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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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I did not speak to Archimago, as we retraced our steps to the City. I was occupied with moody reflections, and when he would have disturbed me with remarks on the different humours of passers-by, I bade him begone.

No musical twang, obnoxious perfume, or shaking of the elements, accompanied his disappearance; but he was lost in an instant, as any man is lost, behind a corner.

Half-a-dozen solitary hours, convinced me of the fact, that brooding upon an unhappy topic will not improve it, but will vastly deteriorate oneself. And, about ten o'clock in the evening, I was only too glad to have some one to call upon, though he was of spiritual essence. So, by mystic signs and words, which a few lingering seeds of civilisation in our tribes makes it dangerous for me to reveal, I called forth the Arch-Demon.

My first enquiry was, whether he could show me something that could bid dull care avaunt.

"It is impossible," he replied. "The existence of good would grieve you, from the sad circumstances with which it is surrounded. The devotees of mirth will shock you, in the exposure that I must make, of their page 32 falseness and vanity. Nevertheless, this will prove the best relaxation you can find. Come,—it is exactly the hour at which a notable subject of mine invites a score of people he does not know, and three score whom he hates, to gain a reputation, that none will give him credit for, till some scribe shall indite lines upon his decease; let us away, to the Eleusinian mysteries."

It was a large house, and every room was lighted up and utilised. There were near as many servants as guests. The large doors in front were thrown open. Carriages filled the whole street, and the entrance of their occupants, gave the scene the appearance of a fancy ball.

Delight was painted on every face. When the host, the hostess, and their friends, greeted each other, their ecstasy was as unbounded as it may be expected to be, when they meet in the bowers of Elysium, bathed in airs of unalloyed and perpetual bliss.

The host appeared to recognise my Familiar as a very intimate friend: and I was cordially received as his acquaintance.

We were introduced into the principal saloon, which, to my eyes, was gorgeous in the extreme, and fitted for the presence of Venus and the Graces. They seemed, indeed, coming now to consecrate the place, with brilliancy, beauty, and smiles.

I turned—and the Spirit was gone.

"Oh, ho!" thought I, "you are deceived for once. Here is a company, where your art finds no disciples. All is genial and innocent hilarity."

Shortly, my attention was attracted by three persons, near the centre of the room. One was a handsome page 33 girl, of eighteen years of age. Beside her, a young man, a couple of years older,—who had attended her the whole of the evening, wrapt up in her sweet presence;—was drooping his head abashed, whilst a gentleman, apparently ten years his senior, talked very volubly to the lady, and laughed, and rolled his eyes singularly. The girl was extremely delighted, and quite neglected her lover, for this new acquaintance.

This gentleman soon left them, and passed from one group to another, talking, laughing, and rolling his eyes ceaselessly. He was a great favourite with all, and I was anxious to converse with him, that I might be amused as well as others, and try to discover the method by which he pleased so universally. At last he came up to me.

"A very merry party," said he.

"Indeed it is," I answered, "and you appear the merriest of them all, and the very genius of merriment."

He looked at me with a laughing face, and our eyes met. It was a flash, and a recognition.

Archimago stood before me, in his second character.

He was rather stouter than he had previously appeared; but in height, and in the shape of his limbs, he was exactly the same. The contour of his legs, by reason of his tailor's device, was impalpable to the casual glance; I saw at once, however, that he was not envied by the dancers—although, the ladies did desire him for a partner. His dress was as expensive as any in the room; but it was so modest, as to be outrivalled by nearly all, at half the cost. The great change was in his lustiness, complexion, and manner. He was page 34 ruddy, with sandy hair,—in a few artificial top curls,—and wore bushy whiskers and moustache, reddish and thick. His cheeks were filled up. His eyes were slightly protuberant, and of a hazel colour. The explanation he had given me of his former character—which I denominate Tenebrosa, for good reasons,—caused me to examine him, for myself, in the present one,—which I call Sanguinosa, for the same.

He laughed at everything that was said by others, or by himself. To my mind, he laughed by the force of his stomach; nevertheless, it had a marvellous effect. He, simultaneously, rolled his eyes significantly on those he talked with, and the look and the laugh together, caused all around, and the laugh itself those within hearing (and it reached every corner) to join in the laugh's melodious ring-a-ding-dong-ding. He sounded the key-note, and immediately Comus's psalmody commenced.

The jokes that flitted about,—engendered in the bogs of dulness,—would not bear repetition, much less printing. They were the will-o'-the-wisps, the signal lamps, the summer lightnings, the coruscations, tickling straws, and wether-bells, of the general conversation; and Sanguinosa did not produce even emulation in his speech. All laughed,—laughed at their own laughter,—and rejoiced in their individual greatness, and in him who bestowed it on them. The young lady whispered to her lover, "what a delightful fellow." The lover, without jealousy for once, said he was, and wished him to come back again—she in heart wished the same. So thought and wished every one.

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Every one—except one. This, was a young gentleman, well formed, magnificently dressed, fluent of speech, and witty withal. All these availed him nothing. The gentlemen avoided him as dangerous; and the ladies were cool with him, for he was engaged, He came, lingered lax and loveless, and vanished early, like an apparition.

"Look at that Diana in white, and that Vestal in blue," whispered Archimago. "Hark, how they talk to that Venus, and praise her flame-coloured silk. She leaves them now, and they say to each other, 'How hideous she looks in that dress.'—Ha! ha! ha!—My laugh attracts them : they laugh, too, as if they loved every one."

"Venus, herself, has told them she hates Adonis. The truth is, Adonis slighted her at the last ball. See! she has met him; he has just been jilted by Cleopatra there with the pearls. How delighted he is to meet Venus; she nestles up to him, and seems almost inclined to fondle.—Ha! ha! ha!—They hear me, and both laugh. How sincerely and innocently they laugh.'

"Cleopatra, observe, is pouring praise into Cecilia's ear, for that medley she has just played. She speaks to Anthony, on the same subject. 'It is a pity,' says she, 'people don't know when they have neither fingers nor ears for music.'"

"Anthony speaks to the host: 'Sir, the princely entertainment you have given, deserves public praise. It is the finest of the season.' The host rubs his hands—looks—why, it is my look he looks, with his fishified eyes—and he feebly rejects the praise, with his stam- page 36 mering tongue.—Ha! ha! ha!—Ah, they hear it, and how hospitably and jovially they do laugh."

"Anthony goes to Cæsar, Brutus, Epicurus, and Petronius Arbiter. 'Curse his stinginess,' says he; 'all his wine is fit only for the ladies; that third-rate port has nearly made me sick.' 'And, by Jove, he has no champagne,' replies Cæsar. 'His claret is the worst I've ever tasted,' sighs Brutus. 'There's nothing better to eat than hog's meat,' mourns Epicurus. 'It's wretched, indigestible work,' weeps Petronius.—Ha! ha! ha!—Yes; that's it. They do laugh egregiously and well satisfied."

"Now, the host is talking to his wife. 'Confound their praise,' says he: 'a tenth part of my year's income has gone to-night. There's Helena's dress, alone, has cost a hundred pounds, and the Prince de Paris hasn't come. It's all worse than lost. Everything is too good for this set. They devour like boa-constrictors, and swallow like leviathans of the deep.'"