« AnteriorContinuar »
going on, in which Rinkle was judge, Brown prisoner at the bar, and F. Daw, Esq., counsel for the accused, 'I only wish I could think of a motive, or that he had stated one in his letter.'
‘Hams,' suggested the learned counsel. The Judge shook his head.
Dividends, Cribbs mildly volunteered.
Rinkle still shook his head : 'No, gentlemen, the objects you mention are worthy of an effort, but either of them could be attained without the sacrifices our friend has imposed upon himself. I must look for some higher motive. It may be there is some trait in the character of the pig, as yet unobserved by ourselves, but revealed to Brown, calculated, if developed, to enlist our intellectual sympathies. I remember reading somewhere that Luther occasionally passed an hour in company with his swine, and found the change agreeable after severe polemics. Whether Brown would have chosen any such relief from the society of books, I cannot venture to decide. Certainly I can hardly think he would select it after the enjoyment of such social privileges as this metropolis affords.'
'I tell you what it is,' said Cribbs, who suddenly seemed to remember some interesting fact, there's good pluck in a pig.'
Of course there is,' said Fred ; 'the negroes are very fond of it, and esteem it a rare delicacy, although'
'Pshaw! I don't mean that, but grit - courage. The celebrated fighting-pig, Pape, whipped one dog after another with perfect ease; I saw him do it.'
'An exception to the general rule,' remarked Rinkle. 'Pigs are generally faint-hearted, inasmuch as they are generally hungry. Man may be valorous after dinner, but swine recognize no such period of existence. With them, life is one continued ante-prandium.
But, my dear Rinkle,' I here ventured to ask, 'why look for some improbable and recondite motive for Brown's conduct, which I understand to consist merely in rearing a certain number of swine? I certainly cannot see why honest efforts to bring good pork to market do not constitute as laudable an occupation as any. Although Burton pronounces pork to be melancholy food, it certainly has operated very materially to give any thing but a gloomy expression to the face of our whole western country. As forming one of our chief staples, pigs may be said to have built many of our cities, enlarged our canals, extended our rail-roads, and turned our prairies into corn-fields.
All true,' said Rinkle, “but material, very material.' 'And if,' I continued, the common article of merchandise — pork of no rare breed, or choice feeding - forms such a universal dish, and deserves respect from its popularity, how much more importance does it assume when, by judicious cross-breeding and dainty nurture, the flesh becomes etherealized, as I may say, and even the mature hog is as great a delicacy as the young and tender suckling under a year old,'over which Charles Lamb went into such raptures.'
'I remember,' said Rinkle: 'a dainty description is that, and worthy of the subject. One paragraph I shall never forget :
""There is no flavor comparable, I will contend, to that of the crisp, tawny, wellwatched, not over-roasted crackling, as it is well called: the very teeth are invited to VOL, XLII.
their share of the pleasure of this banquet, in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance, with the adhesive oleaginous-Oh! call it not fat! but an indefinable sweetness growing up to it; the tender blossoming of fat; fat cropped in the bud, taken in the shoot, in the first innocence; the cream and quintessence of the child-pig's yet pure food; the lean- — no lean, but a kind of animal manna, or, rather, fat and lean, (if it must be so,) so blended and running into each other that both together make but one ambrosian result, a common substance.'
“Yes, Rinkle,' I observed, ' you have there quoted a passage that might almost persuade a man to embark in the business of pig-breeding, and endeavor after perennial litters. But Lamb was guilty of slandering the adult animal, and overlooking his capacities for carnal improvement. A well-born shote, judiciously developed by green vegetables and grain, and matured upon chestnuts, forms no mean dish; and if you will turn to the London Quarterly for January, 1853, which is on the table near you, you will find a few lines I have marked in an article on the Cloister Life of Charles V., which gives you an idea of pork as it should be, and which might, I think, make an epicure regret that he did not live in Spain in the sixteenth century.
Rinkle found the article, and read as follows:
Yet if Spaniards have written their annals true, these said Belgians and Hollanders looked plump and fair, and fed as voraciously as if they had been Jews, upon the uno tuous hams and griskins of Montanches. Estremadura is indeed a porcine pays de Cocagne; an Elysium of the pig; a land overflowing with savory snakes for his summer improvement, and with sweet acorns for his autumnal perfectionment; whence results a flesh fitter for demi-gods than Dutchmen, and a fat tinted like melted topazes - a morsel for cardinals and wise men of the West.'
Fred Daw was on his feet in an instant. He had writhed with gusto while Rinkle repeated the roast-pig paragraph, but he could now contain himself no longer. He flung his cigar in the fire, and requested that that bit of writing might be served over again ; after which he ordered John to go immediately down stairs and bring up a bottle of that celebrated Topaz sherry, and glasses for four.
It was after we had drunk to Brown, to Spanish pigs, and to the reviewer unknown, that Rinkle informed me that, however pertinent I might have considered my observations, they had no relevancy whatever to the case in hand; that Brown's pigs had not been of the same breed, by any means, as those in the Review; that he had not attempted their perfectionment on snakes and acorns; that they had been objects rather of pity than admiration; that, for himself, he must look for some nobler motive than had yet been suggested to account for the young
man's conduct; and that for the unpleasant facts of the case he would refer me to Cribbs, who had the letter: and thereupon our philosophic member made a dead set at all the quarterlies on the table in search of a theory.
While he was thus employed, and while Daw on the sofa was in a smiling reverie, in which floated, I dare say, visions of unctuous hams and griskins, and flesh tinted like melted topazes, Mr. Wycherly Cribbs imparted to me the leading particulars connected with the subject be
Rawdon Brown, it seems, had, for some reason only known to himself, bought, in the early summer, five hundred of those articles of merchandise known to dealers under the name of Western Store Pigs. He had passed several hours at the Bull's Head one rainy day, in the agreeable company of a most polite and well-informed gentleman, from whom he
made the purchase, and who, through all the inclemency of the weather, and all the repulsive filth of the yards, had kindly assisted him in selecting, counting, and weighing the drove. It was at this gentleman's suggestion that he chose the leanest animals, as being the best travellers, and affording the fairest field for development and improvement. It was in deference to his advice that he had stabled his fine horse at the Bull's Ilead over-night, and that he took rooms at the Bull's Head Tavern on the same evening, preparatory to the start for the country in the cool' of the next day. It was this polite gentleman who scared up,' to use his own language, half a dozen good drover-boys,' and introduced them to Mr. Brown as "uncommon careful lads with a drove; ' "it was this gentleman who received Mr. Rawdon Brown's check for nineteen hundred and ninety-nine and ninety one-hundredths' dollars, being the amount of the bill rendered for five hundred Store Pigs, weighing, as per returns, twenty-eight thousand five hundred and seventy pounds, and sold at seven cents per pound; and, furthermore, it was this gentleman whom, notwithstanding all these attentions, Mr. Brown subsequently characterized as a scamp.
Among the delights which Mr. Howard Payne had in his mind's eye when he wrote that renowned song, ‘Home, Sweet Home, I think the bed, the familiar bed, with its clean, sweet sheets, must have been upper
We approach it in our yawning, demi-apparelled state, with a fond confidence, resulting from a confirmed experience of its perfect adaptedness to our particular comfort; we sit upon it with anticipatory luxury; a thrill of pleasure rewards us for the effort of turning in'as our toe-tips touch the linen, and we draw down the coverlid at length, and hide ourselves from the world, with the soul-comforting assurance of wholesome rest, and freedom from companionship, human or entomic. Ah! in courtry-houses, in far-off cities, even in our best friend's hospitable mansion, how do we remember that bed, those immaculate sheets ! but at a tavern - Jupiter Hospitalis! do we not sometimes rather forego the relinquishment of those garments, the livery of our degenerate nature, than
Well, Mr. Brown passed the night, after his purchases, stretched upon three chairs, and thought of Procrustes and pigs, and slept but little.
Behold him on the following morning, performing the depressing feat of driving a fast horse at a slow walk, and following that squealing, straggling army of young swine; their six highly recommended but suspicious-looking young officers hallooing, running, dodging, returning, chasing deserters into the ranks, and swearing fearfully. Behold him halting in the road as he approaches some open field or turnpike-crossing; and as he stands up in his vehicle, see with what generalship he witnesses the grand deploy of his troops. Hear him shout till he is hoarse, as the left wing starts incontinently down the wrong road; the right, entering a breach in the wall, victoriously attacks an unresisting column of beardless corn; while the main body, averse to action as to fight, ingloriously conceals itself in a road-side ditch, and sits down to enjoy the mud. See him, with his raw infantry re-marshalled and on their way again, calling a halt, which the officers alone obey; and, driving into the midst of his forces, endeavor to perform the impossible task of counting them. Watch him throughout that day, and the next, and still a third ; and
after encountering the fatigue, the perplexities, the annoyances of the march; the sun, the mud, or the dust; the astonished stare of the few acquaintances, and the inquisitive leer of the many strangers he met ; the gibes of rustics, who asked if them critters took the prize at the World's Fair; the constant anxiety lest provisions or shelter should fail on the route; and the nightly fear that his barn-lodged officers would desert in disgust, and leave him at the head of his regiment alone: after all this, see him arrive at his country-home, haggard, unshaven, and travel-stained — and unless you consider him a fool
, or infatuated, you must agree with Rinkle that he was influenced by some higher motive than superior pork or profit.
Upon the evening of his arrival, Brown succeeded in counting his forces. He found, like Napoleon at Moscow, that his ranks had been thinned on the march. Fourteen pigs were missing.
Early the next day, he awoke. Not the sun-beams glinting through the window-panes, not the dewy call of incense-breathing morn, nor yet the cock's shrill clarion, roused him from his slumbers; but an unearthly noise - a combination of unearthly noises, singly, hideous and harrowing; together indeed, I will not repeat the strong, sub-terrene adjective he used in his letter to describe them. The pangs of purgatory seemed going on outside his window. Four hundred and
seventy hollow pigs, fierce with the gnawings of hunger, were shrieking for their breakfast.
Four hundred and seventy. Sixteen had yielded up their poor lives during the night. What they had suffered, no one can tell. Whether fatigue, whether fever and burning thirst, whether a surfeit on unaccustomed diet; or whether the maladie du pays --- a hopeless yearning for Obio, and a broken heart -- had ended their miseries, who shall say ? There they were, pain and pleasure over, stiff, cold, and dead.
And Brown, reverent as a Brahmin, ordered them to be buried decently. And he was glad when the four hundred and seventy were fed, and their howlings had subsided into grunts; and resting upon a log, while they strayed in the orchard around him, he sat wondering if any more would die, when he heard a strange cough.
He looked up, supposing it to proceed from one of his men, who stood near him; but the man seemed strong and well, and his broad chest heaved only with a healthy breathing. Still the cough continued. It came from beyond the man. Evidently a pig was in distress; too large a lump of moist meal had probably been gulped down, or a stray knife from the kitchen offal.
Humanity, no less than self-interest, was hurrying our friend to find the sufferer, when he thought he heard a remarkable echo. The cough seemed repeated from some point behind him. Perhaps it was not an echo, but another cough. He was as much bewildered as that notable donker who found himself between two thistles, and stood wavering. Just then a third cough came conveniently to his aid; and then a fourth broke out, and then two or three together; and suddenly, a husky chorus came from a corner of the orchard ; and then, coughing-time having come, as it would seem, pretty much all the company went at it, and wheezed and rasped so vigorously, that the passing traveller might have supposed himself in the vicinity of a flourishing saw-mill.
Brown stood aghast. The realization of Virgil's description was before him:
et quatit ægros Tussis anhela sues, ac faucibus angit obesis.' His men were as much perplexed as himself. They had never seen the like before, and could only suggest sulphur ás a sovereign remedy for all the ills that kind of flesh is heir to.
Over the further sufferings of these creatures let us draw a veil. For months, their infatuated owner persevered in his design, whatever that design was. If, indeed, it savored at all of speculation, it was a mournful failure, and a warning to the uninitiated. To be sure, the creatures dropped off slowly, and kept up a good appetite to the last; but, though they consumed untold bushels, corn seemed only to have the same effect upon them as upon mill-stones — to wear them out. Day after day, corpses were found in the orchard; and a post-mortem examination of the remnant that was left of the drove, in the autumn, proved that the knifo had kindly anticipated the pleurisy.
There was silence in the rooms of the Sociable Club for some moments after Cribbs had ceased. Fred Daw was in Estremadura. I could perceive by the moisture at the corners of his mouth, as he faintly smiled in his sleep, that there was a morsel of paradisiacal pork melting on his tongue. Rinkle sat in his chair, the Review to which he had last referred open on the table beside him, and himself as motionless as any petrifaction. His eyes were shut, and a casual observer might have supposed that he too slept. But I have not watched that man through a long acquaintanceship to no purpose, and I very well knew, as I saw him with his hands clasped, and the tips of bis forefingers meeting at the end of his nose, that he was in profound thought.
For full five minutes did Cribbs and I sit waiting for him to speak. At length, his eyes opened; his fingers slowly left his nose, and pointed to the figure on the sofa.
* Wake him,' said Rinkle.
Any person who has had much experience of truly civilized life, knows the difficulty of rousing a gentleman of luxurious habits and good appetite from his after-dinner slumbers, and need not be told that it was with extreme difficulty we could bring Mr. Daw's soul back from its sensual banquet to the feast of reason, with Rinkle as host.
Gen-tle-men,' said Rinkle, at length, with that distinct and emphatic utterance of each syllable, so calculated to impress the hearer with the importance of what is coming : "Gen-tle-men! the truly philosophic mind, in accounting for any phenomena, is not satisfied with a limited and conventional survey, but weighs the combined evidence of all experience, observation, and learning.
Philosophy, gentlemen, calling science to its aid, looks back, not a year, nor a century, nor yet a thousand years, but through countless ages; and forming its theories from facts, it gives to every creature the place assigned it in the mysteriously-written, but still intelligible history of Creation. Before the researches of science, (to which I bow,) preju