Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

She sleeps; her breathings are not heard

In palace chambers far apart; The fragrant tresses are not stirred

That lie upon her charmed heart. She sleeps; on either side up swells

The gold fringed pillow lightly press'd; She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells

A perfect form in perfect rest.

Alfred Tennyson,

THE BEETLE.

Pjob hobbling beetle, needat not haste;
Should traveller traveller thus alarm?
Pursue thy journey through the waste.
Not foot of mine shall work thee harm.

Who knows what errand grave thou hurt:
"Small family"—that have not dined?
Lodged under pebble, there they fast,
Till head of house have raised the wind.

, Man's bread lies 'mong the feet of men; For cark and moil sufficient cause!
Who cannot sow would reap ;—and then
In Beetledom are no poor-laws.

And if thy wife and thou agree
But ill, as like when short of victual,
I swear, the public sympathy
Thy fortune meriteth, poor beetle,

Alas, and I snould do thee skaith,
To realms of night with heeltap send J
Who judg'd thee worthy pains of death V
On earth, save me, without a friend!

Pasb on, poor beetle, venerable
Art thou, were wonders ne'er so rife;
Thou hast what Bel to Tower of Babel
Not gave: the chief of wonders—i int.

Aiho of " ancient family,"
Though small in size, of feature dark!
What Debrett's peer surpasseth thee?
Thy ancestor was in Noah's ark.

Fraser's Mag, THE INCOGNITO; OR, COUNT FITZ-HUM.*

The town-council were sitting, and in gloomy silence; alternately they looked at each other, and at the official order (that morning received), which reduced their perquisites and salaries by one-half. At length the chief burgomaster rose, turned the mace-bearer out of the room, and bolted the door. That worthy man, however, was not so to be baffled: old experience in acoustics had taught him where to apply his ear with most advantage in cases of the present emergency ; and as the debate soon rose from a humming of gentle dissent to the stormy pitch of downright quarrelling, he found no difficulty in assuaging the pangs of his curiosity. The council he soon learned, were divided as to the course to be pursued on their common calamity; whether formally to remonstrate or not, at the risk of losing their places; indeed, they were divided on every point except one, and that was, contempt for the political talents of the new prince, who could begin his administration upon a principle so monstrous as that of retrenchment.

At length, in one of the momentary pauses of the hurricane, the council distinguished the sound of two vigorous fists playing with the utmost energy upon the panels of the door outside. "What presumption is this?" exclaimed the chairman, immediately leaping up. However, on opening the door, it appeared that the fury of the summons was dictated by no failure in respect, but by absolute necessity: necessity has no law: and any more reverential knocking could have had no chance of being audible. The person outside was Mr Commissioner Pig; and his business was to communicate a despatch of pressing importance which he had that moment received by express.

"First of all, gentlemen," said the pursy commissioner, "allow me to take breath:" and, seating himself, he began to wipe his forehead. Agitated with the fear of some unhappy codicil to the unhappy testament already received, the members gazed anxiously at the open letter which he held in his hand; and the chairman, unable to control his impatience, made a grasp at it: "Permit me, Mr Pig."—" No!" said Mr Pig: "it is the postscript only which concerns the council: wait one moment, and I will have the honour of reading it myself." Thereupon he drew out his spectacles; and, adjusting them with provoking coolness, slowly and methodically proceeded to read as follows: " We open our letter to acquaint you with a piece of news which has just come to our knowledge, and which it will be important for your town to learn as soon as possible. • From the German of Schulzo'

His Serene Highness has resolved on visiting the remoter provinces of his new dominions immediately: he means to preserve the strictest incognito; and we understand will travel under the name of Count Fitz-Hum, and will be attended only by one gentleman of the bed-chamber, viz., Mr Von Hoax. The carriage he will use on this occasion is a plain landau, the body painted dark blue; and for his highness in particular, you will easily distinguish him by his superb whiskers. Of course we need scarcely suggest to you, that if the principal hotel of your town should not be in comme-U-faut order, it will be proper to meet the illustrious traveller on his entrance with an offer of better accommodations in one of the best private mansions, amongst which your own is reputed to stand foremost. Your town is to have the honour of his first visit; and on this account you will be much envied, and the eyes of all the country turned upon you."

"Doubtless: most important intelligence!" said the chairman"but who is your correspondent?"—" The old and eminent house of Wassermuller and Co.; and I thought it my duty to communicate the information without delay."

"To be sure, to be sure: and the council is under the greatest obligation to you for the service."

So said all the rest: for they all viewed in the light of a providential interference on behalf of the old system of fees, perquisites, and salaries, this opportunity so unexpectedly thrown in their way of winning the prince's favour. To make the best use of this opportunity, however, it was absolutely necessary that their hospitalities should be on the most liberal scale. On that account, it was highly gratifying to the council that Commissioner Pig loyally volunteered the loan of his house. Some drawback undoubtedly it was on this pleasure, that Commissioner Pig, in his next sentence, made known that he must be paid for his loyalty. However, there was no remedy; and his demands were acceded to. For not only was Pighouse the only mansion in the town at all suitable for the occasion, but it was also known to be so, in the prince's capital, as clearly appeared from the letter which had just been read—at least when read by Pig himself.

All being thus arranged, and the council on the point of breaking up, a sudden cry of " Treason!" was raised by a member; and the mace-bearer was detected skulking behind an arm-chair, perfidiously drinking in the secrets of the state. He was instantly dragged out, the enormity of his crime displayed to him (which under many wise governments, the chairman assured him, would have been punished with the bowstring or instant decapitation,) and after being amerced in a considerable fine, which paid the first instalment of the Piggian demand, he was bound over to inviolable secrecy by an oath of great solemnity. This oath, on the suggestion of a member, was afterwards administered to the whole of the senate in rotation, as also to the commissioner: which done, the council adjourned.

"Now, my dear creatures," said the commissioner to his wife and daughter, on returning home, " without a moment's delay send for the painter, the upholsterer, the cabinet-maker, also for the butcher, the fishmonger, the poulterer, the confectioner: in one half-hour let each and all be at work; and at work let them continue all day and all night."

"At work! but what for? what for, Pig?"

"And, do you hear, as quickly as possible," added Pig, driving them out of the room.

"But what for?" they both repeated, re-entering atanother door.

Without vouchsafing any answer, however, the commissioner went on:—" and let the tailor, the shoemaker, the milliner, the

"The fiddlestick end, Mr Pig. I insist upon knowing what all this is about."

"No matter what, my darling. Sic volo, sicjtibeo: stat pro ratione voluntas."

"Hark you, Mr Commissioner. Matters are at length come to a crisis. You have the audacity to pretend to keep a secret from your lawful wife. Hear, then, my fixed determination. At this moment there is a haunch of venison roasting for dinner. The cook is so ignorant that, without my directions, the haunch will be scorched to a cinder. Now I swear that, unless you instantly reveal to me this secret without any reservation whatever, I will resign the venison to its fate. I will, by all that is sacred!"

The venison could not be exposed to a more fiery trial than was Mr Commissioner Pig; the venison, when alive and hunted, could not have perspired more profusely, nor trembled in more anguish. But there was no alternative. His " morals " gave way before " his passions;" and after binding his wife and daughter by the general oath of secrecy, he communicated the state mystery. By the same or similar methods so many other wives assailed the virtue of their husbands, that in a few hours the limited scheme of secrecy adopted by the council was realized on the most extensive scale: for before nightfall, not merely a few members of the council, but every man, woman, and child, in the place, had been solemnly bound over to inviolable secrecy.

Meantime some members of the council, who had an unhappy leaning to infidelity, began to suggest doubts on the authenticity of the commissioner's news. Of old time he had been celebrated for the prodigious quantity of secret intelligi nee which his letters communicated, but not equally for its quality. Too often it stood in unhappy contradiction to the official news of the public journals. But then, on such occasions, the commissioner would exclaim, " What then? Who would believe what newspapers say? No man of sense believes a word the newspapers say." Agreeably to which hypothesis, upon various cases of obstinate discord between his letters and the gazettes of Europe, some of which went the length of point-blank contradiction, unceremoniously giving the lie to each other, he persisted in siding with the former: peremptorily refusing to be talked into a belief of certain events which the rest of Europe have long ago persuaded themselves to think matter of history.. The battle of Leipsic, for instance, he treats to this hour as a mere idle chimera of politicians. "Pure hypochondriacal fiction!" says he. "No such affair could ever have occurred, as you may convince yourself by looking at my private letters: they make no allusion to any transaction of that sort, as you will see at once: none whatever." Such being the character of the commissioner's private correspondence, several councilmen were disposed, on reflection, to treat his recent communication as very questionable and apocryphal; amongst whom was the chairman or chief burgomaster ; and the next day he walked over to Pig-house for the purpose of expressing his doubts. The commissioner was so much offended, that the other found it advisable to apologize with some energy. "I protest to you," said he, "that as a private individual I am fully satisfied: it is only in my public capacity that I took the liberty of doubting. The truth is, our town-chest is miserably poor: and wo would not wish to go to the expense of a new covering for the council-table upon a false alarm. Upon my honour, it was solely upon patriotic grounds that I sided with the sceptics." The commissioner scarcely gave himself the trouble of accepting his apologies. And indeed at this moment the burgomaster had reason himself to feel ashamed of his absurd scruples: for in rushed a breathless messenger to announce, that the blue landau and the gentleman with the " superb whiskers" had just passed through the north-gate. Yes: Fitz-Hum and Von Hoax were positively here : not coming, but come; and the profanest sceptic could no longer presume to doubt. For whilst the messenger yet spoke, the wheels of Fitz-Hum's landau began to hum along the street. The chief burgomaster fled in affright; and with him fled the shades of infidelity.

This was a triumph, a providential coup-de-theatre, on the side of the true believers: the orthodoxy of the Piggian Commercium Epistalkum was now for ever established. Nevertheless, even in this great moment of his existence, Pig felt that he was not happy—not perfectly happy; something was stillleft to desire; something which reminded him that he was mortal. "Oh! why,"said he, "why,

« AnteriorContinuar »