It keeps up with the express train, and is present at the opening and the shutting of the mailbags. It takes a morning run from New York to San Francisco or over to London before breakfast. It can go a thousand miles at a jump. It would despise seven-league boots as tedious. A telegraph pole is just knee-high to this monster, and from that you can judge its speed of locomotion. It never gets out of wind, carries a bag of reputations made up in cold hash, so that it does not have to stop for victuals. It goes so fast that sometimes five million people have seen it the same morning.
It can smell a moral imperfection fifty miles away. The crow has no faculty compared with this for finding carrion. It has scented something a hundred miles off, and before night “treed” its game. It has a great genius for smelling. It can find more than is actually there. When it begins to snuff the air, you had better look out. It has great length and breadth and depth, and height of nose.
The rabbit has no such power to listen as this creature we speak of. It hears all the sounds that come from five thousand keyholes. It catches a whisper from the other side the room, and can understand the scratch of a pen. It has one ear open toward the east and the other toward the west, and hears everything in both directions. All the tittle-tattle of the world pours into those ears like vinegar through a funnel. They are always up and open, and to them a meeting of the sewing society is a jubilee and a political campaign is heaven.
The snake has hard work to choke down a toad, and the crocodile has a mighty struggle to take in the calf; but the monster of which I speak can swallow anything. It has a throat bigger than the whale that took down the minister who declined the call to Nineveh, and has swallowed whole presbyteries and conferences of clergymen. A Brobdingnagian goes down as easily as a Liliputian. The largest story about business dishonor, or female frailty, or political deception, slips through with the ease of a homoeopathic pellet. Its throat is sufficient for anything round, or square, or angular, or octagonal.
Nothing in all the earth is too big for its mastication and digestion save the truth, and that will stick in its gullet.
It is gregarious.
It goes in a flock with others of its kind. If one takes after a man or woman, there are at least ten in its company. As soon as anything bad is charged against a man, there are many others who know things just as deleterious. Lies about himself, lies about his wife, lies about his children, lies about his associates, lies about his house, lies about his barn, lies about his store—swarms of them, broods of them, herds of them. Kill one of them, and there will be twelve alive to act as its pall-bearers, another to preach its funeral sermon, and still another to write its obituary.