AOH :: BONBON.TXT|
by Edgar Allan Poe
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 coeur fit tic ni tac,
Premmer du tabac.
THAT Pierre Bon-Bon was a restaurateur of uncommon qualifications,
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 pates a 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 litterateur of
that day would not have given twice as much for an "Idee de Bon-Bon"
as for all the trash of "Idees" 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 fricasee 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 a priori- He
reasoned also a posteriori. His ideas were innate- or otherwise. He
believed in George of Trebizonde- He believed in Bossarion. 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. 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
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
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
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
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
"The devil!" ejaculated our hero, starting to his feet,
overturning the table at his side, and staring around him in
"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
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
"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
"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
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."*
*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-"
"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.
"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
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!"
"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."
"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...."* (Here
His Majesty repeated a name which I did not feel justified in
indicating more unequivocally.)
"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
"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,
"Your soul, Monsieur Bon-Bon?"
"Yes, sir- hiccup!- my soul is-"
"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-"
"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."
"Besides, very unhandsome in me-"
"To take advantage of-"
"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.
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