Bon-Bon. By Edgar Allan Poe Follow story

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Andrés Burgos


"Bon-Bon" is a comedic short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in December 1832 in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier.


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I

Quand un bon vin meuble mon estomac,

Je suis plus savant que Balzac-- Plus sage que Pibrac;

Mon brass seul faisant l’attaque

De la nation Coseaque,

La mettroit au sac;

De Charon je passerois le lac,

En dormant dans son bac;

J’irois au fier Eac,

Sans que mon cœur fit tic ni tac,

Présenter du tabac.

French Vaudeville

THAT Pierre Bon-Bon was a _restaurateur_ of uncommon qualifications,

no man who, during the reign of----, frequented the little Câfé in the

cul-de-sac Le Febvre at Rouen, will, I imagine, feel himself at liberty

to dispute. That Pierre Bon-Bon was, in an equal degree, skilled in

the philosophy of that period is, I presume, still more especially

undeniable. His _patés à la fois_ were beyond doubt immaculate; but

what pen can do justice to his essays _sur la Nature_--his thoughts sur

_l’Ame_--his observations _sur l’Esprit?_ If his _omelettes_--if his

_fricandeaux_ were inestimable, what _littérateur_ of that day would not

have given twice as much for an “_Idée de Bon-Bon_” as for all the trash

of “_Idées_” of all the rest of the _savants?_ Bon-Bon had ransacked

libraries which no other man had ransacked--had more than any other

would have entertained a notion of reading--had understood more than

any other would have conceived the possibility of understanding; and

although, while he flourished, there were not wanting some authors at

Rouen to assert “that his _dicta_ evinced neither the purity of the

Academy, nor the depth of the Lyceum”--although, mark me, his doctrines

were by no means very generally comprehended, still it did not follow

that they were difficult of comprehension. It was, I think, on account

of their self-evidency that many persons were led to consider them

abstruse. It is to Bon-Bon--but let this go no farther--it is to Bon-Bon

that Kant himself is mainly indebted for his metaphysics. The former was

indeed not a Platonist, nor strictly speaking an Aristotelian--nor did

he, like the modern Leibnitz, waste those precious hours which might

be employed in the invention of a _fricasée_ or, _facili gradu_, the

analysis of a sensation, in frivolous attempts at reconciling the

obstinate oils and waters of ethical discussion. Not at all. Bon-Bon was

Ionic--Bon-Bon was equally Italic. He reasoned _à priori_--He reasoned

also _à posteriori_. His ideas were innate--or otherwise. He believed in

George of Trebizonde--He believed in Bossarion [Bessarion]. Bon-Bon was

emphatically a—Bon-Bonist.

I have spoken of the philosopher in his capacity of _restaurateur_. I

would not, however, have any friend of mine imagine that, in fulfilling

his hereditary duties in that line, our hero wanted a proper estimation

of their dignity and importance. Far from it. It was impossible to say

in which branch of his profession he took the greater pride. In his

opinion the powers of the intellect held intimate connection with the

capabilities of the stomach. I am not sure, indeed, that he greatly

disagreed with the Chinese, who held that the soul lies in the abdomen.

The Greeks at all events were right, he thought, who employed the same

words for the mind and the diaphragm. (*1) By this I do not mean to

insinuate a charge of gluttony, or indeed any other serious charge

to the prejudice of the metaphysician. If Pierre Bon-Bon had his

failings--and what great man has not a thousand?--if Pierre Bon-Bon,

I say, had his failings, they were failings of very little

importance--faults indeed which, in other tempers, have often been

looked upon rather in the light of virtues. As regards one of these

foibles, I should not even have mentioned it in this history but for the

remarkable prominency--the extreme _alto relievo_--in which it jutted

out from the plane of his general disposition. He could never let slip

an opportunity of making a bargain.

{*1} MD

Not that he was avaricious--no. It was by no means necessary to the

satisfaction of the philosopher, that the bargain should be to his own

proper advantage. Provided a trade could be effected--a trade of any

kind, upon any terms, or under any circumstances--a triumphant smile

was seen for many days thereafter to enlighten his countenance, and a

knowing wink of the eye to give evidence of his sagacity.

At any epoch it would not be very wonderful if a humor so peculiar as

the one I have just mentioned, should elicit attention and remark.

At the epoch of our narrative, had this peculiarity not attracted

observation, there would have been room for wonder indeed. It was soon

reported that, upon all occasions of the kind, the smile of Bon-Bon was

wont to differ widely from the downright grin with which he would laugh

at his own jokes, or welcome an acquaintance. Hints were thrown out of

an exciting nature; stories were told of perilous bargains made in

a hurry and repented of at leisure; and instances were adduced of

unaccountable capacities, vague longings, and unnatural inclinations

implanted by the author of all evil for wise purposes of his own.

The philosopher had other weaknesses--but they are scarcely worthy our

serious examination. For example, there are few men of extraordinary

profundity who are found wanting in an inclination for the bottle.

Whether this inclination be an exciting cause, or rather a valid proof

of such profundity, it is a nice thing to say. Bon-Bon, as far as I can

learn, did not think the subject adapted to minute investigation;--nor

do I. Yet in the indulgence of a propensity so truly classical, it

is not to be supposed that the restaurateur would lose sight of that

intuitive discrimination which was wont to characterize, at one and the

same time, his essais and his omelettes. In his seclusions the Vin de

Bourgogne had its allotted hour, and there were appropriate moments for

the Cotes du Rhone. With him Sauterne was to Medoc what Catullus was to

Homer. He would sport with a syllogism in sipping St. Peray, but unravel

an argument over Clos de Vougeot, and upset a theory in a torrent of

Chambertin. Well had it been if the same quick sense of propriety

had attended him in the peddling propensity to which I have formerly

alluded--but this was by no means the case. Indeed to say the truth,

that trait of mind in the philosophic Bon-Bon did begin at length to

assume a character of strange intensity and mysticism, and appeared

deeply tinctured with the diablerie of his favorite German studies.

To enter the little Cafe in the cul-de-sac Le Febvre was, at the period

of our tale, to enter the sanctum of a man of genius. Bon-Bon was a man

of genius. There was not a sous-cusinier in Rouen, who could not have

told you that Bon-Bon was a man of genius. His very cat knew it, and

forebore to whisk her tail in the presence of the man of genius. His

large water-dog was acquainted with the fact, and upon the approach

of his master, betrayed his sense of inferiority by a sanctity of

deportment, a debasement of the ears, and a dropping of the lower jaw

not altogether unworthy of a dog. It is, however, true that much of this

habitual respect might have been attributed to the personal appearance

of the metaphysician. A distinguished exterior will, I am constrained to

say, have its way even with a beast; and I am willing to allow much

in the outward man of the restaurateur calculated to impress the

imagination of the quadruped. There is a peculiar majesty about the

atmosphere of the little great--if I may be permitted so equivocal an

expression--which mere physical bulk alone will be found at all times

inefficient in creating. If, however, Bon-Bon was barely three feet in

height, and if his head was diminutively small, still it was impossible

to behold the rotundity of his stomach without a sense of magnificence

nearly bordering upon the sublime. In its size both dogs and men

must have seen a type of his acquirements--in its immensity a fitting

habitation for his immortal soul.

I might here--if it so pleased me--dilate upon the matter of habiliment,

and other mere circumstances of the external metaphysician. I might

hint that the hair of our hero was worn short, combed smoothly over

his forehead, and surmounted by a conical-shaped white flannel cap and

tassels--that his pea-green jerkin was not after the fashion of those

worn by the common class of restaurateurs at that day--that the sleeves

were something fuller than the reigning costume permitted--that the

cuffs were turned up, not as usual in that barbarous period, with

cloth of the same quality and color as the garment, but faced in a more

fanciful manner with the particolored velvet of Genoa--that his slippers

were of a bright purple, curiously filigreed, and might have been

manufactured in Japan, but for the exquisite pointing of the toes, and

the brilliant tints of the binding and embroidery--that his breeches

were of the yellow satin-like material called aimable--that his sky-blue

cloak, resembling in form a dressing-wrapper, and richly bestudded all

over with crimson devices, floated cavalierly upon his shoulders like

a mist of the morning--and that his tout ensemble gave rise to the

remarkable words of Benevenuta, the Improvisatrice of Florence, “that

it was difficult to say whether Pierre Bon-Bon was indeed a bird of

Paradise, or rather a very Paradise of perfection.” I might, I say,

expatiate upon all these points if I pleased,--but I forbear, merely

personal details may be left to historical novelists,--they are beneath

the moral dignity of matter-of-fact.

I have said that “to enter the Cafe in the cul-de-sac Le Febvre was to

enter the sanctum of a man of genius”--but then it was only the man

of genius who could duly estimate the merits of the sanctum. A sign,

consisting of a vast folio, swung before the entrance. On one side of

the volume was painted a bottle; on the reverse a pate. On the back

were visible in large letters Oeuvres de Bon-Bon. Thus was delicately

shadowed forth the two-fold occupation of the proprietor.

Upon stepping over the threshold, the whole interior of the building

presented itself to view. A long, low-pitched room, of antique

construction, was indeed all the accommodation afforded by the Cafe. In

a corner of the apartment stood the bed of the metaphysician. An army

of curtains, together with a canopy a la Grecque, gave it an air at once

classic and comfortable. In the corner diagonary opposite, appeared,

in direct family communion, the properties of the kitchen and the

bibliotheque. A dish of polemics stood peacefully upon the dresser.

Here lay an ovenful of the latest ethics--there a kettle of dudecimo

melanges. Volumes of German morality were hand and glove with

the gridiron--a toasting-fork might be discovered by the side of

Eusebius--Plato reclined at his ease in the frying-pan--and contemporary

manuscripts were filed away upon the spit.

In other respects the Cafe de Bon-Bon might be said to differ little

from the usual restaurants of the period. A fireplace yawned opposite

the door. On the right of the fireplace an open cupboard displayed a

formidable array of labelled bottles.

It was here, about twelve o’clock one night during the severe winter

the comments of his neighbours upon his singular propensity--that Pierre

Bon-Bon, I say, having turned them all out of his house, locked the door

upon them with an oath, and betook himself in no very pacific mood to

the comforts of a leather-bottomed arm-chair, and a fire of blazing

fagots.

It was one of those terrific nights which are only met with once or

twice during a century. It snowed fiercely, and the house tottered to

its centre with the floods of wind that, rushing through the crannies

in the wall, and pouring impetuously down the chimney, shook awfully the

curtains of the philosopher’s bed, and disorganized the economy of his

pate-pans and papers. The huge folio sign that swung without, exposed to

the fury of the tempest, creaked ominously, and gave out a moaning sound

from its stanchions of solid oak.

It was in no placid temper, I say, that the metaphysician drew up his

chair to its customary station by the hearth. Many circumstances of a

perplexing nature had occurred during the day, to disturb the serenity

of his meditations. In attempting des oeufs a la Princesse, he had

unfortunately perpetrated an omelette a la Reine; the discovery of a

principle in ethics had been frustrated by the overturning of a stew;

and last, not least, he had been thwarted in one of those admirable

bargains which he at all times took such especial delight in bringing

to a successful termination. But in the chafing of his mind at these

unaccountable vicissitudes, there did not fail to be mingled some degree

of that nervous anxiety which the fury of a boisterous night is so well

calculated to produce. Whistling to his more immediate vicinity the

large black water-dog we have spoken of before, and settling himself

uneasily in his chair, he could not help casting a wary and unquiet eye

toward those distant recesses of the apartment whose inexorable shadows

not even the red firelight itself could more than partially succeed in

overcoming. Having completed a scrutiny whose exact purpose was perhaps

unintelligible to himself, he drew close to his seat a small table

covered with books and papers, and soon became absorbed in the task

of retouching a voluminous manuscript, intended for publication on the

morrow.

He had been thus occupied for some minutes when “I am in no hurry,

Monsieur Bon-Bon,” suddenly whispered a whining voice in the apartment.

“The devil!” ejaculated our hero, starting to his feet, overturning the

table at his side, and staring around him in astonishment.

“Very true,” calmly replied the voice.

“Very true!--what is very true?--how came you here?” vociferated the

metaphysician, as his eye fell upon something which lay stretched at

full length upon the bed.

“I was saying,” said the intruder, without attending to the

interrogatives,--“I was saying that I am not at all pushed for

time--that the business upon which I took the liberty of calling, is of

no pressing importance--in short, that I can very well wait until you

have finished your Exposition.”

“My Exposition!--there now!--how do you know?--how came you to

understand that I was writing an Exposition?--good God!”

“Hush!” replied the figure, in a shrill undertone; and, arising quickly

from the bed, he made a single step toward our hero, while an iron lamp

that depended over-head swung convulsively back from his approach.

The philosopher’s amazement did not prevent a narrow scrutiny of the

stranger’s dress and appearance. The outlines of his figure, exceedingly

lean, but much above the common height, were rendered minutely distinct,

by means of a faded suit of black cloth which fitted tight to the skin,

but was otherwise cut very much in the style of a century ago. These

garments had evidently been intended for a much shorter person than

their present owner. His ankles and wrists were left naked for several

inches. In his shoes, however, a pair of very brilliant buckles gave the

lie to the extreme poverty implied by the other portions of his dress.

His head was bare, and entirely bald, with the exception of a hinder

part, from which depended a queue of considerable length. A pair

of green spectacles, with side glasses, protected his eyes from the

influence of the light, and at the same time prevented our hero from

ascertaining either their color or their conformation. About the entire

person there was no evidence of a shirt, but a white cravat, of filthy

appearance, was tied with extreme precision around the throat and

the ends hanging down formally side by side gave (although I dare say

unintentionally) the idea of an ecclesiastic. Indeed, many other points

both in his appearance and demeanor might have very well sustained a

conception of that nature. Over his left ear, he carried, after the

fashion of a modern clerk, an instrument resembling the stylus of the

ancients. In a breast-pocket of his coat appeared conspicuously a

small black volume fastened with clasps of steel. This book, whether

accidentally or not, was so turned outwardly from the person as to

discover the words “Rituel Catholique” in white letters upon the back.

His entire physiognomy was interestingly saturnine--even cadaverously

pale. The forehead was lofty, and deeply furrowed with the ridges

of contemplation. The corners of the mouth were drawn down into an

expression of the most submissive humility. There was also a clasping of

the hands, as he stepped toward our hero--a deep sigh--and altogether a

look of such utter sanctity as could not have failed to be unequivocally

preposessing. Every shadow of anger faded from the countenance of

the metaphysician, as, having completed a satisfactory survey of his

visiter’s person, he shook him cordially by the hand, and conducted him

to a seat.

There would however be a radical error in attributing this instantaneous

transition of feeling in the philosopher, to any one of those causes

which might naturally be supposed to have had an influence. Indeed,

Pierre Bon-Bon, from what I have been able to understand of his

disposition, was of all men the least likely to be imposed upon by any

speciousness of exterior deportment. It was impossible that so accurate

an observer of men and things should have failed to discover, upon the

moment, the real character of the personage who had thus intruded upon

his hospitality. To say no more, the conformation of his visiter’s feet

was sufficiently remarkable--he maintained lightly upon his head an

inordinately tall hat--there was a tremulous swelling about the hinder

part of his breeches--and the vibration of his coat tail was a palpable

fact. Judge, then, with what feelings of satisfaction our hero found

himself thrown thus at once into the society of a person for whom he had

at all times entertained the most unqualified respect. He was, however,

too much of the diplomatist to let escape him any intimation of his

suspicions in regard to the true state of affairs. It was not his cue to

appear at all conscious of the high honor he thus unexpectedly enjoyed;

but, by leading his guest into the conversation, to elicit some

important ethical ideas, which might, in obtaining a place in his

contemplated publication, enlighten the human race, and at the same time

immortalize himself--ideas which, I should have added, his visitor’s

great age, and well-known proficiency in the science of morals, might

very well have enabled him to afford.

Actuated by these enlightened views, our hero bade the gentleman sit

down, while he himself took occasion to throw some fagots upon the fire,

and place upon the now re-established table some bottles of Mousseux.

Having quickly completed these operations, he drew his chair vis-a-vis

to his companion’s, and waited until the latter should open the

conversation. But plans even the most skilfully matured are often

thwarted in the outset of their application--and the restaurateur found

himself nonplussed by the very first words of his visiter’s speech.

“I see you know me, Bon-Bon,” said he; “ha! ha! ha!--he! he! he!--hi!

hi! hi!--ho! ho! ho!--hu! hu! hu!”--and the devil, dropping at once the

sanctity of his demeanor, opened to its fullest extent a mouth from

ear to ear, so as to display a set of jagged and fang-like teeth,

and, throwing back his head, laughed long, loudly, wickedly, and

uproariously, while the black dog, crouching down upon his haunches,

joined lustily in the chorus, and the tabby cat, flying off at a

tangent, stood up on end, and shrieked in the farthest corner of the

apartment.

Not so the philosopher; he was too much a man of the world either to

laugh like the dog, or by shrieks to betray the indecorous trepidation

of the cat. It must be confessed, he felt a little astonishment to see

the white letters which formed the words “Rituel Catholique” on the

book in his guest’s pocket, momently changing both their color and their

import, and in a few seconds, in place of the original title the words

Regitre des Condamnes blazed forth in characters of red. This startling

circumstance, when Bon-Bon replied to his visiter’s remark, imparted to

his manner an air of embarrassment which probably might, not otherwise

have been observed.

“Why sir,” said the philosopher, “why sir, to speak sincerely--I I

imagine--I have some faint--some very faint idea--of the remarkable

honor-”

“Oh!--ah!--yes!--very well!” interrupted his Majesty; “say no more--I

see how it is.” And hereupon, taking off his green spectacles, he wiped

the glasses carefully with the sleeve of his coat, and deposited them in

his pocket.

If Bon-Bon had been astonished at the incident of the book, his

amazement was now much increased by the spectacle which here presented

itself to view. In raising his eyes, with a strong feeling of curiosity

to ascertain the color of his guest’s, he found them by no means black,

as he had anticipated--nor gray, as might have been imagined--nor yet

hazel nor blue--nor indeed yellow nor red--nor purple--nor white--nor

green--nor any other color in the heavens above, or in the earth

beneath, or in the waters under the earth. In short, Pierre Bon-Bon

not only saw plainly that his Majesty had no eyes whatsoever, but

could discover no indications of their having existed at any previous

period--for the space where eyes should naturally have been was, I am

constrained to say, simply a dead level of flesh.

It was not in the nature of the metaphysician to forbear making some

inquiry into the sources of so strange a phenomenon, and the reply of

his Majesty was at once prompt, dignified, and satisfactory.

“Eyes! my dear Bon-Bon--eyes! did you say?--oh!--ah!--I perceive! The

ridiculous prints, eh, which are in, circulation, have given you a false

idea of my personal appearance? Eyes!--true. Eyes, Pierre Bon-Bon,

are very well in their proper place--that, you would say, is the

head?--right--the head of a worm. To you, likewise, these optics

are indispensable--yet I will convince you that my vision is more

penetrating than your own. There is a cat I see in the corner--a pretty

cat--look at her--observe her well. Now, Bon-Bon, do you behold the

thoughts--the thoughts, I say,--the ideas--the reflections--which are

being engendered in her pericranium? There it is, now--you do not! She

is thinking we admire the length of her tail and the profundity of

her mind. She has just concluded that I am the most distinguished of

ecclesiastics, and that you are the most superficial of metaphysicians.

Thus you see I am not altogether blind; but to one of my profession, the

eyes you speak of would be merely an incumbrance, liable at any time to

be put out by a toasting-iron, or a pitchfork. To you, I allow, these

optical affairs are indispensable. Endeavor, Bon-Bon, to use them

well;--my vision is the soul.”

Hereupon the guest helped himself to the wine upon the table, and

pouring out a bumper for Bon-Bon, requested him to drink it without

scruple, and make himself perfectly at home.

“A clever book that of yours, Pierre,” resumed his Majesty, tapping our

friend knowingly upon the shoulder, as the latter put down his glass

after a thorough compliance with his visiter’s injunction. “A clever

book that of yours, upon my honor. It’s a work after my own heart. Your

arrangement of the matter, I think, however, might be improved, and many

of your notions remind me of Aristotle. That philosopher was one of my

most intimate acquaintances. I liked him as much for his terrible ill

temper, as for his happy knack at making a blunder. There is only one

solid truth in all that he has written, and for that I gave him the hint

out of pure compassion for his absurdity. I suppose, Pierre Bon-Bon, you

very well know to what divine moral truth I am alluding?”

“Cannot say that I--”

“Indeed!--why it was I who told Aristotle that by sneezing, men expelled

superfluous ideas through the proboscis.”

“Which is--hiccup!--undoubtedly the case,” said the metaphysician, while

he poured out for himself another bumper of Mousseux, and offered his

snuff-box to the fingers of his visiter.

“There was Plato, too,” continued his Majesty, modestly declining the

snuff-box and the compliment it implied--“there was Plato, too, for

whom I, at one time, felt all the affection of a friend. You knew Plato,

Bon-Bon?--ah, no, I beg a thousand pardons. He met me at Athens, one

day, in the Parthenon, and told me he was distressed for an idea. I bade

him write, down that o nous estin aulos. He said that he would do so,

and went home, while I stepped over to the pyramids. But my conscience

smote me for having uttered a truth, even to aid a friend, and hastening

back to Athens, I arrived behind the philosopher’s chair as he was

inditing the ‘aulos.’”

“Giving the lambda a fillip with my finger, I turned it upside down. So

the sentence now read ‘o nous estin augos’, and is, you perceive, the

fundamental doctrines in his metaphysics.”

“Were you ever at Rome?” asked the restaurateur, as he finished his

second bottle of Mousseux, and drew from the closet a larger supply of

Chambertin.

“But once, Monsieur Bon-Bon, but once. There was a time,” said the devil,

as if reciting some passage from a book--“there was a time when occurred

an anarchy of five years, during which the republic, bereft of all its

officers, had no magistracy besides the tribunes of the people, and

these were not legally vested with any degree of executive power--at

that time, Monsieur Bon-Bon--at that time only I was in Rome, and I have

no earthly acquaintance, consequently, with any of its philosophy.” (*2)

{*2} Ils ecrivaient sur la Philosophie (_Cicero, Lucretius,

Seneca_) mais c’etait la Philosophie Grecque.--_Condorcet_.

“What do you think of--what do you think of--hiccup!--Epicurus?”

“What do I think of whom?” said the devil, in astonishment, “you

cannot surely mean to find any fault with Epicurus! What do I think of

Epicurus! Do you mean me, sir?--I am Epicurus! I am the same philosopher

who wrote each of the three hundred treatises commemorated by Diogenes

Laertes.”

“That’s a lie!” said the metaphysician, for the wine had gotten a little

into his head.

“Very well!--very well, sir!--very well, indeed, sir!” said his Majesty,

apparently much flattered.

“That’s a lie!” repeated the restaurateur, dogmatically; “that’s

a--hiccup!--a lie!”

“Well, well, have it your own way!” said the devil, pacifically, and

Bon-Bon, having beaten his Majesty at argument, thought it his duty to

conclude a second bottle of Chambertin.

“As I was saying,” resumed the visiter--“as I was observing a little

while ago, there are some very outre notions in that book of yours

Monsieur Bon-Bon. What, for instance, do you mean by all that humbug

about the soul? Pray, sir, what is the soul?”

“The--hiccup!--soul,” replied the metaphysician, referring to his MS.,

“is undoubtedly-”

“No, sir!”

“Indubitably-”

“No, sir!”

“Indisputably-”

“No, sir!”

“Evidently-”

“No, sir!”

“Incontrovertibly-”

“No, sir!”

“Hiccup!--”

“No, sir!”

“And beyond all question, a-”

“No sir, the soul is no such thing!” (Here the philosopher, looking

daggers, took occasion to make an end, upon the spot, of his third

bottle of Chambertin.)

“Then--hic-cup!--pray, sir--what--what is it?”

“That is neither here nor there, Monsieur Bon-Bon,” replied his Majesty,

musingly. “I have tasted--that is to say, I have known some very bad

souls, and some too--pretty good ones.” Here he smacked his lips, and,

having unconsciously let fall his hand upon the volume in his pocket,

was seized with a violent fit of sneezing.

He continued.

“There was the soul of Cratinus--passable: Aristophanes--racy:

Plato--exquisite--not your Plato, but Plato the comic poet; your Plato

would have turned the stomach of Cerberus--faugh! Then let me see! there

were Naevius, and Andronicus, and Plautus, and Terentius. Then there

were Lucilius, and Catullus, and Naso, and Quintus Flaccus,--dear

Quinty! as I called him when he sung a seculare for my amusement, while

I toasted him, in pure good humor, on a fork. But they want flavor,

these Romans. One fat Greek is worth a dozen of them, and besides will

keep, which cannot be said of a Quirite.--Let us taste your Sauterne.”

Bon-Bon had by this time made up his mind to nil admirari and endeavored

to hand down the bottles in question. He was, however, conscious of a

strange sound in the room like the wagging of a tail. Of this,

although extremely indecent in his Majesty, the philosopher took no

notice:--simply kicking the dog, and requesting him to be quiet. The

visiter continued:

“I found that Horace tasted very much like Aristotle;--you know I am

fond of variety. Terentius I could not have told from Menander. Naso, to

my astonishment, was Nicander in disguise. Virgilius had a strong twang

of Theocritus. Martial put me much in mind of Archilochus--and Titus

Livius was positively Polybius and none other.”

“Hic-cup!” here replied Bon-Bon, and his majesty proceeded:

“But if I have a penchant, Monsieur Bon-Bon--if I have a penchant, it

is for a philosopher. Yet, let me tell you, sir, it is not every dev--I

mean it is not every gentleman who knows how to choose a philosopher.

Long ones are not good; and the best, if not carefully shelled, are apt

to be a little rancid on account of the gall!”

“Shelled!”

“I mean taken out of the carcass.”

“What do you think of a--hic-cup!--physician?”

“Don’t mention them!--ugh! ugh! ugh!” (Here his Majesty retched

violently.) “I never tasted but one--that rascal Hippocrates!--smelt of

asafoetida--ugh! ugh! ugh!--caught a wretched cold washing him in the

Styx--and after all he gave me the cholera morbus.”

“The--hiccup--wretch!” ejaculated Bon-Bon, “the--hic-cup!--absorption of

a pill-box!”--and the philosopher dropped a tear.

“After all,” continued the visiter, “after all, if a dev--if a gentleman

wishes to live, he must have more talents than one or two; and with us a

fat face is an evidence of diplomacy.”

“How so?”

“Why, we are sometimes exceedingly pushed for provisions. You must know

that, in a climate so sultry as mine, it is frequently impossible to

keep a spirit alive for more than two or three hours; and after death,

unless pickled immediately (and a pickled spirit is not good),

they will--smell--you understand, eh? Putrefaction is always to be

apprehended when the souls are consigned to us in the usual way.”

“Hiccup!--hiccup!--good God! how do you manage?”

Here the iron lamp commenced swinging with redoubled violence, and

the devil half started from his seat;--however, with a slight sigh, he

recovered his composure, merely saying to our hero in a low tone: “I

tell you what, Pierre Bon-Bon, we must have no more swearing.”

The host swallowed another bumper, by way of denoting thorough

comprehension and acquiescence, and the visiter continued.

“Why, there are several ways of managing. The most of us starve: some

put up with the pickle: for my part I purchase my spirits vivente

corpore, in which case I find they keep very well.”

“But the body!--hiccup!--the body!”

“The body, the body--well, what of the body?--oh! ah! I perceive. Why,

sir, the body is not at all affected by the transaction. I have made

innumerable purchases of the kind in my day, and the parties never

experienced any inconvenience. There were Cain and Nimrod, and Nero, and

Caligula, and Dionysius, and Pisistratus, and--and a thousand others,

who never knew what it was to have a soul during the latter part of

their lives; yet, sir, these men adorned society. Why possession of

his faculties, mental and corporeal? Who writes a keener epigram?

Who reasons more wittily? Who--but stay! I have his agreement in my

pocket-book.”

Thus saying, he produced a red leather wallet, and took from it a number

of papers. Upon some of these Bon-Bon caught a glimpse of the letters

Machi--Maza--Robesp--with the words Caligula, George, Elizabeth. His

Majesty selected a narrow slip of parchment, and from it read aloud the

following words:

“In consideration of certain mental endowments which it is unnecessary

to specify, and in further consideration of one thousand louis d’or, I

being aged one year and one month, do hereby make over to the bearer

of this agreement all my right, title, and appurtenance in the shadow

called my soul. (Signed) A....” {*4} (Here His Majesty repeated a name

which I did not feel justified in indicating more unequivocally.)

{*4} Quere-Arouet?

“A clever fellow that,” resumed he; “but like you, Monsieur Bon-Bon,

he was mistaken about the soul. The soul a shadow, truly! The soul a

shadow; Ha! ha! ha!--he! he! he!--hu! hu! hu! Only think of a fricasseed

shadow!”

“Only think--hiccup!--of a fricasseed shadow!” exclaimed our hero,

whose faculties were becoming much illuminated by the profundity of his

Majesty’s discourse.

“Only think of a hiccup!--fricasseed shadow!! Now,

damme!--hiccup!--humph! If I would have been such

a--hiccup!--nincompoop! My soul, Mr.--humph!”

“Your soul, Monsieur Bon-Bon?”

“Yes, sir--hiccup!--my soul is-”

“What, sir?”

“No shadow, damme!”

“Did you mean to say-”

“Yes, sir, my soul is--hiccup!--humph!--yes, sir.”

“Did you not intend to assert-”

“My soul is--hiccup!--peculiarly qualified for--hiccup!--a-”

“What, sir?”

“Stew.”

“Ha!”

“Soufflee.”

“Eh!”

“Fricassee.”

“Indeed!”

“Ragout and fricandeau--and see here, my good fellow! I’ll let you have

it--hiccup!--a bargain.” Here the philosopher slapped his Majesty upon

the back.

“Couldn’t think of such a thing,” said the latter calmly, at the same

time rising from his seat. The metaphysician stared.

“Am supplied at present,” said his Majesty.

“Hiccup--e-h?” said the philosopher.

“Have no funds on hand.”

“What?”

“Besides, very unhandsome in me--”

“Sir!”

“To take advantage of-”

“Hiccup!”

“Your present disgusting and ungentlemanly situation.”

Here the visiter bowed and withdrew--in what manner could not precisely

be ascertained--but in a well-concerted effort to discharge a bottle

at “the villain,” the slender chain was severed that depended from the

ceiling, and the metaphysician prostrated by the downfall of the lamp.

May 19, 2018, 3:03 p.m. 0 Report Embed 0
The End

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