A torrent of rain now began falling outside, and I knew the roads were impassable; but, chafing with impatience, I resolved upon another advance. Cautiously proceeding via the sofa, my attention fell upon a scrap of newspaper; and, to my unspeakable disappointment, I read:
“The various tribes of the Interior are engaged in a bitter warfare.”
It may have related to America, but I could not afford to hazard all upon a guess. I made a wide detour by way of the coal-scuttle, and skirted painfully along the sideboard. All this consumed so much time that my pipe expired in gloom, and I went back to the hearthrug to get a match off the chimney-piece. Having done so, I stepped over to the table and sat down, taking up the pen and spreading the paper between myself and the ink-bottle. It was late, and something must be done. Writing the familiar word Ujijijijijiji, I caught a neighbourly cockroach, skewered him upon a pin, and fastened him in the centre of the word. At this supreme moment I felt inclined to fall upon his neck and devour him with kisses; but knowing by experience that cockroaches are not good to eat, I restrained my feelings. Lifting my hat, I said:
“Dr. Deadwood, I presume?”
He did not deny it!
Seeing he was feeling sick, I gave him a bit of cheese and cheered him up a trifle. After he was well restored,
“Tell me,” said I, “is it true that the Regent’s Canal falls into Lake Michigan, thence running uphill to Omaha, as related by Ptolemy, thence spirally to Melbourne, where it joins the delta of the Ganges and becomes an affluent of the Albert Nicaragua, as Herodotus maintains?”
HE DID NOT DENY IT!
The rest is known to the public.
* * * * *
In the city of Algammon resided the Prince Champou, who was madly enamoured of the Lady Capilla. She returned his affection—unopened.
In the matter of back-hair the Lady Capilla was blessed even beyond her deserts. Her natural pigtail was so intolerably long that she employed two pages to look after it when she walked out; the one a few yards behind her, the other at the extreme end of the line. Their names were Dan and Beersheba, respectively.
Aside from salaries to these dependents, and quite apart from the consideration of macassar, the possession of all this animal filament was financially unprofitable: the hair market was buoyant, and hers represented a large amount of idle capital. And it was otherwise a source of annoyance and irritation; for all the young men of the city were hotly in love with her, and skirmishing for a love-lock. They seldom troubled Dan much, but the outlying Beersheba had an animated time of it. He was subject to constant incursions, and was always in a riot.
The picture I have drawn to illustrate this history shows nothing of all these squabbles. My pen revels in the battle’s din, but my peaceful pencil loves to depict the scenes I know something about.