Part 2 out of 5
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
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
~~~ End of Text ~~~
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
[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
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.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus?
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
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
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
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.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
Slid, if these be your "passados" and "montantes," I'll have none o'
-- 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
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
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,
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,
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.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
THE ANGEL OF THE ODD
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
"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
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
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
"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 !" said I, "what do you mean ? - I can't do what ?"
"Ring de pell ;" he replied, attempting a grin with his little
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
"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
"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 -
"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
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 Kirschenwässer, 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
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 _élite_ 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 æronaut
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
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.