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things, peeping at you coaxingly from out of the water, and singing their melodious wheedles. And the bones round their caves were more numerous than the ribs, skulls, and thighbones round the cavern of hulking Polypheme.
To the castle-gates of some of these monsters up rides the dapper champion of the pen ; puffs boldly upon the horn which hangs by the chain ; enters the hall resolutely, and challenges the big tyrant sulking within. We defy him to combat, the enormous roaring ruffian ! We give him a meeting on the green plain before his castle. Green? No wonder it should be green : it is manured with human bones.
After a few graceful wheels and curvets, we take our ground. We stoop over our saddle. 'Tis but to kiss the locket of our lady-love's hair. And now the vizor is up: the lance is in rest (Gillott's iron is the point for me). A touch of the spur in the gallant sides of Pegasus, and we gallop at the great brute.
Cut off his ugly head, Flibbertygibbet, my squire!” And who are these who pour out of the castle? the imprisoned maidens, the maltreated widows, the poor old hoary grandfathers, who have been locked up in the dungeons these scores and scores of years, writhing under the tyranny of that ruffian ! Ah ye knights of the pen! May honor be your shield, and truth tip your lances! Be gentle to all gentle people. Be modest to women. Be tender to children. And as for the Ogre Humbug, out sword, and have at him.
ON TWO ROUNDABOUT PAPERS WHICH I
INTENDED TO WRITE.*
We have all heard of a place paved with good intentions :a place which I take to be a very dismal, useless and unsatisfactory terminus for many pleasant thoughts, kindly fancies, gentle wishes, merry little quips and pranks, harmless jokes which die as it were the moment of their birth. Poor little children of the brain! He was a dreary theologian who huddled you under such a melancholy cenotaph, and laid you in the vaults under the flagstones of Hades! I trust that some of the best actions we have all of us committed in our lives have been committed in fancy. It is not all wickedness we are thinking, que diable! Some of our thoughts are bad enough I grant you. Many a one you and I have had here below. Ah mercy, what a monster! what crooked horns! what leering eyes! what a flaming mouth! what cloven feet, and what a hideous writhing tail ! Oh, let us fall down on our knees, repeat our most potent exorcisms, and overcome the brute. Spread your black pinions, fly-fly to the dusky realms of Eblis, and bury thyself under the paving-stones of his hall, dark genie! But all thoughts are not so. No-no. There are the pure : there are the kind : there are the gentle. There are sweet unspoken thanks before a fair scene of nature : at a sun-setting below a glorious sea; or a moon and a host of stars shining over it : at a bunch of children playing in the street, or a group of flowers by the hedge-side, or a bird singing there. At a hundred moments or occurrences of the day good thoughts pass through the mind, let us trust, which never are spoken; prayers are made which never are said ; and Te Deum is sung without church, clerk, choristers, parson or organ. Why, there's my enemy: who got the place I wanted ; who maligned me to the woman I wanted to be well with ; who supplanted me in the good graces of my patron. I don't say anything about the matter: but, my poor old enemy, in my secret mind I have movements of as tender charity towards you, you old scoundrel, as ever I had when we were boys together at school. You ruffian ! do you fancy I forget that we were fond of each other? We are still. We share our toffy; go halves at the tuck-shop; do each other's exercises ; prompt each other with the word in construing or repetition; and tell the most frightful fibs to prevent each other from being found out. We meet each other in public. Ware a fight! Get them into different parts of the room ! Our friends hustle round us. Capulet and Montague are not more at odds than the houses of Roundabout and Wrightabout, let us say. It is, “My dear Mrs. Buffer, do kindly put yourself in the chair between those two men !” Or, My dear Wrightabout, will you take that charming Lady Blanc. mange down to supper? She adores your poems; and
* The following paper was written in 1861, after the extraordinary affray between Major Murray and the money-lender in a house in Northumberland Street, Strand, and subse quent to the appearance of M. Du Chaillu's book on Gorillas.
gave five shillings for your autograph at the fancy fair." In like manner the peace-makers gather round Roundabout on his part: he is carried to a distant corner, and coaxed out of the way of the enemy with whom he is at feud.
When we meet in the Square at Verona, out flash rapiers, and we fall to. But in his private mind Tybalt owns that Mercutio has a rare wit, and Mercutio is sure that his adver. sary is a gallant gentleman. Look at the amphitheatre yonder. You do not suppose those gladiators who fought and perished, as hundreds of spectators in that grim Circus held thumbs down, and cried, “Kill, kill!”—you do not suppose the combatants of necessity hated each other? No more than the celebrated trained bands of literary sword-and-buckler men hate the adversaries whom they meet in the arena. They engage at the given signal ; feint and parry; slash, poke, rip each other open, dismember limbs, and hew off noses : but in the way of business, and, I trust, with mutual private esteem. For instance, I salute the warriors of the Superfine Company with the honors due among warriors. Here's at you, Spartacus, my lad. A hit, I acknowledge. A palpable hit! Ha! how do you like that poke in the eye in return? When the trumpets sing truce, or the spectators are tired, we bow to the noble company : withdraw; and get a cool glass of wine in our rendezvous des braves gladiateurs.
By the way, I saw that amphitheatre of Verona under the strange light of a lurid eclipse some years ago : and I have been there in spirit for these twenty lines past, under a vast gusty awning, now with twenty thousand fellow-citizens looking on from the benches, now in the circus itself, a grim gladiator with sword and net, or a meek martyr—was I ?-brought out to be gobbled up by the lions ? or a huge, shaggy, tawny lion myself, on whom the dogs were going to be set? What a day of excitement I have had to be sure ! But I must get away from Verona, or who knows how much farther the Roundabout Pegasus may carry me?.
We were saying, my Muse, before we dropped and perched on earth for a couple of sentences, that our unsaid words were in some limbo or other, as real as those we have uttered; that the thoughts which have passed through our brains are as actual as any to which our tongues and pens have given currency. For instance, besides what is here hinted at, I have thought ever so much more about Verona : about an early Christian church I saw there ; about a reat dish of rice we had at the inn ; about the bugs there ; about ever so many more details of that day's journey from Milan to Venice ; about lake Garda, which lay on the way from Milan, and so forth. I say what fine things we have thought of, haven't we, all of us ? Ah, what a fine tragedy that was I thought of, and never wrote ! On the day of the dinner of the Oystermongers' Company, what a noble speech I thought of in the cab, and broke down-I
don't mean the cab, but the speech. Ah, if you could but read some of the unwritten Roundabout Papers—how you
would be amused! Aha! my friend, I catch you saying, "Well, then, I wish this was unwritten with all my heart.” Very good. I owe you one.
I do confess a hit, a palpable hit. One day in the past month, as I was reclining on the bench of thought, with that ocean The Times newspaper spread before me, the ocean cast up on the shore at my feet two famous subjects for Roundabout Papers, and I picked up those waifs, and treasured them away until I could polish them and bring them to market. That scheme is not to be carried out. I can't write about those subjects. And though I cannot write about them, I may surely tell what are the subjects I am going not to write about.
The first was that Northumberland Street encounter, which all the papers have narrated. Have any novelists of our days a scene and catastrophe more strange and terrible than this which occurs at noonday within a few yards of the greatest thoroughfare in Europe? At the theatres they have a new name for their melo-dramatic pieces, and call them Sensation Dramas." What a sensation Drama this is ! What have people been flocking to see at the Adelphi Theatre for the last hundred and fifty nights ? A woman pitched overboard out of a boat, and a certain Miles taking a tremendous “header," and bringing her to shore? Bagatelle! What is this compared to the real life-drama, of which a midday representation takes place just opposite the Adelphi in Northumberland Street ? The brave Dumas, the intrepid Ainsworth, the terrible Eugene Sue, the cold-shudder-inspiring "Woman in White," the astounding author of the "Mysteries of the Court of London, never invented anything more tremendous than this. It might have happened to you and me. We want to borrow a little money. We are directed to an agent. We propose a pecuniary transaction at a short date.
into the next room, as we fancy, to get the bank-notes, and returns with “ two very pretty, delicate little ivory-handled pistols," and blows a portion of our heads off. After this, what is the use of being squeamish about the probabilities and possibilities in the writing of fiction? Years ago I remember making merry over a play of Dumas, called Kean, in which the “Coal-Hole Tavern” was represented on the Thames, with a fleet of pirate-ships moored alongside. Pirate-ships? Why not? What a cavern of terror was this in Northumberland Street, with its splendid furniture covered with dust, its empty bottles, in the midst of which sits a
grim “agent,” amusing himself by firing pistols, aiming at the unconscious mantel-piece, or at the heads of his customers !
After this, what is not possible? It is possible Hungerford Market is mined, and will explode some day. Mind how you go in for a penny ice unawares. “Pray, step this way,” says a quiet person at the door. You enter-into a back room:-a quiet room ; rather a dark room. “Pray, take your place in a chair.” And she goes to fetch the penny ice. Malheureux! The chair sinks down with you—sinks, and sinks, and sinks-a large wet flannel suddenly envelopes your face and throttles you. Need we say any more? After Northumberland Street, what is improbable ? Surely there is no difficulty in crediting Bluebeard. I withdraw my last month's opinions about ogres. Ogres ? Why not? I protest I have seldom contemplated anything more terribly ludicrous than this “ agent" in the dingy splendor of this den, surrounded by dusty ormolu and piles of empty bottles, firing pistols for his diversion at the mantel-piece until his clients come in ! Is pistol-practice so common in Northumberland Street, that it passes without notice in the lodging houses there?
We spake anon of good thoughts. About bad thoughts? Is there some Northumberland Street chamber in your heart and mine, friend: close to the every-day street of life: visited by daily friends: visited by people on business ; in which affairs are transacted; jokes are uttered; wine is drunk; through which people come and go; wives and children pass; and in which murder sits unseen until the terrible moinent when he rises up and kills ? A farmer, say, has a gun over the mantel-piece in his room where he sits at his daily meals and rest: caressing his children, joking with his friends, smoking his pipe in his calm. One night the gun is taken down ; the farmer goes out: and it is a murderer who comes back and puts the piece up and drinks by that fireside.
Was he a murderer yesterday when he was tossing the baby on his knee, and when his hands were playing with his little girl's yellow hair? Yesterday there was no blood on them at all: they were shaken by honest men: have done many a kind act in their time very likely. He leans his head on one of them, the wife comes in with her anxious looks of welcome, the children are prattling as they did yesterday round the father's knee at the fire, and Cain is sitting by the embers, and Abel lies dead on the moor. Think of the gulf between now and yesterday. Oh, yesterday! Oh, the days when those two loved each other and said their prayers side by side! He goes to sleep, per