صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

and shrieks, and groans, and blasphemies come thick upon the night, and with them come the fiends of mischief, and entering our iron chambers lead up and down the dance-and laugh to the music of the dying ;-dance and laugh till the morning dawns, and our servants- our artillery valets--come to spruce us up for daylight fighting. Such mirth and such devil-dancing, I call the leisure-or, if you will, the lighter recreation from the cares of slaughter.

And after this fashion did the guns and mortars wag their mouths ; but Bloodbubble, blind and deaf, marked not their moving lips-heard not their boastful words. The old fellow never unbarred the doors of the arsenal that the guns did not talk of blood and fire, and death ; nevertheless, he had no sense of aught about him, save of cold, dumb iron. And here for awhile we leave the old man fumbling for natal gunpowder, that new. born babihood may be honoured with fire and smoke. You will allow it, sir, a strange custom this, of the Twiddlethumbers.











AND WHERE WORN -ADAM'S POTTERY. And now the Duke's carriage, still trundling easily along, arrives in the market-place. There was a great crowd gathered about a stage, wherefrom the Duke's Fool and Chief Ministerfor such pluralities were held even in Twiddlethumb-made a gracious speech to the Duke's subjects. Some years before the commencement of this history of Twiddlethumb, the Township had been visited by a terrible disease—the malady of public discontent. The Twiddlethumbers being, as the event proved, incautiously taught arithmetic in consequence of a decree of the state, misused the knowledge to calculate the amount of taxes. Enlightened, they became rebellious. They would—they clenched their fists and swore it—they would be free. The Duke should grant their just demand; the Duke should award them some symbol to perpetuate in the eyes of their children an assurance of freedom. The Duke assented. — “My good and loving people,” such were his honied syllables, “it shall be as you desire. My wise and trusty fool and minister, Pignutz, shall from me present you with, a Cap of Liberty.” The Twiddlethumbers so shouted and capered

that the air was rent with their voices, the earth throbbed with their feet. “ The only Cap of real Liberty to be granted to man —the Cap that gives equality to ali.”. The populace fermented with delight; though a few leaden-eyed, wrinkled townsmen, bit their thumbs at the Duke's words, as though nibbling and tasting thumb and words together.

Pignutz, the Duke's prime fool and minister, stood on the stage, and with his right hand moving in his bosom-as though patting and cheering up his honest heart-looked keenly about him at the multitude. A cold, frosty smile sharpened his cheek bones ; and his thin lips worked like worms. All his face seemed on edge; and bending his head a little on one side, it was wonderful to see the strange likeness between the man Pignutz and the bird magpie, whereof we have sufficiently spoken. Pignutz, moreover, had a pied livery—a suit of black velvet slashed and puffed with white silk. • We are both of the same feather, Pignutz has been over-heard to say in familiar whisper to the magpie ; “both ready for our master in black and white ; and Pignutz would seem in no way displeased with the livery.

The crowd continued to gather about the stage, and Pignutz was, it was plain, prepared with his oration. Whereupon, the ass was, in due state, led to the foot of the stage, and at a signal his peck of beans, thistle, and two quarts of water set before him.

And what has the ass to do with the orator ? Much. So much that we feel we have introduced the quadruped without due preparatory explanation. It was an ancient custom of the Townso ancient its beginning was said to be somewhere in chaos—to measure out time to public orators by asses. After this simple, and as we conceive, wise manner. The Twiddlethumbers could not abide long speeches. Hence, it was the custom, when the ininister addressed the people, to measure the words of the orator by the beans of an ass. A peck of beans, one thistle of common height and leafiness, with two quarts of water were set before the beast. At a given moment, orator and ass both began their task : if the ass had ground his beans, munched his thistle, and sucked his water, ere the orator had finished his subject, not another word was listened to; but the speaker was hooted down with most discordant noises. If, on the other hand, the orator finished his speech-saying all needful to be said—ere the ass consumed his meal, the brute was 'cudgelled back to his stable, and the orator vociferously applauded. And yet so noble—so just an institution

-had been tampered with. Corruption and bribery had met even in a corn measure : for there can unhappily be no doubt of the fact, though we shall not linger on the page to quote authorities, —that long-winded orators have been known to bribe the grooms to measure out musty beans—to sprinkle pepper on the thistle—to insinuate salt into the water—that the ass, if he ate at all, should eat and drink slowly, painfully, sorrowfully,

But Pignutz was not of these wordy speakers. With a pleasing confidence in his own comprehensive powers, he was often known to give the ass half-way through its beans, ere he began to unfold the serious mystery of his argument. And he so managed the contest—so husbanded and played with his resources—that the orator and the ass generally came to the end of their work neckand-neck ; indeed so close, that learned judges were often puzzled to know whether orator or ass had the best of it.

The ass has been munching his beans for at least the last paragraph ; yet, up to this moment Pignutz has not said a word : but with unbent mouth, and a sleepy, smiling eye, looks down upon the eating ass, as much as to say—“Take your time, poor fellow ; and much good may it do you.” And now, Pignutz, drawing himself up to his full height, and he was at least four feet

- although the expanding grandeur of his soul made him seem even higher-opened his lips.

“I am here, most foolish and ridiculous people, commanded by my master, the Duke de Bobs, a potentate of such glory, that the stars, for

very winking, cannot behold him. I am here, I say, commanded by his benevolence to award to you a symbol of freedom for yourselves and your children's children; if, with the growing perverseness of the world, ye and they insist upon having them.

A symbol of freedom! A symbol, did I say—the real thing. A Cap of Liberty ! A Cap that shall give to the meanest of you—and I should like to behold the nose of him, who in the sincerity of his heart manfully answers to such description-a liberty, one and the same, no bit better, no bit worse, than that enjoyed by the Duke himself.” Hereupon many of the crowd began to weep ; many to embrace one another.

Pig-headed rabble ”—cried the orator in the softest and most affectionate tones—for it was plain that the speaker was touched by the lively affections of the multitude—"two-legged calves, uzzards and noddies, listen to the magnanimity of the Duke. Know


what he offers ye ? But why do I ask it? Why, rather shall I not go into the forest, and talk to the sensible elephant ? Look at the brute in his pacific vastness. Consider the huge gentleness. See; he stretches forth his sinuous hand, and with that small finger and thumb of his gathers a leaf, breaks a twig. And now he gently whets his tusks upon the trunk of his ancient friend, making friendly use of him, — his neighbour cedar. Think ye that elephant knows the worth of the ivory curving from his jaws ? Think ye he knows how many

ladies' fans lie therein compact, as yet unflirted; worse weapons than in that naked, natural bone? Think ye, he dreams of the dice, true and false, that will be cut from his refuse bits—specked cubes that, from the depths of hell, conjure up fiends to sit and chat, and laugh on the midnight cloth of green-brimstone shepherds on the verdant sward ?

“ Think ye, the elephant knows this--a syllable of it? Why, could he know it, his heart-strings would crack like cordage in a gale, and dead would he drop, a banquet for a congress of condors. Therefore, happy is it for him-noble, innocent brute—that, all simply, modestly he carries his tusks before him, ignorant of the man-killing fans yet shut up within them, unconscious of the unloosened dice that one day shall rattle from them.

“ And so, oh Twiddlethumbers !--and I bow thrice to all elephants, past, present, and to come, that I should so much as name ye fasting with superior quadrupeds—so, Twiddlethumbers, it is well ye suddenly heard not the great gift purposed for ye by the Duke. As elephants would die with shame, ye would expire with joy. And therefore, let me open the news to ye, gentlyreverently ; as though uncorking a precious phial filled with the quintessence of the distilled east.

“ The Duke grants to ye powers of the widest liberty. Ye may go where


will. Do what ye please. Wander in his gardens -pluck his fruit-dine at his table--ride his horses-spend his money-pull his beard—tweak his nose.

He bestows upon ye a gift that, it is by no means to be doubted, may carry ye so far to happiness.

Here the Twiddlethumbers looked anxiously at one another ; and some of them breathed hard, as they with difficulty held within them their beating hearts. And then some looked upon their fellows, as much as to say—“Can this be true ? Pignutz saw the doubtful glance; and renewed, with quicker speech (for the ass, having finished his beans, began to fall upon the thistle) :

“ The Duke, in his wide-world goodness, grants ye, I say, the full use of a liberty that takes ye beyond all human jurisdiction. But oh, foolish people, let me, as prime fool and minister, let me implore ye not to abuse the mighty beneficence of the Duke. Here”— Pignutz saw that the ass was approaching the water“here is the constitution, the instrument of freedom, awarded ye by your master. Prepare to see it ; and if gratitude live in human minds, down upon your knees—down in the dust, when the instrument of liberty shall break upon ye.

It is bere.As Pignutz spoke, the whole multitude, awed by his manner, already blessed by expectation, fell upon the earth. Pignutz twitched the treasure from his bosom, and held it by a tassel. There was one moment's pause-then a murmur—then a hiss. “ A Cap of Liberty,” cried one bold Twiddlethumber.

"Why, it 's a cotton night-cap!"

“ You speak truly,” said Pignutz, with a grave face,“ very truly, and in good faith do credit to your eyesight. It is a nightcap ; and in very truth the only Cap of Liberty, since in it men one-third of their lives visit the land of sleep; the only land—the only land—where all men are equal. Believe it, oh, Twiddlethumbers ! The veritable Cap of Liberty is the night-cap.”

The ass brayed, and the coach jogged soberly on. Three times at least had the nurse looked out from the castle window ; three times had she loudly blessed herself and softly swore at the midwife ; but the ducal cattle hurried not. They had been too well broken in their colthood to bestir themselves. Haste was the vulgarity of pack-horses ; now they were steeds of state ; and had never yet been known to turn a hair.

And now the coach winds a corner, and there, before you, reader-for we wish to take advantage of the circuit made by the Duke's horses to show as much of the town and suburbs of Twiddlethumb as we may,—there, looking to the left from the coach windows, a gently rising mount belted at the base with pollard oaks. We say, looking from the window ; because, if all this while, the reader has not been seated in the Duke's coach, it is not our fault. He has either chosen to walk, or has lacked the imagination that should have softly seated him on the Duke's cushions. Now that mount, belted and buckled in from the rest of Twiddlethumb by green timber and evergreen bushes, is known as Adam's Pottery.

« السابقةمتابعة »