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And now the reader of his own cunning may understand wherefore the townsfolk of Twiddlethumb looked uneasily at the Duke's crest—the terrible magpie. The bird was mixed up in their recollections with many wrongs and many sufferings. The Twiddlethumber, spoiled of a cow-robbed of a goosehis hen-roost ravaged-or his pocket picked of twopence laid the loss to the thievishness of the magpie. The bird--the Duke's winged Black and White familiar-was accounted the curse of Twiddlethumb. For there ran throughout the town-nay, it was a belief brimming in the hearts of the Twiddlethumbers—that the Duke's crest, though seemingly a thing of paint, or oak, or stone, according to its place--now smooth and shining on the Duke's coach—now perched on the Duke's state chair-and now carved over the Duke's windows-was a creature of most malicious vitality. The magpie crest—swore the Twiddlethumbers-was a living mischief; of such cunning and such force, that it could pick the lock of a money-box, or carry off a bullock. The thing was a devil in feathers, that when he liked hopped out from the Duke's shield, or flew down from the Duke's chair, to pillage the Twiddlethumbers-the Duke's unresisting people.
We cannot believe in this black art of heraldry. It is a coward’s blow to strike the dead; and to give our faith to the superstition of Twiddlethumb would be—we profoundly feel as much-to smite the honourable dust of iron mighty men. For should we not tamper with the ignorance of the many, whom we do not refuse to call our fellow-creatures, were we to allow a vital rapacity to the Duke's crest—a carved or painted magpie ? For after such allowance, what man's crest would be safe? Griffins and leopards and tigers, whelped hundreds of years ago in the bed of glory, and fed on human flesh, were notwithstanding harmless creatures ; of no more ill-will than tame rabbits. They sprawled in shields, and stood upon helmets, and had strong thews of silk and worsted worked for them by female fingers. The lord of the castle looked upon his hangings, and saw therein his griffins, the children of his own sword and his wife's needle. And shall we give air to a belief in a possible necromancy that, at any age of the world, could animate the panther of a Baron Fitzermonois, suffering the beast to prowl out from his tapestry at night among the homesteads of the baron's tenants ; now killing a child, and now sucking the blood of poultry ?
Such superstition once afoot, where would it stop? Would it
respect royal crests?
We think not. No : the audacity of the human mind would, we much fear it, give words of abuse even to imperial eagles. “ Felon knave ! -some hardy slave might say, glaring on the royal bird ; some biped clod of the soil, his blood of no richer compound than converted black bread—“felon knave! dead thing that thou seemest, thou hast accursed life : thou art here, thou hypocrite of honour, to attest to foolish men thy daring and thy might. Thou canst give look for look with the all-lighting sun, and
thunderbolts. This is said of thee, but this we know: this the myriad lowly best can tell. Thou fattenest on the poor man's lamb, and devourest the poor man's kid.” And should it chance that the eagle have two heads, the malice of the opprobrious boor perchance might add_"And if thou hast two heads, is it not that thou mayst eat lamb and kid at the same time?
We hope we have written enough to make manifest the danger of believing, without better evidence than we can yet produce, the stories current of the Duke's magpie.
THE DUCHESS IN TROUBLE.-THE
GREAT AND SMALL. The Duke's coach rolled slowly on. And we have gossiped so long about his bird on the panel, that we begin to feel we have neglected the precious kernel of the coach-the wise man inside. It was the Duke's doctor, and it was also the Duchess's man-midwife. Living at the end of Twiddlethumb Town—and labouring a patch of ground, a wonderful bit of earth, pregnant with all-healing, all-killing minerals and simples—the doctor could not but show himself to the whole population of Twiddlethumb on his ceremonious way to the castle. The Duchess had, in truth, the hastiest need of the doctor ; nevertheless, the horses ambled very gently along, the Duke in his better knowledge, deeming slowness a vital attribute of state. Common babies, porcine Twiddlethumberkins, might hurry to life like fools to a show ; now the child of Duke de Bobs should enter existence ceremoniously, self-assured, as though he did honour to it. This, we know, was a fiction ; a state fiction ; and therefore all the more necessary to be supported and guarded. Truth in the end, can take care of herself.
When the people of Twiddlethumb saw the doctor in the Duke's coach, they knew that their hour was approaching when, as loyal vassals, they would be commanded to be happy. Knowing this, every man prepared to hold himself in readiness for felicity.
And see, even as the Duke's coach passes the arsenal of Twiddlethumb, its door is opened by an old, white-haired man ; so old, his face seems gashed with wrinkles. This man is Bloodbubble, the soldier of Twiddlethumb. Our history begins at a time when Twiddlethumb has been weakened by fifty years'. peace. Like an old giant—a beautiful young butcher in his early time, gluttonous, carnivorous—fed in his latter days upon herbs and asses' milk, Twiddlethumb has grown somewhat fantastic, puling; and speaks a little foolishly, ungratefully of soldiers. “For what are they,' asked an irreverent Twiddlethumber, taking his ale at the Naked Truth-a tavern a good deal frequented in Twiddlethumb, though again and again the Duke de Bobs had threatened to take away its license, because of the bold sayings of the parlour and tap-room“Soldiers,” cried the heretic, “what are they? Very fine, and very mischievous. Soldiers, looked at as they ought to be, are to the world but as poppies to corn-fields."
The veteran Bloodbubble entered the arsenal ; and instantly all the cannon and mortars screwed and pursed up their mouths as he came in. But the old soldier took no heed of the brazen, iron mockery ; for, in truth, he was nearly blind. And more, when the artillery began to talk—and they did so as you, sir, shall hear —he was deaf, deaf as the Broad Stone of Honour. His ear-drums had been broken in a certain battle-burst by the iron storm. And so, old Bloodbubble, with a cold, filmed eye-a stagnant cheek—and shaking head tried to look about his murderous companions.
“What brings him here?” asked a cannon in Dutch ; for in the arsenal of Twiddlethumb there were pieces of ordnance of all countries ; and though when shotted they all talked of death and misery in the same one language,-yet discoursing as gossips, each spoke in its national accent.
Can't you guess ? ” lisped from its small mouth, a brass falconet.
“ It can't be war,” growled a huge piece of bronze artillery, taken in the olden time from the infidel, and called in their mocking ignorance The Brooding Dove-"it can't be war."
" War?” cried a mortar contemptuously. “War! Why isn't the world getting old and stupid? Hasn't it forgotten the wholesome taste of powder and ball? I should like to know why I was christened The Cradle of Love-ha! shall I ever forget the cardinal that gave me that name ?---why was I so christened, if I'm always to be empty! I havn't had a morsel of ammunition these fifty years. I'm starving-cold and starving. Shall I never be full and hot-blazing hot-shall I never smoke again ? Look at that poor old wretch; the withering old laurel twig! What brings him here? I shouldn't wonderfor it isn't for honest artillery to wonder at anything now, I shouldn't wonder, if he's come to pick me out-me, the mortar of mortars, the Cradle of Love, cardinal-christened-to turn me into a pot to boil his Christmas pudding in.”
Every piece of ordnance-every instrument of death from bomb to pistol-groaned deeply according to its volume, at the imagined degradation. The groan was so profound that even old Bloodbubble seemed to stare as though he really heard something, and a frosty brightness fell upon his cheek, and he looked about him, as though once more he listened to his old iron friends once more bellowing fire and death.
Why, it's plain enough what that old fool comes here for,” said a howitzer; “it's about the time.”
“ Time! What time--Bed of Roses ? ” asked the Brooding Dove of its burly friend with odoriferous name.
“He's going to the powder magazine ; there-don't you see? Of course. The Duchess will have another little baby in an hour or two, and our old friends—poor creatures !-will puff the news to the Twiddlethumbers. Poor work, eh? Fed with blank cartridge? Never having the taste of an honest bit of iron, eh? Well, it's better to do nothing than to do only that. For a piece of cannon-that ought to have its sport of flesh and blood, for whenever I was in battle, I always looked upon myself as a sportsman--only men, not hares were the game—for a piece of cannon to do nothing but fire blank, why it's to play the noisy, empty bully,—and not the working soldier.”
Well, we have done some work in our time,” cried an old honey-combed forty-two pounder, called the Voice of Peace ; “ that's some comfort. Eh? When we have spoken from our hearts, how hundreds have sprung into the air, and yelled and screamed a moment, and then fell dead crushed and smashed that -Oh!-if their mothers could have foreseen it when they first
-seen it, looking from between the curtains some twenty-thirty-forty years on-they'd have thought it hard nursing to have only nursed for us. It isn't for me to brag,' said the Voice of Peace, with more conceit than could have been expected from old iron, “but in my day, I think I've brought down my men.
“Your men,” cried the Cradle of Love—and the mortar really, swelled with importance—“your men ! why, I have killed men, women, children—the crippled and the bed-ridden-sent them in a heap of mangled carcases to death. Why, I recollect,— I recollect ”_and the wicked old mortar laughed so heartily, you would have thought it thundered—“I recollect that at one touch I killed some thousand or so. You see, the town was besieged. There was a church–I forget the name—with a favourite saint there. Well, the church was crammed with citizens. The old had been brought for safety there—the dying to die in peacebabes were hugged to the breast-and babes unborn, throbbed in that vast human mass where, rich and poor, running from death refused not to embrace one another. Well, the organ was playing -the priests were singing—a multitude was sobbing, crying, groaning, embracing, -when, as though the depths of hell had opened from under them-all-all-all perished. Now, a living multitude —now a shriek, a yell—and now, all murdered. And I did it. I!”
“Why, how?” asked a swivel, with much modesty.
“ You see, the cathedral, I know not how it happened was at a little distance from the powder-house. Well, I dropt a shell right upon the magazine-a shell ridden by the devil himself, for I heard him sing as he left me—and I think by this time I ought to know the devil's voice
and cathedral, houses, whole streets, buried at a wink the dead within them. I was the darling of the troops for that one little touch."
Certainly, I can't boast of such service,”-said a carronade ; " and I don't care so much about it. I am for a more quiet enjoyment ; for what I call the pleasant leisure of slaughter."
“ Leisure of slaughter! What do you mean? ” asked the mortar very contemptuously.
“Why, this,” answered the carronade. “ When the battle is over, and the night is come—and the moon shines or shines not, as she lists—and the field is here heaped and here dotted with the slain-is alive and shuddering with the wounded. When yells,