Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 46 of 103)
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a. winding descent, in a valley that jjossibly, and
he may say probably, was never visited by any
stranger before. What a valley ! Mountains
piled on mountains, avalanches stemmed by
pine forests ; water-falls, chalets, mountain tor-
rents, wooden bridges, every conceivable picture
of Swiss scenery ! The whole village turned out
to receive our bore. The peasant girls kissed
him, the men shook hands with him, one old
lady of benevolent appearance wept upon his
breast. He was conducted, in a primitive tri-
,umph, to the little inn : where he was taken ill
next morning, and lay for six weeks, attended
by the amiable hostess (the same benevolent
old lady who had wept overnight) and her
charming daughter, Fanchette. It is nothing to
say that they were attentive to him ; they doted
on him. They called him, in their simple way,
i'Anoe Afii^lais — the English Angel. When our
bore left the valley, there was not a dry eye in
the place ; some of the people attended him for
rniles. He bogs and entreats of you as a per-
sonal favour, that if you ever go to Switzerland
again (you have mentioned that your last visit
was your twenty-third), you will go to that
valley, and see Swiss scenery for the first time.
And if you want really to know the pastoral
people of Switzerland, and to understand them,
mention, in that valley, our bore's name !

Our bore has a crushing brother in the East,
who, somehow or other, was admitted to smoke
pipes with Mehemet Ali, and instantly became
an authority on the whole range of Eastern
matters, from Haroun Alraschid to the present
Sultan. He is in the habit of expressing mys-
terious opinions on this wide range of subjects,
but on questions of foreign policy more particu-
larly, to our bore, in letters ; and our bore is
continually sending bits of these letters to the
newspapers (which they never insert), and carry-
ing other bits about in his pocket-book. It is
even whispered that he has been seen at the
Foreign Office, receiving great consideration
from the messengers, and having his card



promptly borne into the sanctuary of the temple.
The havoc committed in society by this Eastern
brother is beyond belief. Our bore is always
ready with him. \Ve have known our bore to
fall upon an intelligent young sojourner in the
wilderness, in the first sentence of a narrative,
and beat all confidence out of him with one
blow of his brother. He became omniscient, as
to foreign policy, in the smoking of those pipes
with Mehemet Ali. The balance of power in
Europe, the machinations of the Jesuits, the
gentle and humanising influence of Austria, the
position and prosjjccts of that hero of the noble
soul who is worshipped by happy France, are all
easy reading to our bore's brother. And our
bore is so provokingly self-denying about him !
" I don't pretend to more than a very general
knowledge of these subjects myself," says he,
after enervating the intellects of several strong
men, "but these are my brother's opinions, and
I believe he is known to be well informed."

The commonest incidents and places would
appear to have been made special, expressly for
our bore. Ask him whether he ever chanced to
walk, between seven and eight in the morning,
down St. James's Street, London, and he will
tell you, never in his life but once. But, it's
curious that that once was in eighteen thirty ;
and that as our bore was walking down the
street you have just mentioned, at the hour you
have just mentioned — half-past seven — or twenty
minutes to eight. No ! Let him be correct ! —
exactly a quarter before eight by the Palace
clock — he met a fresh-coloured, grey-haired,
good-humoured-looking gentleman, with a brown
umbrella, who, as he passed him, touched his
hat and said, " Fine morning, sir, fine morn-
ing ! " — William the Fourth !

Ask our bore whether he has seen Mr. Barry's
new Houses of Parliament, and he will reply
that he has not yet inspected them minutely,
but that you remind him that it was his singular
fortune to be the last man to see the old Houses
of Parliament before the fire broke out. It
happened in this way. Poor John S])ine, the
celebrated novelist, had taken him over to South
Lambeth to read to him the last few chapters of
what was certainly his best book — as our bore
told him at the time, adding, '•' Now, my dear
John, touch it, and you'll spoil it!" — and our
bore was going back to the club by way of
Millbank antl Parliament Street, when he stopped
to think of Canning, and look at the Houses
of Parliament. Now, you know far more of the
philosophy of Mintl than our bore does, and are
much better able to explain to him than he is to
explain to you why or wherefore, at that par-



HE HAS HAD A DREADFUL ILLNESS.



237



ticular time, the thought of fire should come
into his head. But it did. It did. He thought,
What a national calamity if an edifice connected
with so many associations should be consumed
by fire ! At that time there was not a single
soul in the street but himself All was quiet,
dark, and solitary. After contemplating the
building for a minute — or, say a minute and a
half, not more — our bore proceeded on his way,
mechanically repeating, What a national cala-
mity if such an edifice, connected with such

associations, should be destroyed by A

man coming towards him in a violent state of
agitation completed the sentence with the excla-
mation, Fire ! Our bore looked round, and the
whole structure was in a blaze.

In harmony and union with these experiences,
our bore never went anywhere in a steamboat
but he made either the best or the worst voyage
ever known on that station. Either he over-
heard the captain say to himself, with his hands
clasped, "'We are all lost ! " or the ca])tain openly
declared to him that he had never made such a
run before, and never should be able to do it
again. Our bore was in that express train on
that railway when they made (unknown to the
passengers) the experiment of going at the rate
of a hundred miles an hour. Our bore remarked
on that occasion to the other people in the car-
riage, " This is too fast, but sit still ! " He was
at the Norwich musical festival when the extra-
ordinary echo, for which science has been wholly
unable to account, was heard for the first and
last time. He and the bishop heard it at the
same moment, and caught each other's eye. He
was present at that illumination of St. Peter's of
which the Pope is known to have remarked, as
he looked at it out of his window in the Vatican,
" O Cielo ! Qiiesta cosa no7i sara fatta, viai an-
cora, come qiiesta ! — O Heaven ! this thing will
never be done again like this ! " He has seen
every lion he ever saw, under some remarkably
propitious circumstances. He knows there is
no fancy in it, because in every case the show-
man mentioned the fact at the time, and con-
gratulated him upon it.

At one period of his life our bore had an ill-
ness. It was an illness of a dangerous character
for society at large. Innocently remark that
you are very well, or that somebody else is very
well ; and our bore, with a preface that one
never knows what a blessing health is until one
has lost it, is reminded of that illness, and drags
you through the whole of its symptoms, pro-
gress, and treatment. Innocently remark that
you are not well, or that somebody else is not
well, and the same inevitable result ensues. You



will learn how our bore felt a tightness about
here, sir, for which he couldn't account, accom-
panied with a constant sensation as if he were
being stabbed — or rather, jobbed — that ex-
presses it more correctly — jobbed — with a blunt
knife. Well, sir ! This went on until sparks
began to flit before his eyes, water-wheels to
turn round in his head, and hammers to beat
incessantly thump, thump, thump, all down his
back — along the whole of the spinal vertebrje.
Our bore, when his sensations had come to this,
thought it a duty he owed to himself to take
advice, and he said. Now, whom shall I con-
sult ? He naturally thought of Callow, at that
time one of the most eminent physicians in
London, and he went to Callow. Callow said,
" Liver ! " and prescribed rhubarb and calomel,
low diet, and moderate exercise. Our bore went
on with this treatment, getting worse every day,
until he lost confidence in Callow, and went to
Moon, whom half the town was then mad about.
Moon was interested in the case ; to do him
justice, he was very much interested in the case ;
and he said, " Kidneys ! " He altered the whole
treatment, sir — gave strong acids, cupped, and
blistered. This went on, our bore still getting
worse every day, until he openly told Moon it
would be a satisfaction to him if he would have
a consultation with Clatter. The moment Clat-
ter saw our bore, he said, " Accumulation of fat
about the heart ! " Snugglewood, who was
called in with him, diftered, and said, " Brain ! "
But, what they all agreed upon was, to lay our
bore upon his back, to shave his head, to leech
him, to administer enormous quantities of medi-
cine, and to keep him low; so that he was re-
duced to a mere shadow, you wouldn't have
known him, and nobody considered it possible
that he could ever recover. This was his con-
dition, sir, when he heard of Jilkins — at that
period in a very small practice, and living in the
upper part of a house in Great Portland Street ;
but still, you understand, with a rising reputation
among the few people to whom he was known.
Being in that condition in which a drowning
man catches at a straw, our bore sent for Jilkins.
Jilkins came. Our bore liked his eye, and said,
"Mr. Jilkins, I have a presentiment that you
will do me good." Jilkins's reply was charac-
teristic of the man. It was, "Sir, I mean to do
you good." This confirmed our bore's opinion
of his eye, and they went into the case together
— went completely into it. Jilkins then got up,
walked across the room, came back, and sat
down. His words were these. " You have
been humbugged. This is a case of indigestion,
occasioned by deficiency of power in the Sto-



23t>



A MONUMENT OF FRENCH FOLLY.



mach. Take a mutton chop in half an hour,
with a glass of the fmcst old sherry that can be
got for money. Take two mutton chops to-mor-
row, and two glasses of the finest old slierry.
Next day, I'll come again." In a week our
bore Avas on his legs, and Jilkins's success dates
from that period !

Our bore is great in secret information. He
happens to know many things that nobody else
knows. He can generally tell you where the split
is in the Ministry ; he knows a deal about the
Queen ; ami has little anecdotes to relate of the
royal nursery. He gives you the judge's private
opinion of Sludge the murderer, and his thoughts
when he tried him. He hapi^ens to know what
such a man got by such a transaction, and it
was fifteen thousand five hundred pounds, and
his income is twelve thousand a year. Our
bore is also great in mystery. He believes, with
an exasperating appearance of profound mean-
ing, that you saw Parkins last Sunday ? — Yes,
you did. — Did he say anything particular? — No,
nothing particular. — Our bore is surprised at
that. — Why? — Nothing. Only he understood
that Parkins had come to tell you something. —
What about ? — Well ! our bore is not at liberty
to mention what about. But, he believes you
will hear that from Parkins himself soon, and
he hopes it may not surprise you as it did him.
Perhaps, however, you never heard about Par-
kins's wife's sister ? — No. — Ah ! says our bore,
that explains it !

Our bore is also great in argument. He in-
finitely enjoys a long, humdrum, drowsy inter-
change of words of dispute about nothing. He
considers that it strengthens the mind ; conse-
quently, he " don't see that " very often. Or,
he would be glad to know what you mean by
that. Or, he doubts that. Or, he has always
understood exactly the reverse of that. Or, he
can't admit that. Or, he begs to deny that. Or,
surely you don't mean that. And so on. He
once advised us ; offered us a piece of advice,
after the fact, totally impracticable and wholly
impossible of acceptance, because it supposed
the fact, then eternally disposed of, to be yet in
abeyance. It was a dozen years ago, and to
this hour our bore benevolently wishes, in a mild
voice, on certain regular occasions, that we had
thought better of his opinion.

The instinct with which our bore finds out
another bore, and closes with him, is amazing.
We have seen him pick his man out of fifty
men in a couple of minutes. They love to go
(which they do naturally) into a slow argument
on a previously exhausted subject, and to con-
tradict eacia other, and to wear the hearers out.



without impairing their own perennial freshness
as bores. It improves the good understanding
between them, and they get together afterwards,
and bore each other amicably. Whenever we
see our bore behind a door with another bore,
we know that when he comes forth, he will
praise the other bore as one of the most intelli-
gent men he ever met. And this bringing us to
the close of what we had to say about our bore,
we are anxious to have it understood that he
never bestowed this praise on us.



A MONUMENT OF FRENCH FOLLY.

^^4W:^^ r was profoundly observed by a witty
^^iMf;/ member of the Court of Common
(MSi I S|?ll Council, in Council assembled in the
lj^^^^~W City of London, in the year of our
'A^^^^^ Lord one thousand eight hundred
^^j% and fifty, that the French are a frog-
^^ eating people, who wear wooden shoes.
^ We are credibly informed, in reference

to the nation whom this choice spirit so happily
disposed of, that the caricatures and stage repre-
sentations which were current in England some
half a century ago, exactly depict their present
condition. For example, we understand that
every Frenchman, without exception, wears a
pigtail and curl-papers. That he is extremely
sallow, thin, long-faced, and lantern-jawed. That
the calves of his legs are invariably undeveloped ;
that his legs fail at the knees, and that his
shoulders are always higher than his ears. We
are likewise assured that he rarely tastes any
food but soupe maigre, and an onion ; that he
always says, " By Gar ! Aha ! Vat you tell me,
Sare ? " at the end of every sentence he utters ;
and that the true generic name of his race is the
Mounseers, or the Parly-voos. If he be not a
dancing-master, or a barber, he must be a cook ;
since no other trades but those three are con-
genial to the tastes of the people, or permitted
by the Institutions of the country. He is a slave,
of course. The ladies of France (who are also
slaves) invariably have their heads tied up in
Belcher handkerchiefs, wear long ear-rings, carry
tambourines, and beguile the weariness of their
yoke by singing in head voices through their
noses — principally to barrel-organs.

It may be generally summed up, of this in-
ferior people, that they have no idea of any-
thing.

Of a great Institution like Smithfield they are
unable to form the least conception. A i3east



THE JOLL V OLD ENGLISH ROAST BEEF.



'39



Market in the heart of Paris would be regarded
an impossible nuisance. Nor have they any
notion of slaughter-houses in the midst of a city.
One of these benighted frog-eaters would scarcely
understand your meaning, if you told him of the
existence of such a British bulwark.

It is agreeable, and perhaps pardonable, to
indulge in a little self-complacency when our
right to it is thoroughly established. At the
present time, to be rendered memorable by a
linal attack on that good old market which is
the (rotten) apple of the Corporation's eye, let
us compare ourselves, to our national delight
and pride as to these two subjects of slaughter-
house and beast-market, with the outlandish
foreigner.

The blessings of Smithfield are too w^ell under-
stood to need recapitulation ; all who run (away
from mad bulls and pursuing oxen) may read.
Any market-day they may be beheld in glorious
action. Possibly the merits of our slaughter-
houses are not yet quite so generally appre-
ciated.

Slaughter-houses, in the large towns of Eng-
land, are always (wiUi the exception of one or
two enterprising towns) most numerous in the
most densely crowded places, where there is the
least circulation of air. They are often under-
ground, in cellars ; they are sometimes in close
back-yards ; sometimes (as in Spitalfields) in the
very shops where the meat is sold. Occasionally,
under good private management, they are ven-
tilated and clean. For the most part, they are
unventilated and dirty ; and, to the reeking
walls, putrid fat and other offensive animal
matter cling with a tenacious hold. The busiest
slaughter-houses in London are in the neigh-
bourhood of Smithfield, in Newgate Market, in
Whitechapel, in Newport Market, in Leadenhall
Market, in Clare Market. All these places are
surrounded by houses of a poor description,
swarming Avith inhabitants. Some of them are
close to the worst burial-grounds in London.
When the slaughter-house is below the ground,
it is a common practice to throw the sheep down
areas, neck and crop — which is exciting, but not
at all cruel. When it is on the level surface, it
is often extremely difficult to approach. Then,
the beasts have to be worried, and goaded, and
pronged, and tail-twisted, for a long time before
they can be got in — which is entirely owing to
their natural obstinacy. When it is not difficult
of approach, but is in a foul condition, what they
see and scent makes them still more reluctant
to enter — which is their natural obstinacy again.
When they do get in at last, after no trouble and
suffering to speak of (for, there is nothing in



the previous journey into the heart of London,
the night's endurance in Smithfield, the struggle
out again, among the crowded multitude, the
coaches, carts, waggons, omnibuses, gigs, chaises,
phaetons, cabs, trucks, dogs, boys, whoopings,
roarings, and ten thousand other distractions),
they are represented to be in a most unfit state
to be killed, according to microscopic examina-
tions made of their fevered blood by one of the
most distinguished physiologists in the world,
Professor Owen — but that's humbug. When
they are killed, at last, their reeking carcases
are hung in impure air, to become,' as the same
Professor will explain to you, less nutritious and
more unwholesome — but he is only an ////com-
mon counsellor, so don't mind //////. In half a
quarter of a mile's length of Whitechapel, at
one time, there shall be six hundred newly
slaughtered oxen hanging up, and seven hundred
sheep — but, the more the merrier — proof of
prosperity. Hard by Snow Hill and Warwick
Lane, you shall see the little children, inured to
sights of brutality from their birth, trotting along
the alleys, mingled with troops of horribly busy
pigs, up to their ankles in blood — but it makes
the young rascals hardy. Into the imperfect
sewers of this overgrown city, you shall have
the immense mass of* corruption, engendered by
these practices, lazily thrown out of sight, to
rise, in poisonous gases, into your house at
night, when your sleeping children will most
readily absorb them, and to find its languid way,
at last, into the river that you drink — but, the
French are a frog-eating people who wear wooden
shoes, and it's Oh the roast beef of England, my
boy, the jolly old English roast beef.

It is quite a mistake— a new-fangled notion
altogether — to suppose that there is any natural
antagonism between putrefaction and health.
They know better than that in the Common
Council. You may talk about Nature, in her
wisdom, always warning man, through his sense
of smell, when he draws near to something dan-
gerous ; but, that won't go down in the City.
Nature very often don't mean anything. Mrs.
Quickly says that prunes are ill for a green
wound ; but whosoever says that putrid animal
substances are ill for a green wound, or for
robust vigour, or for anything or for anybody, is a
humanity-monger and a humbug. Britons never,
never, never, &c., therefore. And prosperity to
cattle-driving, cattle-slaughtering, bone-crushing,
blood -boiling, trotter -scraping, tripe -dressing,
paunch-cleaning, gut-spinning, hide-preparing,
tallow-melting, and other salubrious proceedings,
in the midst of hospitals, churchyanls, work-
houses, schools, infirmaries, refuges, dwellings,



240



A MONUMENT OF FRENCH FOLLY.



provision shops, nurseries, sick beds, every stage
and baiting-place in the journey from birth to
death !

These ///^common counsellors, your Professor
Owens and fellows, will contend that to tolerate
these things in a civilised city is to reduce it to
a worse condition than Bruce found to prevail
in Abyssinia. For, there (say they) the jackals
and wild dogs came at night to devour the offal ;
whereas here there are no such natural sca-
vengers, and quite as savage customs. Further,
they will demonstrate that nothing in Nature is
intended to be wasted, and that, besides the
■waste which such abuses occasion in the articles
of health and life — main sources of the riches of
any community — they lead to a prodigious Avaste
of changing matters, which might, with proper
preparation, and under scientific direction, be
safely api)lied to the increase of the fertility of
the land. Thus (they argue) does Nature ever
avenge infractions of her beneficent laws, and so
surely as Man is determined to warp any of her
blessings into curses, shall they become curses,
and shall he suffer heavily. But, this is cant.
Just as it is cant of the worst description to say
to the London Corporation, " How can you
exhibit to the people so plain a spectacle of dis-
honest equivocation, as to claim the right of
holding a market in the midst of the great city,
for one of your vested privileges, when you know
that when your last market-holding charter was
granted to you by King Charles the First,
Smithfield stood in the Suburbs of London,
and is in that very charter so described in those
five words ? " — which is certainly true, but has
nothing to do with the question.

Now to the comparison, in these particulars of
civilisation, between the capital of England, and
the capital of that frog-eating and wooden-shoe
wearing country which the illustrious Common
Councilman so sarcastically settled.

In Paris there is no Cattle Market. Cows
and calves are sold within the city, but the
Cattle Markets are at Poissy, about thirteen
miles off, on a line of railway ; and at Sceaux,
about five miles off. The Poissy market is held
every Thursday; the Sceaux market, every Mon-
day. In Paris there are no slaughter-houses, in
our acceptation of the term. There are five
public Abattoirs — within the walls, though in
the suburbs — and in these all the slaughtering
for the city must be performed. They are
managed by a Syndicat or Guild of Butchers,
who confer with the Minister of the Interior on
all matters affecting the trade, and wlio are con-
sulted when any new regulations are contem-
plated for its government. They are, likewise,



under the vigilant superintendence of the police.
Every butcher must be licensed : which proves
him at once to be a slave, for we don't license;
butchers in England — we only license apothe-
caries, attorneys, postmasters, publicans, hawkers,
retailers of tobacco^ snuff, pepper, and vinegar
— and one or two other little trades not worth
mentioning. Every arrangement in connection
with the slaughtering and sale of meat is matter
of strict police regulation. (Slavery again, though
we certainly have a general sort of a Police Act
here.)

But, in order that the reader may understand
what a monument of folly these frog-eaters have
raised in their abattoirs and cattle-markets, and
may compare it with what common counselling
has done for us all these years, and would still
do but for the innovating spirit of the times,
here follows a sliort account of a recent visit to
these places :

It was as sharp a February morning as you
would desire to feel at your fingers' ends when I
turned out — tumbling over a chiffonnier with
his little basket and rake, who was picking up
the bits of coloured paper that had been swept
out, overnight, from a Bon-bon shop — to take
the Butchers' Train to Poissy, A cold dim light
just touched the high roofs of the Tuileries which
have seen such changes, such distracted crowds,
such riot and bloodshed ; and they looked as
calm, and as old, all covered with white frost,



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 46 of 103)