have

happened, nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still

continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of the Odd,

who proffered me his aid with a civility which I had no reason to

expect. He examined my disordered eye with much gentleness and skill,

informed me that I had a drop in it, and (whatever a "drop" was) took it

out, and afforded me relief.

 

I now considered it high time to die, (since fortune had so determined

to persecute me,) and accordingly made my way to the nearest river.

Here, divesting myself of my clothes, (for there is no reason why we

cannot die as we were born), I threw myself headlong into the current;

the sole witness of my fate being a solitary crow that had been seduced

into the eating of brandy-saturated corn, and so had staggered away from

his fellows. No sooner had I entered the water than this bird took it

into its head to fly away with the most indispensable portion of my

apparel. Postponing, therefore, for the present, my suicidal design,

I just slipped my nether extremities into the sleeves of my coat, and

betook myself to a pursuit of the felon with all the nimbleness which

the case required and its circumstances would admit. But my evil destiny

attended me still. As I ran at full speed, with my nose up in the

atmosphere, and intent only upon the purloiner of my property, I

suddenly perceived that my feet rested no longer upon _terra-firma_;

the fact is, I had thrown myself over a precipice, and should inevitably

have been dashed to pieces but for my good fortune in grasping the end

of a long guide-rope, which depended from a passing balloon.

 

As soon as I sufficiently recovered my senses to comprehend the terrific

predicament in which I stood or rather hung, I exerted all the power of

my lungs to make that predicament known to the aeronaut overhead. But for

a long time I exerted myself in vain. Either the fool could not, or

the villain would not perceive me. Meantime the machine rapidly soared,

while my strength even more rapidly failed. I was soon upon the point of

resigning myself to my fate, and dropping quietly into the sea, when

my spirits were suddenly revived by hearing a hollow voice from above,

which seemed to be lazily humming an opera air. Looking up, I perceived

the Angel of the Odd. He was leaning with his arms folded, over the rim

of the car; and with a pipe in his mouth, at which he puffed leisurely,

seemed to be upon excellent terms with himself and the universe. I was

too much exhausted to speak, so I merely regarded him with an imploring

air.

 

For several minutes, although he looked me full in the face, he said

nothing. At length removing carefully his meerschaum from the right to

the left corner of his mouth, he condescended to speak.

 

"Who pe you," he asked, "und what der teuffel you pe do dare?"

 

To this piece of impudence, cruelty and affectation, I could reply only

by ejaculating the monosyllable "Help!"

 

"Elp!" echoed the ruffian--"not I. Dare iz te pottle--elp yourself, und

pe tam'd!"

 

With these words he let fall a heavy bottle of Kirschenwasser which,

dropping precisely upon the crown of my head, caused me to imagine that

my brains were entirely knocked out. Impressed with this idea, I was

about to relinquish my hold and give up the ghost with a good grace,

when I was arrested by the cry of the Angel, who bade me hold on.

 

"Old on!" he said; "don't pe in te urry--don't. Will you pe take de

odder pottle, or ave you pe got zober yet and come to your zenzes?"

 

I made haste, hereupon, to nod my head twice--once in the negative,

meaning thereby that I would prefer not taking the other bottle at

present--and once in the affirmative, intending thus to imply that I

_was_ sober and _had_ positively come to my senses. By these means I

somewhat softened the Angel.

 

"Und you pelief, ten," he inquired, "at te last? You pelief, ten, in te

possibilty of te odd?"

 

I again nodded my head in assent.

 

"Und you ave pelief in _me_, te Angel of te Odd?"

 

I nodded again.

 

"Und you acknowledge tat you pe te blind dronk and te vool?"

 

I nodded once more.

 

"Put your right hand into your left hand preeches pocket, ten, in token

ov your vull zubmizzion unto te Angel ov te Odd."

 

This thing, for very obvious reasons, I found it quite impossible to

do. In the first place, my left arm had been broken in my fall from the

ladder, and, therefore, had I let go my hold with the right hand, I must

have let go altogether. In the second place, I could have no breeches

until I came across the crow. I was therefore obliged, much to my

regret, to shake my head in the negative--intending thus to give the

Angel to understand that I found it inconvenient, just at that moment,

to comply with his very reasonable demand! No sooner, however, had I

ceased shaking my head than--

 

"Go to der teuffel, ten!" roared the Angel of the Odd.

 

In pronouncing these words, he drew a sharp knife across the guide-rope

by which I was suspended, and as we then happened to be precisely over

my own house, (which, during my peregrinations, had been handsomely

rebuilt,) it so occurred that I tumbled headlong down the ample chimney

and alit upon the dining-room hearth.

 

Upon coming to my senses, (for the fall had very thoroughly stunned me,)

I found it about four o'clock in the morning. I lay outstretched where

I had fallen from the balloon. My head grovelled in the ashes of an

extinguished fire, while my feet reposed upon the wreck of a small

table, overthrown, and amid the fragments of a miscellaneous dessert,

intermingled with a newspaper, some broken glass and shattered bottles,

and an empty jug of the Schiedam Kirschenwasser. Thus revenged himself

the Angel of the Odd.

 

 

[Mabbott states that Griswold "obviously had a revised form" for use

in the 1856 volume of Poe's works. Mabbott does not substantiate

this claim, but it is surely not unreasonable. An editor, and even

typographical errors, may have produced nearly all of the very minor

changes made in this version. (Indeed, two very necessary words

were clearly dropped by accident.) An editor might have corrected

"Wickliffe's 'Epigoniad'" to "Wilkie's 'Epigoniad'," but is unlikely

to have added "Tuckerman's 'Sicily'" to the list of books read by the

narrator. Griswold was not above forgery (in Poe's letters) when it

suited his purpose, but would have too little to gain by such an effort

in this instance.]

 

 

 

 

MELLONTA TAUTA

 

TO THE EDITORS OF THE LADY'S BOOK:

 

I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which

I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I

do myself. It is a translation, by my friend, Martin Van Buren Mavis,

(sometimes called the "Poughkeepsie Seer") of an odd-looking MS. which I

found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating in the Mare

Tenebrarum--a sea well described by the Nubian geographer, but seldom

visited now-a-days, except for the transcendentalists and divers for

crotchets.

 

Truly yours,

 

EDGAR A. POE

 

  {this paragraph not in the volume--ED}

 

ON BOARD BALLOON "SKYLARK"

 

April, 1, 2848

 

NOW, my dear friend--now, for your sins, you are to suffer the

infliction of a long gossiping letter. I tell you distinctly that I am

going to punish you for all your impertinences by being as tedious, as

discursive, as incoherent and as unsatisfactory as possible. Besides,

here I am, cooped up in a dirty balloon, with some one or two hundred of

the canaille, all bound on a pleasure excursion, (what a funny idea some

people have of pleasure!) and I have no prospect of touching terra firma

for a month at least. Nobody to talk to. Nothing to do. When one has

nothing to do, then is the time to correspond with ones friends. You

perceive, then, why it is that I write you this letter--it is on account

of my ennui and your sins.

 

Get ready your spectacles and make up your mind to be annoyed. I mean to

write at you every day during this odious voyage.

 

Heigho! when will any Invention visit the human pericranium? Are we

forever to be doomed to the thousand inconveniences of the balloon?

Will nobody contrive a more expeditious mode of progress? The jog-trot

movement, to my thinking, is little less than positive torture. Upon my

word we have not made more than a hundred miles the hour since leaving

home! The very birds beat us--at least some of them. I assure you that

I do not exaggerate at all. Our motion, no doubt, seems slower than it

actually is--this on account of our having no objects about us by which

to estimate our velocity, and on account of our going with the wind. To

be sure, whenever we meet a balloon we have a chance of perceiving our

rate, and then, I admit, things do not appear so very bad. Accustomed as

I am to this mode of travelling, I cannot get over a kind of giddiness

whenever a balloon passes us in a current directly overhead. It always

seems to me like an immense bird of prey about to pounce upon us and

carry us off in its claws. One went over us this morning about sunrise,

and so nearly overhead that its drag-rope actually brushed the network

suspending our car, and caused us very serious apprehension. Our captain

said that if the material of the bag had been the trumpery varnished

"silk" of five hundred or a thousand years ago, we should inevitably

have been damaged. This silk, as he explained it to me, was a fabric

composed of the entrails of a species of earth-worm. The worm

was carefully fed on mulberries--kind of fruit resembling a

water-melon--and, when sufficiently fat, was crushed in a mill. The

paste thus arising was called papyrus in its primary state, and went

through a variety of processes until it finally became "silk." Singular

to relate, it was once much admired as an article of female dress!

Balloons were also very generally constructed from it. A better kind of

material, it appears, was subsequently found in the down surrounding

the seed-vessels of a plant vulgarly called euphorbium, and at that time

botanically termed milk-weed. This latter kind of silk was designated as

silk-buckingham, on account of its superior durability, and was usually

prepared for use by being varnished with a solution of gum caoutchouc--a

substance which in some respects must have resembled the gutta percha

now in common use. This caoutchouc was occasionally called Indian rubber

or rubber of twist, and was no doubt one of the numerous fungi. Never

tell me again that I am not at heart an antiquarian.

 

Talking of drag-ropes--our own, it seems, has this moment knocked a man

overboard from one of the small magnetic propellers that swarm in ocean

below us--a boat of about six thousand tons, and, from all accounts,

shamefully crowded. These diminutive barques should be prohibited from

carrying more than a definite number of passengers. The man, of course,

was not permitted to get on board again, and was soon out of sight, he

and his life-preserver. I rejoice, my dear friend, that we live in an

age so enlightened that no such a thing as an individual is supposed

to exist. It is the mass for which the true Humanity cares. By-the-by,

talking of Humanity, do you know that our immortal Wiggins is not so

original in his views of the Social Condition and so forth, as his

contemporaries are inclined to suppose? Pundit assures me that the same

ideas were put nearly in the same way, about a thousand years ago, by

an Irish philosopher called Furrier, on account of his keeping a retail

shop for cat peltries and other furs. Pundit knows, you know; there can

be no mistake about it. How very wonderfully do we see verified every

day, the profound observation of the Hindoo Aries Tottle (as quoted by

Pundit)--"Thus must we say that, not once or twice, or a few times,

but with almost infinite repetitions, the same opinions come round in a

circle among men."

 

April 2.--Spoke to-day the magnetic cutter in charge of the middle

section of floating telegraph wires. I learn that when this species of

telegraph was first put into operation by Horse, it was considered quite

impossible to convey the wires over sea, but now we are at a loss

to comprehend where the difficulty lay! So wags the world. Tempora

mutantur--excuse me for quoting the Etruscan. What would we do

without the Atalantic telegraph? (Pundit says Atlantic was the ancient

adjective.) We lay to a few minutes to ask the cutter some questions,

and learned, among other glorious news, that civil war is raging in

Africa, while the plague is doing its good work beautifully both

in Yurope and Ayesher. Is it not truly remarkable that, before the

magnificent light shed upon philosophy by Humanity, the world was

accustomed to regard War and Pestilence as calamities? Do you know that

prayers were actually offered up in the ancient temples to the end that

these evils (!) might not be visited upon mankind? Is it not really

difficult to comprehend upon what principle of interest our forefathers

acted? Were they so blind as not to perceive that the destruction of a

myriad of individuals is only so much positive advantage to the mass!

 

April 3.--It is really a very fine amusement to ascend the rope-ladder

leading to the summit of the balloon-bag, and thence survey the

surrounding world. From the car below you know the prospect is not so

comprehensive--you can see little vertically. But seated here (where I

write this) in the luxuriously-cushioned open piazza of the summit, one

can see everything that is going on in all directions. Just now there

is quite a crowd of balloons in sight, and they present a very animated

appearance, while the air is resonant with the hum of so many millions

of human voices. I have heard it asserted that when Yellow or (Pundit

will have it) Violet, who is supposed to have been the first aeronaut,

maintained the practicability of traversing the atmosphere in all

directions, by merely ascending or descending until a favorable current

was attained, he was scarcely hearkened to at all by his contemporaries,

who looked upon him as merely an ingenious sort of madman, because the

philosophers (?) of the day declared the thing impossible. Really now it

does seem to me quite unaccountable how any thing so obviously feasible

could have escaped the sagacity of the ancient savans. But in all ages

the great obstacles to advancement in Art have been opposed by the

so-called men of science. To be sure, our men of science are not quite

so bigoted as those of old:--oh, I have something so queer to tell you

on this topic. Do you know that it is not more than a thousand years ago

since the metaphysicians consented to relieve the people of the singular

fancy that there existed but two possible roads for the attainment of

Truth! Believe it if you can! It appears that long, long ago, in the

night of Time, there lived a Turkish philosopher (or Hindoo possibly)

called Aries Tottle. This person introduced, or at all events propagated

what was termed the deductive or a priori mode of investigation. He

started with what he maintained to be axioms or "self-evident truths,"

and thence proceeded "logically" to results. His greatest disciples were

one Neuclid, and one Cant. Well, Aries Tottle flourished supreme until

advent of one Hog, surnamed the "Ettrick Shepherd," who preached

an entirely different system, which he called the a posteriori or

inductive. His plan referred altogether to Sensation. He proceeded by

observing, analyzing, and classifying facts-instantiae naturae, as they

were affectedly called--into general laws. Aries Tottle's mode, in a

word, was based on noumena; Hog's on phenomena. Well, so great was

the admiration excited by this latter system that, at its first

introduction, Aries Tottle fell into disrepute; but finally he recovered

ground and was permitted to divide the realm of Truth with his more

modern rival. The savans now maintained the Aristotelian and Baconian

roads were the sole possible avenues to knowledge. "Baconian," you

must know, was an adjective invented as equivalent to Hog-ian and more

euphonious and dignified.

 

Now, my dear friend, I do assure you, most positively, that I represent

this matter fairly, on the soundest authority and you can easily

understand how a notion so absurd on its very face must have operated

to retard the progress of all true knowledge--which makes its advances

almost invariably by intuitive bounds. The ancient idea confined

investigations to crawling; and for hundreds of years so great was the

infatuation about Hog especially, that a virtual end was put to all

thinking, properly so called. No man dared utter a truth to which he

felt himself indebted to his Soul alone. It mattered not whether the

truth was even demonstrably a truth, for the bullet-headed savans of the

time regarded only the road by which he had attained it. They would not

even look at the end. "Let us see the means," they cried, "the means!"

If, upon investigation of the means, it was found to come under neither

the category Aries (that is to say Ram) nor under the category Hog, why

then the savans went no farther, but pronounced the "theorist" a fool,

and would have nothing to do with him or his truth.

 

Now, it cannot be maintained, even, that by the crawling system the

greatest amount of truth would be attained in any long series of ages,

for the repression of imagination was an evil not to be compensated for

by any superior certainty in the ancient modes of investigation.

The error of these Jurmains, these Vrinch, these Inglitch, and these

Amriccans (the latter, by the way, were our own immediate progenitors),

was an error quite analogous with that of the wiseacre who fancies that

he must necessarily see an object the better the more closely he holds

it to his eyes. These people blinded themselves by details. When they

proceeded Hoggishly, their "facts" were by no means always facts--a

matter of little consequence had it not been for assuming that they

were facts and must be facts because they appeared to be such. When they

proceeded on the path of the Ram, their course was scarcely as straight

as a ram's horn, for they never had an axiom which was an axiom at all.

They must have been very blind not to see this, even in their own day;

for even in their own day many of the long "established" axioms had been

rejected. For example--"Ex nihilo nihil fit"; "a body cannot act where

it is not"; "there cannot exist antipodes"; "darkness cannot come out

of light"--all these, and a dozen other similar propositions, formerly

admitted without hesitation as axioms, were, even at the period of which

I speak, seen to be untenable. How absurd in these people, then, to

persist in putting faith in "axioms" as immutable bases of Truth!

But even out of the mouths of their soundest reasoners it is easy to

demonstrate the futility, the impalpability of their axioms in general.

Who was the soundest of their logicians? Let me see! I will go and ask

Pundit and be back in a minute.... Ah, here we have it! Here is a book

written nearly a thousand years ago and lately translated from the

Inglitch--which, by the way, appears to have been the rudiment of the

Amriccan. Pundit says it is decidedly the cleverest ancient work on its

topic, Logic. The author (who was much thought of in his day) was one

Miller, or Mill; and we find it recorded of him, as a point of some

importance, that he had a mill-horse called Bentham. But let us glance

at the treatise!

 

Ah!--"Ability or inability to conceive," says Mr. Mill, very properly,

"is in no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth." What

modern in his senses would ever think of disputing this truism? The

only wonder with us must be, how it happened that Mr. Mill conceived it

necessary even to hint at any thing so obvious. So far good--but let

us turn over another paper. What have we here?--"Contradictories cannot

both be true--that is, cannot co-exist in nature." Here Mr. Mill means,

for example, that a tree must be either a tree or not a tree--that it

cannot be at the same time a tree and not a tree. Very well; but I ask

him why. His reply is this--and never pretends to be any thing else than

this--"Because it is impossible to conceive that contradictories can

both be true." But this is no answer at all, by his own showing, for has

he not just admitted as a truism that "ability or inability to conceive

is in no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth."

 

Now I do not complain of these ancients so much because their logic

is, by their own showing, utterly baseless, worthless and fantastic

altogether, as because of their pompous and imbecile proscription of all

other roads of Truth, of all other means for its attainment than the

two preposterous paths--the one of creeping and the one of crawling--to

which they have dared to confine the Soul that loves nothing so well as

to soar.

 

By the by, my dear friend, do you not think it would have puzzled these

ancient dogmaticians to have determined by which of their two roads it

was that the most important and most sublime of all their truths was,

in effect, attained? I mean the truth of Gravitation. Newton owed it to

Kepler. Kepler admitted that his three laws were guessed at--these

three laws of all laws which led the great Inglitch mathematician to his

principle, the basis of all physical principle--to go behind which we

must enter the Kingdom of Metaphysics. Kepler guessed--that is to say

imagined. He was essentially a "theorist"--that word now of so much

sanctity, formerly an epithet of contempt. Would it not have puzzled

these old moles too, to have explained by which of the two "roads" a

cryptographist unriddles a cryptograph of more than usual secrecy, or

by which of the two roads Champollion directed mankind to those enduring

and almost innumerable truths which resulted from his deciphering the

Hieroglyphics.

 

One word more on this topic and I will be done boring you. Is it not

passing strange that, with their eternal prattling about roads to Truth,

these bigoted people missed what we now so clearly perceive to be the

great highway--that of Consistency? Does it not seem singular how they

should have failed to deduce from the works of God the vital fact that

a perfect consistency must be an absolute truth! How plain has been our

progress since the late announcement of this proposition! Investigation

has been taken out of the hands of the ground-moles and given, as a

task, to the true and only true thinkers, the men of ardent imagination.

These latter theorize. Can you not fancy the shout of scorn with which

my words would be received by our progenitors were it possible for them

to be now looking over my shoulder? These men, I say, theorize; and

their theories are simply corrected, reduced, systematized--cleared,

little by little, of their dross of inconsistency--until, finally, a

perfect consistency stands apparent which even the most stolid admit,

because it is a consistency, to be an absolute and an unquestionable

truth.

 

April 4.--The new gas is doing wonders, in conjunction with the new

improvement with gutta percha. How very safe, commodious, manageable,

and in every respect convenient are our modern balloons! Here is an

immense one approaching us at the rate of at least a hundred and fifty

miles an hour. It seems to be crowded with people--perhaps there are

three or four hundred passengers--and yet it soars to an elevation of

nearly a mile, looking down upon poor us with sovereign contempt. Still

a hundred or even two hundred miles an hour is slow travelling after

all. Do you remember our flight on the railroad across the Kanadaw

continent?--fully three hundred miles the hour--that was travelling.

Nothing to be seen though--nothing to be done but flirt, feast and dance

in the magnificent saloons. Do you remember what an odd sensation was

experienced when, by chance, we caught a glimpse of external objects

while the cars were in full flight? Every thing seemed unique--in one

mass. For my part, I cannot say but that I preferred the travelling by

the slow train of a hundred miles the hour. Here we were permitted

to have glass windows--even to have them open--and something like a

distinct view of the country was attainable.... Pundit says that the

route for the great Kanadaw railroad must have been in some measure

marked out about nine hundred years ago! In fact, he goes so far as

to assert that actual traces of a road are still discernible--traces

referable to a period quite as remote as that mentioned. The track, it

appears was double only; ours, you know, has twelve paths; and three or

four new ones are in preparation. The ancient rails were very slight,

and placed so close together as to be, according to modern notions,

quite frivolous, if not dangerous in the extreme. The present width of

track--fifty feet--is considered, indeed, scarcely secure enough. For

my part, I make no doubt that a track of some sort must have existed in

very remote times, as Pundit asserts; for nothing can be clearer, to

my mind, than that, at some period--not less than seven centuries ago,

certainly--the Northern and Southern Kanadaw continents were united;

the Kanawdians, then, would have been driven, by necessity, to a great

railroad across the continent.

 

April 5.--I am almost devoured by ennui. Pundit is the only conversible

person on board; and he, poor soul! can speak of nothing but

antiquities. He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to convince

me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves!--did ever

anybody hear of such an absurdity?--that they existed in a sort of

every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the "prairie

dogs" that we read of in fable. He says that they started with

the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free and

equal--this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so visibly

impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical universe.

Every man "voted," as they called it--that is to say meddled with public

affairs--until at length, it was discovered that what is everybody's

business is nobody's, and that the "Republic" (so the absurd thing was

called) was without a government at all. It is related, however,

that the first circumstance which disturbed, very particularly, the

self-complacency of the philosophers who constructed this "Republic,"

was the startling discovery that universal suffrage gave opportunity for

fraudulent schemes, by means of which any desired number of votes might

at any time be polled, without the possibility of prevention or even

detection, by any party which should be merely villainous enough not

to be ashamed of the fraud. A little reflection upon this discovery

sufficed to render evident the consequences, which were that rascality

must predominate--in a word, that a republican government could never

be any thing but a rascally one. While the philosophers, however, were

busied in blushing at their stupidity in not having foreseen these

inevitable evils, and intent upon the invention of new theories, the

matter was put to an abrupt issue by a fellow of the name of Mob,

who took every thing into his own hands and set up a despotism, in

comparison with which those of the fabulous Zeros and Hellofagabaluses

were respectable and delectable. This Mob (a foreigner, by-the-by), is

said to have been the most odious of all men that ever encumbered the

earth. He was a giant in stature--insolent, rapacious, filthy, had the

gall of a bullock with the heart of a hyena and the brains of a peacock.

He died, at length, by dint of his own energies, which exhausted him.

Nevertheless, he had his uses, as every thing has, however vile,

and taught mankind a lesson which to this day it is in no danger of

forgetting--never to run directly contrary to the natural analogies. As

for Republicanism, no analogy could be found for it upon the face of

the earth--unless we except the case of the "prairie dogs," an exception

which seems to demonstrate, if anything, that democracy is a very

admirable form of government--for dogs.

 

April 6.--Last night had a fine view of Alpha Lyrae, whose disk, through

our captain's spy-glass, subtends an angle of half a degree, looking

very much as our sun does to the naked eye on a misty day. Alpha Lyrae,

although so very much larger than our sun, by the by, resembles

him closely as regards its spots, its atmosphere, and in many other

particulars. It is only within the last century, Pundit tells me, that

the binary relation existing between these two orbs began even to be

suspected. The evident motion of our system in the heavens was (strange

to say!) referred to an orbit about a prodigious star in the centre of

the galaxy. About this star, or at all events about a centre of gravity

common to all the globes of the Milky Way and supposed to be near

Alcyone in the Pleiades, every one of these globes was declared to be

revolving, our own performing the circuit in a period of 117,000,000 of

years! We, with our present lights, our vast telescopic improvements,

and so forth, of course find it difficult to comprehend the ground of an

idea such as this. Its first propagator was one Mudler. He was led,

we must presume, to this wild hypothesis by mere analogy in the first

instance; but, this being the case, he should have at least adhered to

analogy in its development. A great central orb was, in fact, suggested;

so far Mudler was consistent. This central orb, however, dynamically,

should have been greater than all its surrounding orbs taken together.

The question might then have been asked--"Why do we not see it?"--we,

especially, who occupy the mid region of the cluster--the very locality

near which, at least, must be situated this inconceivable central sun.

The astronomer, perhaps, at this point, took refuge in the suggestion

of non-luminosity; and here analogy was suddenly let fall. But even

admitting the central orb non-luminous, how did he manage to explain its

failure to be rendered visible by the incalculable host of glorious suns

glaring in all directions about it? No doubt what he finally maintained

was merely a centre of gravity common to all the revolving orbs--but

here again analogy must have been let fall. Our system revolves, it is

true, about a common centre of gravity, but it does this in connection

with and in consequence of a material sun whose mass more than

counterbalances the rest of the system. The mathematical circle is a

curve composed of an infinity of straight lines; but this idea of the

circle--this idea of it which, in regard to all earthly geometry, we

consider as merely the mathematical, in contradistinction from the

practical, idea--is, in sober fact, the practical conception which alone

we have any right to entertain in respect to those Titanic circles with

which we have to deal, at least in fancy, when we suppose our system,

with its fellows, revolving about a point in the centre of the galaxy.

Let the most vigorous of human imaginations but attempt to take a single

step toward the comprehension of a circuit so unutterable! I would

scarcely be paradoxical to say that a flash of lightning itself,

travelling forever upon the circumference of this inconceivable circle,

would still forever be travelling in a straight line. That the path of

our sun along such a circumference--that the direction of our system in

such an orbit--would, to any human perception, deviate in the slightest

degree from a straight line even in a million of years, is a proposition

not to be entertained; and yet these ancient astronomers were absolutely

cajoled, it appears, into believing that a decisive curvature had become

apparent during the brief period of their astronomical history--during

the mere point--during the utter nothingness of two or three thousand

years! How incomprehensible, that considerations such as this did not

at once indicate to them the true state of affairs--that of the binary

revolution of our sun and Alpha Lyrae around a common centre of gravity!

 

April 7.--Continued last night our astronomical amusements. Had a fine

view of the five Neptunian asteroids, and watched with much interest the

putting up of a huge impost on a couple of lintels in the new temple

at Daphnis in the moon. It was amusing to think that creatures so

diminutive as the lunarians, and bearing so little resemblance to

humanity, yet evinced a mechanical ingenuity so much superior to our

own. One finds it difficult, too, to conceive the vast masses which

these people handle so easily, to be as light as our own reason tells us

they actually are.

 

April 8.--Eureka! Pundit is in his glory. A balloon from Kanadaw spoke

us to-day and threw on board several late papers; they contain some

exceedingly curious information relative to Kanawdian or rather Amriccan

antiquities. You know, I presume, that laborers have for some months

been employed in preparing the ground for a new fountain at Paradise,

the Emperor's principal pleasure garden. Paradise, it appears, has been,

literally speaking, an island time out of mind--that is to say, its

northern boundary was always (as far back as any record extends) a

rivulet, or rather a very narrow arm of the sea. This arm was gradually

widened until it attained its present breadth--a mile. The whole length

of the island is nine miles; the breadth varies materially. The entire

area (so Pundit says) was, about eight hundred years ago, densely packed

with houses, some of them twenty stories high; land (for some most

unaccountable reason) being considered as especially precious just in

this vicinity. The disastrous earthquake, however, of the year 2050, so

totally uprooted and overwhelmed the town (for it was almost too large

to be called a village) that the most indefatigable of our antiquarians

have never yet been able to obtain from the site any sufficient data (in

the shape of coins, medals or inscriptions) wherewith to build up even

the ghost of a theory concerning the manners, customs, &c., &c., &c.,

of the aboriginal inhabitants. Nearly all that we have hitherto known of

them is, that they were a portion of the Knickerbocker tribe of savages

infesting the continent at its first discovery by Recorder Riker, a

knight of the Golden Fleece. They were by no means uncivilized, however,

but cultivated various arts and even sciences after a fashion of their

own. It is related of them that they were acute in many respects, but

were oddly afflicted with monomania for building what, in the ancient

Amriccan, was denominated "churches"--a kind of pagoda instituted for

the worship of two idols that went by the names of Wealth and Fashion.

In the end, it is said, the island became, nine tenths of it,

church. The women, too, it appears, were oddly deformed by a natural

protuberance of the region just below the small of the back--although,

most unaccountably, this deformity was looked upon altogether in the

light of a beauty. One or two pictures of these singular women have

in fact, been miraculously preserved. They look very odd, very--like

something between a turkey-cock and a dromedary.

 

Well, these few details are nearly all that have descended to us

respecting the ancient Knickerbockers. It seems, however, that while

digging in the centre of the emperors garden, (which, you know, covers

the whole island), some of the workmen unearthed a cubical and evidently

chiseled block of granite, weighing several hundred pounds. It was in

good preservation, having received, apparently, little injury from the

convulsion which entombed it. On one of its surfaces was a marble slab

with (only think of it!) an inscription--a legible inscription. Pundit

is in ecstacies. Upon detaching the slab, a cavity appeared, containing

a leaden box filled with various coins, a long scroll of names, several

documents which appear to resemble newspapers, with other matters of

intense interest to the antiquarian! There can be no doubt that

all these are genuine Amriccan relics belonging to the tribe called

Knickerbocker. The papers thrown on board our balloon are filled with

fac-similes of the coins, MSS., typography, &c., &c. I copy for your

amusement the Knickerbocker inscription on the marble slab:--

 

          This Corner Stone of a Monument to

 

                  The Memory of

 

                GEORGE WASHINGTON

 

          Was Laid With Appropriate Ceremonies

 

                    on the

 

             19th Day of October, 1847

 

          The anniversary of the surrender of

 

                 Lord Cornwallis

 

          to General Washington at Yorktown

 

                 A. D. 1781

 

            Under the Auspices of the

 

          Washington Monument Association of

 

                the city of New York

 

This, as I give it, is a verbatim translation done by Pundit himself, so

there can be no mistake about it. From the few words thus preserved, we

glean several important items of knowledge, not the least interesting of

which is the fact that a thousand years ago actual monuments had fallen

into disuse--as was all very proper--the people contenting themselves,

as we do now, with a mere indication of the design to erect a monument

at some future time; a corner-stone being cautiously laid by itself

"solitary and alone" (excuse me for quoting the great American poet

Benton!), as a guarantee of the magnanimous intention. We ascertain,

too, very distinctly, from this admirable inscription, the how as well

as the where and the what, of the great surrender in question. As to the

where, it was Yorktown (wherever that was), and as to the what, it

was General Cornwallis (no doubt some wealthy dealer in corn). He was

surrendered. The inscription commemorates the surrender of--what? why,

"of Lord Cornwallis." The only question is what could the savages

wish him surrendered for. But when we remember that these savages were

undoubtedly cannibals, we are led to the conclusion that they intended

him for sausage. As to the how of the surrender, no language can be

more explicit. Lord Cornwallis was surrendered (for sausage) "under the

auspices of the Washington Monument Association"--no doubt a charitable

institution for the depositing of corner-stones.--But, Heaven bless me!

what is the matter? Ah, I see--the balloon has collapsed, and we shall

have a tumble into the sea. I have, therefore, only time enough to add

that, from a hasty inspection of the fac-similes of newspapers, &c.,

&c., I find that the great men in those days among the Amriccans, were

one John, a smith, and one Zacchary, a tailor.

 

Good-bye, until I see you again. Whether you ever get this letter or

not is point of little importance, as I write altogether for my own

amusement. I shall cork the MS. up in a bottle, however, and throw it

into the sea.

 

Yours everlastingly,

 

       PUNDITA.

 

 

 

 

THE DUC DE L'OMELETTE.

 

     And stepped at once into a cooler clime.--Cowper

 

KEATS fell by a criticism. Who was it died of "The Andromache"? {*1}

Ignoble souls!--De L'Omelette perished of an ortolan. L'histoire en est

breve. Assist me, Spirit of Apicius!

 

A golden cage bore the little winged wanderer, enamored, melting,

indolent, to the Chaussee D'Antin, from its home in far Peru. From its

queenly possessor La Bellissima, to the Duc De L'Omelette, six peers of

the empire conveyed the happy bird.

 

That night the Duc was to sup alone. In the privacy of his bureau he

reclined languidly on that ottoman for which he sacrificed his loyalty

in outbidding his king--the notorious ottoman of Cadet.

 

He buries his face in the pillow. The clock strikes! Unable to restrain

his feelings, his Grace swallows an olive. At this moment the door

gently opens to the sound of soft music, and lo! the most delicate of

birds is before the most enamored of men! But what inexpressible dismay

now overshadows the countenance of the Duc?--"Horreur!--chien!

Baptiste!--l'oiseau! ah, bon Dieu! cet oiseau modeste que tu as

deshabille de ses plumes, et que tu as servi sans papier!" It is

superfluous to say more:--the Duc expired in a paroxysm of disgust.

 

"Ha! ha! ha!" said his Grace on the third day after his decease.

 

"He! he! he!" replied the Devil faintly, drawing himself up with an air

of hauteur.

 

"Why, surely you are not serious," retorted De L'Omelette. "I have

sinned--c'est vrai--but, my good sir, consider!--you have no actual

intention of putting such--such barbarous threats into execution."

 

"No what?" said his majesty--"come, sir, strip!"

 

"Strip, indeed! very pretty i' faith! no, sir, I shall not strip. Who

are you, pray, that I, Duc De L'Omelette, Prince de Foie-Gras, just come

of age, author of the 'Mazurkiad,' and Member of the Academy, should

divest myself at your bidding of the sweetest pantaloons ever made by

Bourdon, the daintiest robe-de-chambre ever put together by Rombert--to

say nothing of the taking my hair out of paper--not to mention the

trouble I should have in drawing off my gloves?"

 

"Who am I?--ah, true! I am Baal-Zebub, Prince of the Fly. I took thee,

just now, from a rose-wood coffin inlaid with ivory. Thou wast curiously

scented, and labelled as per invoice. Belial sent thee,--my Inspector of

Cemeteries. The pantaloons, which thou sayest were made by Bourdon, are

an excellent pair of linen drawers, and thy robe-de-chambre is a shroud

of no scanty dimensions."

 

"Sir!" replied the Duc, "I am not to be insulted with impunity!--Sir! I

shall take the earliest opportunity of avenging this insult!--Sir! you

shall hear from me! in the meantime au revoir!"--and the Duc was bowing

himself out of the Satanic presence, when he was interrupted and brought

back by a gentleman in waiting. Hereupon his Grace rubbed his eyes,

yawned, shrugged his shoulders, reflected. Having become satisfied of

his identity, he took a bird's eye view of his whereabouts.

 

The apartment was superb. Even De L'Omelette pronounced it bien comme il

faut. It was not its length nor its breadth,--but its height--ah,

that was appalling!--There was no ceiling--certainly none--but a dense

whirling mass of fiery-colored clouds. His Grace's brain reeled as

he glanced upward. From above, hung a chain of an unknown blood-red

metal--its upper end lost, like the city of Boston, parmi les nues.

From its nether extremity swung a large cresset. The Duc knew it to be

a ruby; but from it there poured a light so intense, so still,

so terrible, Persia never worshipped such--Gheber never imagined

such--Mussulman never dreamed of such when, drugged with opium, he has

tottered to a bed of poppies, his back to the flowers, and his face to

the God Apollo. The Duc muttered a slight oath, decidedly approbatory.