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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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I chuckled to Archimago, when I eliminated him as usual from the nothingness of my apartment next morning, upon enjoying myself in his absence. He laughed at my delight, and set me about analysing what I had seen, heard, and felt. The upshot was, that it was evident that of true pleasure I had known nothing; and the agreeable sensation I expressed, arose simply and solely from the knowledge that I had acted without his assistance, and in believing that I had deprived him of a pleasure; and this in truth was the secret of the self-satisfaction, and so-called pleasure, that abounded amongst this people in their last generation. Pleasure was malice.

I was not very well satisfied with Tenebrosa's strictures upon the "involute music of the operas;" so I took refuge in a class of composition, on which I could better speak, namely, the popular songs; and I quoted a sentence equally popular, made by a poet, about the songs of a nation accomplishing more than its statutes.

"So they can," answered Archimago, smiling, "when —when, like statutes, they can raise an army. Nevertheless, I doubt whether they could organize a standing army, like an act of Parliament. Few songs seek thus page 91 much, and certainly not the favourite ones now a days. One runs thus—

'Oh no, we never mention her,
Her name is never heard;'

and it proceeds to say—

'They tell me she is happy now.'

Another goes—

'In and out St. Stephen's Hall,
On Turkey like an eagle;
Here we make the money go,
And there we act the beagle.'

Another is—

'We've gathered shells by ocean's shore,
And when we tired we gathered no more.'

And another—

'I would I were a tatoe,
If I might be a victual;
For when Poll ate her dinner
I near her heart would settle.'

If my words are not literal, the sentiments at least are as lofty."

It was equally useless my waxing enthusiastic on the popular poetry of the age; as a sample of it, he recited the following with peculiar effect:—

"'Said I to myself, ere the cabby arrives,
And my wits are all muddled, and some would say stupid,
I'll court my gay muse, as some fond quadruped
Courted Lazarus, sick at the gateway of Dives;
For that we all know is the popular way,
In this age of advancement, this go-ahead day.
page 92 'Yes, let my reeking thought seek chums,
In the blackguarded souls, the foulest slums,
So here go we! All's fish t'our net that comes.

'Tom slit the young man from the country's pocket,
And all the green un's tanners, bobs, and wheels
Dick's claret-tapper feels,
Or lie in black Tom's patched and stinking jacket.
But soon Tom shows two disappearing heels;
For, look you! a tall Blue
Has spelled the lift, and twigged that Tommie took it,
And made that individual hook it.

'Such was the reason of Tom scuttling off,
But Dick, that fly bloke, who had blown the gaff,
Slunk up an alley, and a short time arter
Was in a snug box, swilling gin and water.
But to his stomach this was only gammon,
His appetite was whetted quite,
So when the Beak, sly covey, hove in sight,
He shared the haul with that ere pall,
Then with a prigged bob paid for veal and ham one.

'Now mark you the end of this wicked vocation,—
The Blue nailed Dick arter; all got transportation.
And take you a warning, my blades high and low,
By this tragedy verse, neither do so nor so;
Don't you peach of a chum, or try the fly go.'"

His gestures were stopped the instant the last word was out of his mouth, and he added—"Alas! no hood would suffice to cover the iniquities committed in this Sodom of the Nine."

page 93

On going to the city, behold the telegraphic message of the previous afternoon, which had been solemnly defended on the strength of electrical accuracy and speed, and many other unimpeachable grounds, such as the existence of armies in the North and South and so on, was emphatically contradicted in terms and sense. No one had doubted the despatch; no one now questioned the contradiction. I was ashamed at being guided by the popular opinion, but I always found that this course saved mo from being considered absurd.

"I see you were correct," said I to the Irrefragable Interpreter, "but I see no purpose in these false rumours."

"If the purpose had been seen it would have been defeated," replied he. "Six hours' belief in the intelligence served the object of its creation."

I would have derided Tenebrosa again, but for my immediate miscalculation.

"Refer to the history of those six hours," he continued. "You will see that a motion was made in the representative assembly to recognise, as it is called, the nationality of the South for having carried on successful rebellion. The clique which governs did not desire this. Party tactics could not preserve them at this juncture. Hence this invention, which shook and divided the hostile opposition, upset their motion, and tided over the evil day."

We had by this time arrived at our destination. The advertisement I selected was as follows:—

"A Gentleman is required as the Confidential Agent and Companion of a person of rank. Age, from 25 page 94 to 35. Acquirements, beyond writing and accounts, not material, but testimonials must be produced of orderly habits, cleanliness, and unselfishness, to leave no doubt in his employer's mind as to appropriation of trust and monies confided to him. Salary no consideration. Apply personally, with testimonials, to A. X. J.,———Court, E.C."

"Now that makes me rejoice," I cried. "It must surely be an honest announcement. I will at least be safe in submitting myself. I desire to see that nobleman. He must be kind, and good, and rich, and how much more? I shall write at once to my father's friends for testimonials, and lose no time."

"No, not even in doing that," said the Prince of Action. "We shall go at once to the court."

"But what about the testimonials?" said I. "We shall be turned out of doors if we go without what is so particularly conditioned."

"Don't trouble yourself about them; I have some here," he replied, producing a bundle of papers.

"Those! Good gracious! Why they are forgeries," I exclaimed.

"They will suit our purpose all the same," answered the Artificer of Lies. "If, after an interview, you hold to your idea of application, you can write for genuine ones, should they promise to serve you better."

We were ushered into a small, dim office, where Mr. Spidersden, middleaged, snuffy, unkempt, old-coated, greeted us.

"An applicant, as I supposed," said he, snuffing vociferously, after Archimago had introduced our business. "A remarkable situation this. Never had such page 95 a vacancy in my hands before; never. Whoever gets it with a leetle, a very leetle diplomacy, will make himself virtually master of a fine estate and two thousand a-year. You seem very likely; and—let me see your testimonials."

Mr. Spidersden fingered and snuffed the papers as if they contained a legacy for him.

"Very good, very good," said ho. "The best I have seen. You have an undoubted character. In fact, from those convincing proofs, I can consider myself quite justified in advocating your case with the earl——I beg pardon—quite a slip of the tongue. But you know my time is valuable—is gold—and must be repaid by gold. Testimonials against testimonials are only testimonials after all, whilst a few words will effect wonders. Except—of course there are exceptions—except in the national assembly, where the case is settled beforehand and words are a cloak; everywhere else,—at the Bar, Mansion House, &c.,—words will do a great deal. But they have to be paid for, sir; they have to be paid for. In your case a trifle will do in the first case, say twenty pounds."

"I am aware of the rule," said the Subtle Paramount. "We were only passing at present, and thought we would just call in. To-morrow morning we shall come with the needful. I suppose that will do?"

"Oh, quite well," answered Mr. Spidersden. "I have not to see his—excuse me—till to-morrow afternoon; but before twelve, if you can, or it may be too late."

On coming out, I expressed my delight at the good prospect I had, and wondered only how I should raise the money.

page 96

"And would you really throw it away?" remarked the Mighty Seer. "Listen. The man's plan is very simple. You will pay him twenty pounds. In two days more he will say that he has advanced you a great step, and then ask for another twenty; and so on, week by week, till you are plundered of money, and—worse loss still—of hope. Then he will throw you off altogether."

" Should we try to get at the earl himself?" I asked.

"Do you suppose that there is such an individual?"

"Why, is there not? Well, the duplicity of this man is as black as——"

"Mine," mildly added the lord of the earth and the intermediate world.

"Yes, I forget," said I, chagrined. "Yet you outdid him with those testimonials."

"Oh, ho! Then you think he was deceived. Deceive not yourself. He looked at them curiously, did he? Why, the man is half blind, and could not read a line of them without spectacles. He suspected they were as false, as much as you knew they were. He himself set up in business ten years ago, and in his circulars—printed and sent amongst all merchants—he gave false references as to his wealth and position."

"And was it not detected at once?"

"Not to this moment."

"How was that?"

"Why, the names were of such eminence. The very Enfantdor was amongst them; and, as might be thought, no one dared to question the fraud, lest they should impeach that name."

This double-dealing extortioner put me sadly out of page 97 sorts. Archimago, however, led me hack to the focus of speculation, and on looking a while down the columns of the newspapers, I summoned courage to observe that the following must be written by a man of a different character:—

"Wanted, a Clerk to a Cotton Mill, erected in a lonely suburban retreat. Majestic woods in the neighbourhood allow of pleasant musings, after the time of daily duty, during the silent hours of darkness; whilst a brook runs along, sounding musically over the refuse of stones left by the builders. The hour for commencing the diurnal vocations will afford the privilege of beholding the sun arise from his gorgeous couch during the greater part of the year. The mental operations in the office will strengthen the mind by application, without rendering it erratic by presenting before it a variety of subjects. A very slight remuneration will be desired by the advertiser for naming the benevolent proprietor of the mills, who employs half the rural swains and maidens of the district; and, by his enterprise, renders the scenery more picturesque."

"Oh, that gentleman who advertises," said Archimago, "will only ask you two hundred pounds, cash down; for he calls, believes, and would make this the golden age."